Grass, it’s not just for smoking…

By: John Hoffman – Solar Consultant
Contributor’s website: Sun Green Systems

Asphalt, wood, slate, clay, metal… grass??… These were the choices offered by our architect when confronted with the decision of roof materials for our mixed use condo hotel project in Aspen CO.   Unfortunately solar panels were off the table because of shading from an old cottonwood on the south side of building, so from an environmental perspective, the next best choice seemed to be a living roof.  But many questions came up – can the structure support the load? How much maintenance is required?  What are the cost implications?   There’s no question as to the aesthetics – we all agreed it looks pretty cool!

Check out these examples of green roofs:

We were sold on the concept but then came the cost…. almost double the price of a standard roof.  It seemed unfeasible until we considered the bigger picture.   As it turned out, despite the higher upfront expense, the green roof reduced the overall project cost AND got us closer to LEED certification.  In addition to tax and cash incentives, the cost trimming came in the form of a smaller heating and cooling system, reduced insulation and elimination of roof drains.  Our tenants were happy as well – they would have access to additional green space for gardening and hanging out.

If there is one thing LEED training taught me it was is to look beyond the individual parts and consider the whole building when decision making.  Whereas a standard roof is simply a membrane between you and the elements, a grass or green roof is part of an integrated system that utilizes sunlight and storm water, and is both functional and beautiful.

 Contributor’s website:

(Images:  Urban Green Roof; Swiss Chalet Flowering; Green Roof Cabin

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