Green Roof Task Force Addresses Existing Buildings

Sourced from Colorado Real Estate Journal

From San Francisco to Toronto to New York City and several cities in between, green roofs and buildings have grown increasingly popular as one method to tackle environmental concerns such as rising temperature and poor air quality. On Nov. 7, Denver became the latest city to follow suit with the Denver Green Roof Initiative – a citizen-led ballot measure approved by 54 percent of voters. But unlike its other “green” city counterparts, Denver’s ordinance is the first of its kind to mandate implementation for existing buildings in addition to new construction.

However, the ordinance assembled provisions from existing legislation in other cities, without taking into account critical factors ranging from Denver’s different climate to consistency with Colorado state laws as well as Denver’s building code. In the face of these issues, the city is committed to honoring the will of Denverites while recognizing that the current ordinance in effect needs improving to make the city’s green requirements a more feasible process moving forward.

As a result, the Green Roof Review Task Force – a 24-member group consisting of city leaders, technical experts, green roof advocates and real estate industry opponents – collaborated to find a solution amenable to the various stakeholders affected by the initiative.

The task force’s first mission was to work out a proposal for an amended ordinance that would clarify and improve the mechanics of the original initiative while still obtaining its intended environmental benefits. As currently in effect, the ordinance poses many issues. Owners of existing buildings are disincentivized from replacing roofs in need of repair due to limited compliance pathways and the costs associated with those few options. Also, the ordinance failed to consider different building types, putting a disproportionate burden on certain buildings (i.e., large, single-story facilities) due to coverage requirements. Further, Denver’s intense sun and lack of rain make it difficult to grow plants in its semi-arid environment – a stark contrast to the wet climates of cities from which the ordinance shares its roots. Put simply, in order for the environmental goals of the ordinance to maximize potential, its practical implementation needed to be adequately addressed.

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