Resurfacing Cities

Sourced from Renew Magazine

When breaking free from the seemingly hypnotic grip of the ongoing saga in the White House and the U.S. Congress, one can find cause for optimism in cities! In Denver, Colorado for example, the citizen-led I-300 Green Roof Ballot Initiative in November 2017 was supported by more than 54 per cent of voters, despite a well-funded campaign against the initiative. The new policy promises to resurface many buildings in Denver contributing significantly to its
future resilience and social equity.

Frustrated with his attempts to convince officials to implement policies to address
climate change, restaurant manager Brandon Riethemer led the Green Roof Ballot Initiative by collecting more than 7,000 signatures to put a mandatory green roof/solar requirement on the ballot. It is the first time in Denver’s history that unpaid, volunteer power resulted in a successful ballot initiative: an example of direct democracy in action.

Despite initial opposition from Mayor Michael B. Hancock, who now supports the will of the people and the initiative, Denver now requires green roofs and/or solar panels on new and existing buildings of 25,000 square feet or more of floor space. This is currently the most progressive green roof legislation in North America, exceeding the new requirements for green roofs on buildings in San Francisco under its Better Roofs Ordinance and Toronto’s Green Roof Bylaw.

Depending on the final recommendations of an expert technical committee, and a stakeholder committee charged with making refinements to the voter-approved policy, the new law has the potential to significantly resurface much of Denver in the coming decades. And not a moment too soon, as Denverites currently suffer from living with the third worst urban heat island
effect in the U.S. The overheating of urban and suburban areas is primarily the result
of removing vegetation to provide needed space for buildings, roads, and parking lots,
which convert sunlight into heat. The urban heat island has many negative impacts on
human health, drives up energy and water consumption, and even results in a reduction
of tourism during the hottest months. The urban heat island may also be an important
source of global warming according to Chinese researchers. Paving over vegetated
areas contributes to the warming of surface waters which impairs water quality, and
these impervious surfaces are the major cause of drainage and flooding issues which
result billions of dollars in property damages across North America annually. 

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