New York City Should Require Green Roofs

Sourced from City and State New York

When the new concert venue Brooklyn Steel opened its doors a couple years ago, it brought a state-of-the-art cultural amenity to north Brooklyn – a place where people could see their favorite bands, enjoy local food and drinks and dance the night away. But hidden from view was something that truly set the new venue apart: a green roof.

This wasn’t just for aesthetic reasons. Green roofs, which are roofs that are partially or completely covered in some form of vegetation, are tremendous assets to neighborhoods and the environment. They can be used to sound-proof buildings by acting as a sound insulation barrier, as Brooklyn Steel did. They can also cut energy usage, reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality and reduce the urban heat island effect, which refers to a phenomenon where cities have higher average temperatures than surrounding areas. In addition, they offer green space for urban farming, which is the model over at Brooklyn Grange, a network of commercial rooftop farms in New York City.

Given their myriad benefits, it’s no surprise that several large buildings throughout New York City, such as the Javits Center, the Barclays Center and the VICE headquarters have installed green roofs.

Still, these projects represent a small fraction of all rooftop space in New York City. According to a recent estimate by the Nature Conservancy, green roofs cover about 2.6 million square feet of rooftop space in New York, which accounts for about 0.15 percent of all rooftop space citywide. Compare that to Chicago, which boasts about 5.5 million square feet or Washington, D.C., which has committed to installing green roofs on 20 percent of all rooftops by 2020.

Global cities are taking the plunge to incentivize green roofs or even to mandate them. In 2010, Toronto became the first city to require green roofs on new buildings, followed by San Francisco and Denver in 2017.

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