green roof symposium picTo some, the concept of green roofs is a foreign one. To others, however, they represent a time-tested and efficacious feature of sustainable construction. Providing a wide range of benefits, from rainwater runoff mitigation to happier building tenants, this living architectural design element is already changing the landscapes of our urban environments. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, in partnership with CEES, recently brought leaders in the green roof and wall industry to Wake Forest University to spread the word. The event, the Piedmont Triad Green Roof & Wall Market Development Symposium brought experts from around the state and across the country together to display the newest green roof and wall technologies as well as to discuss the benefits of living architecture and how to advance the field.

Much of that new technology was focused on making green roofs lighter and easier to install. A major challenge in green roof installation on existing buildings is designing a solution which will not exceed the weight-carrying capacity of the existing roof. Companies like the Carolina Stalite Company of Salisbury, NC and Xero Flor America of Durham, NC are designing new materials that make lighter, more water retentive green roofs possible. These new technologies allow for green roof installation on buildings that cannot support heavier materials. These vendor displays, along with others, allowed attendees to see the new materials and understand how they could be used in concert to construct a green roof system.

The keynote speaker, David Yocca, discussed the range of benefits of green roofs – environmental and financial. A specific case study of interest was the green roof installed during renovations to the Ford Dearborn Truck Assembly Plant in Dearborn, MI.  Completed in 2003, the green roof is the most expansive in the US at 10.4 acres; it also happens to be seeded with Xero Flor products. The green roof system serves to mitigate storm water runoff, reduce heating and cooling costs, and reduce the urban heat island effect. This effect, familiar to many who live in cities, is caused by the radiant heat of concrete, asphalt, and metal surfaces warming the surrounding air. Green spaces, including green roofs, are proven to reduce this effect. With all of these benefits, the Ford Dearborn green roof has more than paid for itself over the last 10 years.

Living architecture is spreading across the US and, with a strong core of innovators here in North Carolina, the area is poised to become a leader in this emerging field. With the help of CEES, organizations like Green Roofs for Healthy Cities are engaging the public in discourse on how living architecture can improve our environment and quality of life while saving us money.

By Max Messinger