2009 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Design

March 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Well folks, it’s that time of year again.   Linda and I have been burning the midnight oil trying to finalize  this year’s Top 10 List of Hot Trends  in Greenroof Design, and we’re looking for input from you, our faithful Greenroofs.com readers.

Have you seen any outstanding green roof projects this year or in the past few years?   Is there anything that stands out in terms of great design?   Did you design a greenroof that you think needs a little extra recognition?   We’re searching for all types of greenroofs – sleek and modern, esoteric, big or small, built or proposed.

Did you read my  January Chic Sustainability Column, “A Look Back at the 2008 Top 10 Hot Trends in Greenroof Design Survey?”   To refresh your memory, last year we singled out the following 10 greenroof trends:

10) Client Specific “˜Boutique’ Greenroofs
9) PreFab Modular Homes are Fabulous
8)  Greenroofs as Art & Architecture
7) Parks & Interpretive Greenroof Spaces
6) Solar & Vegetative Roofs as High Performance Buildings
5) Greenroofs for Biodiversity
4) Institutional & Office Parks – Setting the Example
3) Eco-Communities & Eco-Cities
2) Sky High Cool Green Schools
1) The Influence of LEED on Design Professionals = Pushing the Green Envelope

And this is our “working” Top 10 List for 2009:

10) Unique Driving Factors/Boutique Greenroofs: “Mother Nature Meets Lady Luck” – Greenroof Casinos; Living Billboards, and more!
9) “Ecological” Gas Stations?
8)  Heavenly Gardens – Religious Institutions Embracing Living Design
7) Design Competitions Promoting Future Inspiration
6) Green Buildings Creating Green Collar Jobs & Spurring the Industry
5) LID (Low Impact Development) Strategies: Celebrating Water with Greenroofs, Rain Gardens & Green Streets
4) Technological Advances – Faster, Cheaper, & Better Materials
3) The “Green Factor” – Policy Driving Ecological Development
2) Mayoral Initiatives – Championing the Green Machine
1)”Towers of Power” – Mega Vertical Structures Linking Earth and Sky

What do you think?   Have you noticed any new greenroof trends this year?  What are the forces driving new projects?   Has the economy had an effect on the number or type of greenroofs being built?  What role has the new Obama administration had on greenroof projects?

Send your suggestions, thoughts, website links, and photos by March 18th to the following email address:


We can’t wait to see what you come up with!


New NYC Solar and/or Green Roof Tax Abatement Documents

March 11, 2009 at 2:00 pm

If you are awaiting more direction to help you apply for a tax abatement in New York City, new solar and/or green roof tax abatement documents  (PDF) have just been made public.   Specifically they are:

1. Solar and Green Roof Tax Abatement Checklist
2. PTA1: Property Tax Abatement Application and Agreement for the Installation of a Green Roof
3. PTA2:   Property Tax Abatement Application and Agreement for the Installation of Solar Panels

Please utilize the Checklist as an outline as to the needs of the Department of Buildings.

Links for the legislation for NYC Green Roofs can be found at:

and for Solar Panels:

Also, there’s a new New York City rule that implements Titles 4-B and 4-C of Article 4 of the Real Property Tax Law for property tax abatements.   These Green Roof and Solar Electric Generating System Tax Abatement Rules (PDF) were published in “The City Record” on March 12, 2009 which is its effective date.

These rules are available for viewing on the DOB website.

Once again, the application and any documents required are due by 4:00 PM, March 16, 2009:

Department of Buildings
280 Broadway
7th floor
New York, NY 10007
Attention: Bonnie Gerard

Bonnie Gerard, Strategic Planning & Implementation, Project Manager NYC 2010 Electrical Code & Special Projects, says to feel free to ask her any questions regarding the application or any of the documents required at:

212-442-1239 (t)
212-566-3865 (f)

Info via Kelly Luckett of Green Roof Blocks, also known here as  The Green Roof Guy.   Thanks, Kelly!

~ Linda V.

Planning on a Greenroof or Solar in NYC? Read this Now!

March 4, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I’m on the NYC Tax Abatement e-mail list, and this is what Carter H. Strickland, Jr., Senior Policy Advisor for Air and Water in the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, just sent out  to advise  everyone planning on applying for a tax abatement for either a greenroof or solar system:


Dear green roof stakeholder:

Given the tight time frame we are facing with processing the new green roof tax abatements for this year, the Department of Buildings is trying to streamline the process for processing those applications.   Any solar installers or buildings owners who have a project that they think qualifies for an abatement this year (therefore needing to start the process by March 16, 2009 per the law) should immediately contact Bonnie Gerard (212-442-1239 or bgerard@buildings.nyc.gov) as soon as possible.   DOB is finalizing the checklist and application forms for the abatement and we will distribute them to you as soon as we receive the finalized version (Bonnie will also be able to give them to you once they are finalized).

Please forward this email to anyone else you think could have green roof projects that are eligible for an abatement this year. Thank you.”

This follows the DOB hearing held yesterday, March 3, 2009,  regarding implementing  the draft  regulations relating to the installation of green roofs for a tax abatement (which was open to public comment), approved by the state of New York in June of 2008.  

Since the statute requires that applications have to be filed by March 15 every year (a Sunday in 2009, so it extends to the following day, March 16),  NYC is trying to get a sense of the number of applications that  they can expect.     Obviously,  New York City’s Department of Buildings needs to know immediately on prospective applications, so if you’re building a greenroof this year, take note!

~ Linda V.

Of related interest (found in Greenroofs 101 > Industry Support > U.S. ):

August 8, 2008:   GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS LAWS TO HELP SPUR INVESTMENT IN RENEWABLE ENERGY – The A.11226 Diaz R/S.7553 Lanza bill was signed by New York State Governor Paterson and deals with the tax abatement for renewable energy, providing a tax abatement for construction of green roofs in New York City.   Read the Press Release  from New York State.

June 24, 2008:   Building owners in New York City who install green rooftops will now receive a significant tax credit under a bill (A.11226) sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. that passed the state legislature on June 24, 2008.

Under this law, building owners in New York City who install green roofs on at least 50 percent of available rooftop space can apply for a one-year property tax credit of up to $100,000. The credit would be equal to $4.50 per square-foot of roof area that is planted with vegetation, or approximately 25 percent of the typical costs associated with the materials, labor, installation and design of the green roof. Read the Press Release from Sustainable South Bronx.

“Up on the Roof” with People Magazine – a numbers game

September 28, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Check out the September 29, 2008 issue of People Magazine, and turn to the next to the last page.  “Up on the Roof” are Troy Wagner and his wife Julie – center stage on the mostly graphic two-page spread, talking about  their 110-year old home in Tacoma, Washington.    Back  at the beginning of the year  Troy had shared his experience with us about building his two greenroofs  using a  rather unique method.   Based on traditional Scandinavian turf homes, one has a  12/12 pitch planted with sod, and he actually has a resident goat who provides a unique but sustainable form of maintenance from time to time!

The second  greenroof is  over his lesser pitched garage, which he actually mows.   On one side the couple  tends to vegetables while the other is a flower garden.   Troy told me that after having owned a roofing company for 15 years and looking at 20,000 roofs he felt it was time to set an ecological example, so in 2004 they built their living roofs.   Check out the  “Troy’s Green Roof”  profile in The Greenroof Projects Database. People also has photos of the Roofscapes’ Life Expression Wellness Center,  the California Academy of Sciences, and a private residence in Sunol, California.

Known for their spectacular coverage of celebrities as well as plain old regular folk, I was surprised when one of the  People article’s authors, Maureen Harrington, called me back in July to pick my  brain about “the phenomenon of greenroofs in the U.S.”  – I guess greenroofs really  are becoming mainstream!   She was looking for facts, and Ed Snodgrass of Green Roof Plants, who was interviewed,  referred Maureen to me.

Everyone wants hard statistics (I also recently fielded some from Bloomberg News and  Newsweek), and  we get  requests  from tons of  freelance writers all over the world – the UK, Chile, France, Poland…you name it.   The point is  our industry is still accumulating these figures since research and projects, at least in North America, are relatively new.   I say relatively because although we can been studying and building modern-day living roofs here since the 1990’s, the Germans have  figures from many types  of testing and  trials from the 1970’s.   The websites of both Green Roofs for Healthy Cities  (GRHC) and  us here at Greenroofs.com have been up since 1999 and in terms of facts, each  has a lot of specific data: GRHC in their Tree of Knowledge page and from  Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference proceedings (available for purchase if you didn’t get to each one), and  Greenroofs.com in FAQ’s, ResearchLinks, Industry Support, and The Greenroof Projects Database.

But getting back to the People article, I  suggested ranges rather than hard facts  for costs and energy savings because each greenroof project is unique, something we have all been harping on for years.   And in terms of numbers of projects, I gave my best guesstimate of “more than 500” based on what we do have listed in The Greenroof Projects Database, profiles waiting to be entered, plus approximate numbers for under represented U.S. cities, including the more traditional sod homes found across the northern states.   And they only wanted figures for residential projects, so that number includes not only Single-Family but also Multi-Family and Multi-Use profiles.

That’s why it’s so important to keep compiling case studies from across the globe to show  the world  that  greenroofs are viable, demand and  construction are thriving, and the market is here to stay.   Everyone wants to know where they are, what type they are, who designed them, how big they are, etc., and of course everyone wants to see photos, too!   The Greenroof Projects Database is meant to be a free international resource, so we encourage you to continue submitting profiles with as much information as you feel comfortable sharing, and we always send readers back to the original source for follow up.

Getting back to the article, Ed has a couple of quotes and referring to the added capital investment of greenroofs, he simply says:

“It’s like getting a Prius or solar panels…It costs more upfront but there are long-term savings.”

In addition to the obvious ecologocal, economic, and aesthetic benefits, we all know that greenroofs offer habitat for displaced birds, butterflies and other wildlife.   I don’t know that goats up on a roof  are the wave of the future, but I do believe that eco-friendly architecture is.   In today’s environmentally  conscious climate, eco-trends are here to stay and as these trends become the norm and turn mainstream, we’ll see costs driven down and then the vegetated roofing market will really take off.

And who knows, maybe in a few years’ time alongside perusing the Best & Worst Dressed People issue we’ll be also reading about the Best Sustainable Design  Trends in People –  perhaps even an article  behind the greening of the White House?   Now there’s a people story!