Imagine flying over the downtown core and below you is a checkerboard of green gardens and oasis’. Sound improbable in our highly populated inner city? Calgary has a surprising amount of wasted open space. In the densely packed downtown core including the areas of Eau Claire, West Downtown and the Beltline, prime real estate space atop roof tops is given too little consideration in a city that values each square foot so highly. These unused spaces can offer extensive benefits to city dwellers, developers and concerned citizens alike when retro-fitted as “green roofs”.
A green roof consists of a waterproof, root-repellent membrane, drainage system, filter cloth, lightweight growing medium and vegetation ranging from grasses and plants to trees. A few of the benefits green roofs offer include:
- Providing much needed amenity space for building users
- Increasing the roof life span
- Reducing storm water run off
- Providing noise insulation
- Filtering pollutants and CO2 out of the air
- Providing locally grown food (from roof-top vegetable gardens)
- Increasing habitat for birds in built-up areas
- Reducing heating (by adding mass and thermal resistance value) and cooling (by evaporative cooling) loads on a building
- Reducing the urban heat island effect
For the vast majority of people, emerging technologies and new ways of thinking need to make economic sense in order to be embraced. True, the construction of a “green roof” can be as much as twice the cost of a conventional roof, even though the public and private benefits are numerous. Successful “Green Roof” initiatives in Toronto, Chicago, Portland, Minneapolis and New York have implemented incentives for developers to incorporate at least 75% coverage of new building roofs as “green” in exchange for increased zoning density. Other initiatives could include tax incentives to retrofit existing buildings to “green roofs”.
Could this type of policy driven change be adopted in Calgary? Calgarian’s are quick to apply the spirit of “because we can” to a situation to improve it for the better. Our cities high rates of volunteerism is a great example of the “Because We Can” spirit so prevalent here. Why should our city’s stakeholders look to green the rooftops of Calgary? Simple answer:
“Because We Can!”