Bringing More Green Roofs to Omaha

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You’d be hard pressed not to see a daily newspaper article or a story on the evening news about some aspect of going “green.”

Going “green” is often in the context of building and developing new public and private infrastructure that is less taxing on the environment from both a construction and ongoing maintenance standpoint.

Green roofs (or perhaps more accurately put, “vegetative roofs”) have been around in Europe for years, but have only recently started to catch on here in the United States.

Photo by Dr. Richard Sutton, UNLSuch roofs offer a number of potential benefits over standard roofs.

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The growing medium and plants that comprise the green roof provide insulating and water retention benefits, in addition to prolonging the life of the roof membrane — a standard item on both a green roof and a conventional roof.

With those and other potential benefits, why are there not more green roofs here in the U.S.?

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities is an organization based out of Toronto that serves as an ambassador for green roofs. They are a recognized leader in facilitating information exchange, education, and promotion and development of green roofs.

In October 2007, the City of Omaha and Douglas County teamed to bring a local market development symposium, produced by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), to Omaha.

The purpose of the event was two-fold.

First, to provide a basic education and understanding of green roofs, and second, to identify obstacles and barriers to green roof use in the Omaha metropolitan area.

From that symposium a local committee, subsequently named the “Green Roof Working Committee,” was formed with the intent of taking that information and coming up with action plans that could address the aforementioned obstacles and barriers to green roof use.

The committee has been meeting monthly since February, and has divided its work up among six subcommittees: Stormwater Design Manual, Covenants, Building Codes, Appraisal and Financing, Outreach and Education, and Overall Policy Development.

While basic education is needed to show builders, developers, and others the benefits of using green roof technology, the real hurdle to getting more green roofs built is really money.

Green roofs cost more to install because there are more components, but green roofs are projected to outlast their conventional counterparts two- to three-fold.

It follows that lenders, insurers, and others associated with the building industry will need to develop policies that apply specifically to green roofs rather than relying on the standard practices associated with conventional roofs.

The Green Roof Working Committee’s charge is to identify successful policies and practices from around the country, and facilitate the implementation of appropriate policies and practices in the Omaha area.

Categories: Green Buildings

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