»Green roof is not environmental philanthropy; it is sound business! « stated Ford chairman Bill Ford more than twenty years ago while announcing the 42.180 m2 green roof project on Ford Motor company's Rouge factory in Michigan, USA.
More than twenty years ago, this bold decision, which meant investment into then 83 years old factory building, rather than building a new one, was a pioneer sustainable decision at that time: “This is what I think sustainability is about, and this new facility lays the groundwork for a model of 21st century sustainable manufacturing at the Rouge. While most companies would rather move than invest in a 83-year-old site, we view this as an important reinvestment in our employees, our hometown and an American icon of the 20th century. «
What can we learn from that and how many business leaders follow this path nowadays? It might be simpler at the first sight, to build new, more modern facility, to occupy a new ground. But years later, at Ford they say (1) that their living roof provides insulation for the truck plant, keeping it an estimated 10 degrees warmer in winter and 10 degrees cooler in summer, reducing energy costs significantly. In addition, the roof serves as a habitat for nesting birds, reduces the urban heat effect, and is expected to extend the life of the roof to about twice that of a more conventional roof choice.
Indeed, as also Brueck reports (2) installing green rooftops is certainly a pricier alternative than slapping down a fresh layer of traditional asphalt, or even painting on a cool white roof coating. More and more cities that provide credits for green roofing reimburse businesses. At Javits in NYC they explain their green roof investment is paying off quickly. The building has reduced its energy consumption 26% since the green roof was finished in 2014. The roof renovation, in tandem with flooring, facade and mechanical systems upgrades, are all saving Javits millions in energy costs.
Why and how can I do it?
Investment into green should and will pay off. And after all, the customers expect the responsible business orientation more and more. Do you know the quote from Pete Seeger? “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.” And guess what - industrial / non-residential building can be greened, refurbished, redeveloped, renewed with sustainable solutions.
Green roofs on industrial buildings contribute to:
Economic benefits: reduce the energy needs of the buildings (for heating and cooling), protect the core roof materials from being damaged by ultraviolet radiation and rapid temperature changes, lower the cost of stormwater management on the site, bring added value to the property. Keep in mind, that recent legislative requirements often promote with different incentives, or oblige greening large rooftops. More green in urban areas is a policy orientation worldwide.
Environmental and societal benefits: improve air quality by capturing airborne particles, contribute to climate protection, act as a water management tool, creation of a new green area, improve the well-being of employees. Numbers speak for themselves (3): the square meter of a green roof can absorb 5kg of CO2 every year. Just one square meter of a green roof can filter 0.2kg of airborne particles out of the air every year.
What are the choices?
In the construction of non-residential buildings, prefabricated building elements are widely used. Key technical requirements which determine the selection of green roof such buildings are energy efficiency, light weight, low noise pollution, and fire safety.
For non-residential buildings, the favourite option is extensive green roof – check Urbascape green roof quick facts bellow:
Lightweight characteristic is often decisive factor for the green roof system choice. At Ampo facility in Spain, they have been facing a challenge of weight restrains which is common on the metal roofs with long spans between the ribs (4). The traditional green roofs with sufficient storm-water handling capacity could not be implemented. The lightweight Urbanscape Premium High Green Roof system has been chosen as teh most appropriate solution. It‘s design is focusing on good storm-water handling capacity which can capture up to 50 liters of water /m2 but still limiting weight up to only 70 kg/m2 fully saturated.
If you question yourself, what will grow on the roof, the answer is plants, which have amazing survival capacity in harsh environment, called Sedum plants. Sedum are small succulent plants, drought-tolerant and shallow-rooted, that will arrive on the installation site in form of green pre-vegetated blankets, which are simply unrolled on the top of the roof, on the Green roll layer.
The products from our Urbanscape Green Roof line can be easily installed both in the case of new facilities and existing modular / sandwich panel buildings. The system's light weight – about six times less than traditional green roof systems – makes it ideal when dealing with renovations and projects where mass is a concern.
The largest green roofs make the biggest impact. The larger the building rooftop, the cleaner the air. The larger the rooftop, the larger is stormwater harvest, energy savings achieved, the larger the echo of your sustainable business in the community.
You as the business owner have the opportunity for driving sustainable business and monetizing it. You can make an impact.
Ford living roof. Ford Rouge Factory Tour Living Roof | The Henry Ford
Brueck, H., 2017. Raising the green roof: Why more big-city businesses are putting plants on the top. Forbes, 2017.
Green roofs. A growing trend for commercial buildings. Green Roofs: A Growing Trend for Commercial Buildings — urdesignmag
Urbanscape – Ampo case. AMPO Headquarters, Idiazabal - Urbanscape (urbanscape-architecture.com)