CNU Lecture “Green Roofs”

By: Nicolas Thalmueller

On Tuesday, January 21st several Urban Knights attended the Congress of New Urbanism Orlando Chapter meeting, which focused on the topic of “Green Roof Gardens in the Urban Context”. The meeting, located at the Gallery at Avalon Island downtown Orlando, included a presentation by Ben Paredes who is an environmental solutions associate with Tecta America. Tecta America is one of the nation’s leading commercial firms who specialize in green roofing.

Mr. Paredes discussed some technical elements and the components/considerations that go into installing a vegetated rooftop system, the benefits of installing such systems, and also made an effort to connect this topic to urbanist objectives.

He noted several benefits of vegetated roof systems which include but aren’t limited to:

-Stormwater management: They can retain and filter 96% of stormwater which reduces the  for onsite retention ponds.

-Temperature control: They help keep building interiors cooler during the day which results in energy savings.

-Noise Reduction: They can drastically reduce sound levels coming from the outside environment.

– Longevity: They can expand the lifespan of a conventional roof.

-Moderates the Urban Heat Island effect.

In addition to the numerous benefits vegetated roof systems can provide individual buildings, Mr. Paredes made a point to expand the discussion into role these systems can plan in improving the urban environment as a whole.

-These systems can provide additional habitat and enhance biodiversity.

-Adding these green areas to densely packed primarily concrete urban environments can vastly improve the attractiveness of an urban area.

-We discussed that there are numerous documented psychological and physical health benefits that can result from being around green spaces.

-Mr. Paredes also mentioned the potential of using these additional green rooftop spaces as public space for gathering, socializing, and urban gardening.  Creating such unique and attractive public spaces creates a sense of place which can lead to additional interest in redeveloping downtown and other urban areas.

Mr. Paredes Mentioned that vegetated rooftops have become a fairly commonly accepted approach in many northern cities such as Chicago, and that although initially skeptical, the water management districts in Florida have become more accepting of utilizing vegetated rooftops as a stormwater management technique.  

Another thing from the lecture I thought was interesting was how Mr. Paredes mentioned that his company has been experimenting with what plants perform best/worst in vegetated roof systems and that they have developed a pretty comprehensive list of which plants work best and in which climates.

One issue that kept coming up in the discussion was the cost factor of installing vegetated roof systems. Green roofs are complex and costly. Mr. Paredes highlighted the fact that installing such systems on new buildings will inevitable pay for themselves, however, the cost of installation on existing and older buildings may be much more costly to the building owner.

In the end, the presentation included several successful examples of vegetated roof system installations in the Central Florida area, which include Fire Station One in downtown Orlando and handful of others. It will be interesting to see if this practice gains increased acceptance and utilization in the State of Florida in the future.

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