Sustainability has been an industry buzzword in real estate development for a while now. And yet, while climate change concerns grow, the adoption of greener buildings is slow to gain momentum.
In North America in particular, builders have been slower to respond to the many benefits of green roofs. According to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, an industry association, the market for green roofs remains immature when compared to Europe.
Why don’t we have more green roofs in North America? The technologies are readily available and provide building owners with proven returns. Most real estate developers are familiar with at least some of the private benefits of green roofs. Energy efficiency, increased membrane durability, fire retardation, radiation reduction, noise reduction, the list goes on. It’s clearly a smart investment.
Green Roofs Do More than Check the Sustainability Box
Perhaps you’re less excited about sustainability and more worn out from hearing about it so often. Do you find yourself just begrudgingly following the city requirements or sustainability trends, both of which add even more complexity to an already drawn-out development process? Green roofs can seem a complicated addition to an already complex building system. So it’s easy to understand why so many developers overlook or flat-out avoid them.
After all, there are other, easier ways of checking the sustainability box in order to increase your building’s marketability, right?
But real estate developments should do more than check boxes. They must make a tangible difference in people’s lives. Green roofs have several public benefits that make them stand out among sustainable building strategies.
Most noticeably, green roofs are aesthetic improvements that beautify the built environment and bring a more natural tone to the urban landscape. They moderate the urban heat island effect by covering some of the hottest surfaces in the city. In downtown Chicago, for example, green roofs lowered summer roof surface temperatures by about 45 degrees, contributing to a more livable city.
Green roofs reduce waste by prolonging the life of the waterproofing and ventilation systems and using recycled materials as growing medium. They retain and filter rainwater, which decreases stress on sewer systems.
Plants on green roofs capture and filter air pollutants as well, contributing to improved air quality. Their affect on energy consumption can also decrease the demand for power and therefore the amount of CO2 released into the air.
It’s clear that green roofs reduce energy and maintenance costs while also extending the life of your building. Additionally, they make a substantial difference in the quality of life within the city. Simply put, they’re great for the environment, beneficial to city life, and a solid private investment decision.
Don’t Leave Money on the Table
The value of green roofs is obvious, so why don’t more developers try to do them? Further, what do people get wrong when trying to profit off of green roofs?
Without the level of government legislation and financial support for green roofs that is common in Europe, North American developers may not have the same incentive to do them. But, green roofs shouldn’t be an afterthought that you add on when convenient. We all know how hard it is to add features to your development later on in the process.
Simply put, the reason more green roofs are built in Europe is because they are a requirement, and as a result, developers are thinking about them from the beginning. Whenever you incorporate a green roof early on in your development plan, it’s much more likely to happen.
Oftentimes, developers are leaving out one of the biggest opportunities to really make their green roof a selling point for tenants, not just building owners. A basic green roof could be so unassuming that tenants aren’t even aware of its existence.
The greatest missed opportunity with green roofs is making them a usable and accessible amenity for tenants. Sure, a basic green roof will save you money long-term and be better for the environment. But your tenants will actually pay more for an amenity that they can experience. By not making your green roof usable for people you are leaving money on the table.
That’s why you should consider a green roof early on in the development process. It has the potential to be a key part of your revenue and overall property value. By increasing your rent, a green roof amenity space pairs the advantages of green roof technology with the value of community amenities in an unprecedented way. It’s no wonder that rooftop amenities are becoming seen as the highest value spaces in an urban development project.
Rooftop Amenities as the Most Sustainable Feature of Your Property
Whether it’s used as a community garden, restaurant terrace, recreational space, or lounge, your green roof amenity will become the most sustainable feature of your property. That’s because buildings and outdoor spaces that last longer are inherently more sustainable than those that have to be replaced because they weren’t valued enough.
The environmental cost of construction is large. That’s why you should start out and plan for a green roof and capitalize on the ROI from the get go. Deciding later in the game is going to create more work and seriously diminish the eco-friendly impact your green roof will have.
On top of the before-mentioned sustainable characteristics of green roofs, your green roof amenity space has the potential to become a place that people love. It can be a special place to them, one that they will take ownership of and fight to preserve. Making green roof amenities that people love is one of the most sustainable things that you can do.