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Green roofs are certainly not a new idea. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon — one of the Seven Wonders of the World — was essentially a green roof, and they were built about 600 BC. But it’s only been the last dozen years or so, as green building has grown up, that green roofs have returned to prominence. In 2001, when the first municipal green roof project in the U.S. was completed on Chicago's City Hall, green roof advocates had a high-profile case study to point to verifying the applicability of green roofs on commercial facilities.
Green roofs have several benefits: They reduce the urban heat island effect and stormwater runoff; they can keep buildings cooler in the summertime, reducing air conditioning costs; they act as a layer of insulation, potentially reducing heat costs in the winter; and they can provide urban facility occupants a soothing environment for breaks.
But there are several things to think about if you are considering a green roof. First and foremost is cost. Green roofs are expensive compared with traditional roofs, and it’s hard to make the case for a green roof strictly on a return on investment basis. Also, they are heavy, so if you're considering a green roof as a retrofit, the facility may require extra structural support. Waterproofing is sometimes an issue, as well.
But, again, as green roofs have become more and more popular, there are more and more experts that can help guide you through the process. And more and more manufacturers are offering high-quality green roof products.