How to Pay for Your Green Roof

02/01/2018 | By Chris Olson

It's possible: Secure financing through rebates and incentives

This month’s article about vegetated roofs will help you to evaluate the bumper crop of sustainability and cost benefits that a green roof can provide. But initial funding is the perennial issue for owners and facilities managers planning a conservation or efficiency project, even when paybacks are well documented. Don’t let funds smother the harvest. Instead, get into the weeds of rebates and incentives. 

Your city is probably the first branch of options to follow because vegetated roofs reduce hard costs for managing municipal stormwater and water pollution. Washington, D.C. is one of the leaders. The District offers $10–$15 per square foot of green roof depending on the sewer system that serves the proposed location. Philadelphia offers a credit of 25% against all costs up to $100,000. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District provides a $5 per square foot subsidy. Chicago has provided grants of 50% for costs up to $100,000. 

Some cities seed green roofs with credits for stormwater management fees, including Cincinnati, which advances up to a 50% credit. Others have a density bonus, such as Austin, TX, which enables developers to build an additional 8 square feet of floor space for each square foot of green roof.  

Your state may also offer incentives. The Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant provides grants to local government units and others to install infrastructure that controls water runoff. Tennessee’s Green Development Grant Program provides funding through a competitive process.

The federal government is not supplying many direct incentives since the expiration of the Energy Policy Act. However, the websites of the EPA (www.epa.gov) and the GSA (www.gsa.gov) have a number of publications and tools to help you evaluate your facility’s fitness and estimate the return on investment. Perhaps your organization can use its tax cuts to use for improvements. If your firm will get a windfall from the corporate tax cut, be sure to mention that bonus when you try to sell the economics of your project to the C-suite.


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