Budding Success with Green Roof Incentives

April 16, 2014

Discover locally available funding and learn what’s worked on recent projects.

If you want your next roofing project to come up roses, you might consider growing some up there – and if you really want to gild the lily, plant some incentive funding into the plot.

“There is a lot of curiosity and apprehension about green roofs. Building owners have heard about them and only just begun investigating costs and support packages,” says Clayton Rugh, general manager and technical director of system supplier Xero Flor America. “Suppliers can help in the financial argument, but it’s important to go to your local utility to see what’s available.”

Where there was once little local, state, or federal funding for green roof projects, many incentives are sprouting up across the country.

“During negotiation, have a dialogue about what can be done for you in order to get the project approved. Municipalities recognize that these projects cost developers money, and in their quest to attract new development, they’re willing to play ball,” explains Dick Hayden, garden roof department manager at system supplier American Hydrotech. “Green roofs have real value, so utilities use incentives as part of the financing puzzle.”

Knowing what is available and what works will make your project a lush undertaking.

Municipal Incentives at a Glance
Below is a crash course on types of incentives available in different regions, according to the non-profit organization Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. If these aren’t advertised or available in your neck of the woods, do some digging or lobbying.

“Incentives come in various forms, but a lot of entities don’t advertise them,” Hayden says. “They want to promote the green component, but the dollars are based on stormwater management. Replacing sewer infrastructure can cost billions.”

Even if you can’t collect monetary motivation, lowering the amount of impervious space on your property can give you an added floor on your building or extra parking space in your lot. Consider the possibilities:

  • Chicago, IL: Green Roof Permit Program – In addition to monetary incentives for stormwater and reducing the urban heat island effect, another bonus is an expedited building permit program.
  • Milwaukee, WI: Regional Green Roof Incentive – Earn $5 per square foot of approved green roof space.
  • Minneapolis, MN: Regional Green Roof Initiative – A discount of up to 100% on stormwater utility fees rewards properties that manage their stormwater quality and quantity with strategies including green roofs.
  • Nashville, TN: Green Roof Credit – Earn a $10 rebate for each square foot of green roof space.
  • New York, NY: Green Roof Tax Abatement – Earn a $5.23 rebate per square foot of green roof space, capped at $200,000 per project.
  • Philadelphia, PA: Green Roof Tax Credit – Earn a credit of up to 25% of all costs incurred to construct a green roof, with a maximum of $100,000 per project.
  • Portland, OR: Floor Area Ratio Bonus – Earn extra space based on the percentage of green roof area: 10-30% earns 1 extra square foot of floor area, 30-60% earns 2, and 60%+ earns 3.
  • Syracuse, NY: Green Improvement Fund – Moneys are available for projects utilizing green infrastructure. Nearly $4 million has already been awarded to 37 projects.
  • Toronto, ON: Green Roof Bylaw/Procurement – Earn $7 per square foot of green roof space.
  • Washington, D.C.: Green Roof Rebate Program – There is base funding ranging from $7-10 per square foot of green roof area depending on the project’s sewage shed area.

Learn From Success Stories
The World Wide Fund for Nature remodeled its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The facility added a green roof with the primary goal of reducing the first flush and/or peak flow of water during major storm activity. The project also coincided with an aggressive renovation to earn LEED-EB 2009 Platinum.

Its 28,000-square-foot green roof treats and retains about 416,250 gallons of stormwater annually, meeting both municipal and LEED guidelines. As a result of the reduced stress on the city sewer infrastructure, the project earned tax abatement of almost $200,000.

The Silver City Townhomes in Milwaukee, WI, are five structures housing 20 rent-to-own three- and four-bedroom units. Each building has a green roof, with the area totaling 11,577 square feet. They were funded with a $172,278 grant from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District.

Sources like these can be earned for your project, even if funding doesn’t appear readily available. The onus is on you to pursue and advocate for them.

“Push for policy in your area. Lobby and get representatives on board with green roofs and infrastructure,” suggests Andy Creath, owner and founder of Green Roofs of Colorado, a green roof designer and installer. “Just get involved.”

Chris Curtland is assistant editor of BUILDINGS.

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