The many benefits of green roofing systems were the topic of the presentation at the James River Green Building Council’s luncheon on Tuesday.

Scott Titanish, the LiveRoof area manager at Riverbend Nursery, a green roofing company, detailed how green roofs can counteract some of the negative impacts of urbanization like the urban heat island effect and stormwater management problems.

The green roof on Charlottesville City Hall
as viewed from the McIntire Street Parking Garage

“Is green roofing going to stop all this? No, but it is a great way to help mitigate,” Titanish said.

LiveRoof, which is locally distributed by Riverbend, is no stranger to the Charlottesville area despite its Riner location. It has installed green roofs on the SNL Financial building in downtown Charlottesville, UVa’s biomedical engineering and medical science building and private residences throughout the area.

Local government buildings in Albemarle County and the city are no strangers to green roofs either. The city of Charlottesville added a green roof to City Hall and the police annex in 2008. The city’s website states that the vegetation covers 9,250 square feet of roof and features 18,540 plants distributed across its surface.

The Albemarle County Office Building on McIntire Road also had a green roof installed on it in July 2005. Gregor Patsch, water resources engineer for Albemarle, said that the roof frequently attracts students from UVa who want to see one first-hand.

“People seem to think it’s cool and they’re interested in it,” Patsch said. “I take quite a few visitors up there every year and there’s a group of local students in a class at UVa that come every year.”

Patsch also said that although there is no specific procedure for adding green roofs to government buildings, it is considered whenever a new structure is built or when a renovation or addition is made to an existing building. Patsch stated that the County Office Building has noticed increased stormwater retention benefits as well as a more stable roof temperature.

“Compared to a non-green roof, the green roof is significantly cooler in the summer,” Patsch said. “Then in the winter, contrastingly, it is a lot warmer that a non-green roof.”

Patsch added that the county does not have the monitoring abilities to determine the monetary savings caused by the green roof but, he added, the benefits of the green roof could not be measured with purely numerical data anyway.

“There are a lot of benefits that go a lot further than energy savings,” said Patsch. “We’ve also seen some habitat benefits. We’ve seen some insects like butterflies and bees up there.”

Titanish agreed by saying that the energy savings are important, but the benefits of a green roof can range from fire protection to extending the life of the roof to improving air quality.

“This is a huge environmental benefit,” said Titanish. “It doesn’t seem like a lot on the surface… but less energy expended means less infrastructure that you need to supply the energy, that’s that much less coal that you’re firing up at the coal-fired plant to supply the energy, that’s that much less water you’re using to drive the turbines at the coal-fired power plant to supply the electricity… That’s huge.”

The JRGBC’s next monthly meeting will be on June 12 at CitySpace on the topic of advanced wastewater technologies.

Education signage for the green roof on City Hall.  Provided by City of Charlottesville.