The Green Roof and Wall Industry Grew by 28.5 Percent in 2010

By Steven Peck

The total area of green roofs installed in North America grew by 28.5 percent in 2010, according to the results of the 2011 Annual Industry Survey of Corporate Members by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), a membership-based industry association whose mission is to develop the green roof and wall industry in North America. This is a significant increase over the 16 percent growth recorded in 2009.

“Government investment in green roofs for their stormwater, air quality, green space and city cooling benefits largely fuels the growth of our industry,” said Jeffrey L. Bruce, chair, GRHC. “Cities such as Chicago, Washington, New York, Portland, Seattle and Philadelphia continue to lead the way with incentives and regulations that recognize the many benefits from green roofs, including much-needed green jobs in their communities. We are also seeing tremendous leadership within the federal government and its agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and General Services Administration.”

In the Top Ten U.S. Metropolitan Regions List, Chicago led the way for the seventh year in a row, with more than 500,000 square feet installed, followed by Washington, D.C. and New York City.

“Chicago is proud of our progress in promoting and installing green roofs, especially considering the many benefits they provide in support of the Chicago Climate Action Plan,” said Commissioner Suzanne Malec-McKenna of the Chicago Department of Environment. “They include: stormwater capture, building insulation, local heat island reduction and new green space for people and wildlife. Green roofs are just a part of Chicago’s support of green infrastructure solutions to make cities more livable and vibrant through sustainable design and innovative programs.”

A green roof is an extension of the existing roof, which involves a high-quality waterproofing and root-repellant system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants. Green roof development involves the creation of “contained” green space on top of a human-made structure. This green space could be below, at or above grade, but in all cases the plants are not planted in the “ground.”  Green roofs can provide a wide range of public and private benefits.

As the green roof and wall industry develops further, we will see costs come down and benefits to building owners rise, through the application of integrated design practices that turn wasted roof and wall spaces into value-added urban farms, habitat, recreational spaces, horticultural therapy centers, energy conservation, green energy production, and stormwater management infrastructure. Green roofs also save building owners money by extending the life expectancy of waterproofing, and improving property values.

“The District government and our property owners, developers, and residents citywide have embraced green roof technology for its many benefits,” said Christophe A.G. Tulou, director of the Washington District Department of the Environment Department. “And we are really just getting started. I expect green roofs will play an increasingly important role as we improve stormwater management to clean and protect the District’s rivers and streams.”

GRHC conducts an Annual Industry Survey of its members to identify the square footage of green roofs installed each year, in each region of the country. The survey is conducted by an independent, third-party consultant. The survey understates the size of the market since it is not completed by all of the companies that are actively designing and building green roofs.

Steven Peck is the founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), a membership-based industry association developing the green (vegetative) roof and wall industry in North America. GRHC’s mission is to increase the awareness of the economic, social and environmental benefits of green roofs and green walls, and other forms of living architecture through education, advocacy, professional development and celebrations of excellence. Visit for more information.

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