Maintenance of Green Roofs

By Steven Peck, GRP, Honorary ASLA

The green roof industry grew by almost 30 percent last year, in spite of the challenging economic times. This year, we anticipate continued growth, both for green roofs and green walls. With tens of millions of square feet of green roofs now in place throughout North America, there are many excellent opportunities to become involved in the ongoing maintenance of green roof systems as a new business niche to complement your existing scope of work.

Maintenance is a challenge for the green roof industry, with some even still claiming to have maintenance-free systems — which is a foolish claim. Many green roof projects suffer because of inadequate design and installation practices, lack of consideration of the maintenance requirements of the design, insufficient funding allocated for maintenance contracting, and a lack of proper training for maintenance contractors who are working on green roofs.

During the past year, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities convened experts from throughout North America –> led by co-chairs Nathan Griswold of American Hydrotech and Andy Creath of Green Roofs of Colorado — to develop an advanced training course and resource manual focused on the maintenance of green roofs. This peer-reviewed course was launched in Washington D.C. this spring, and has been delivered successfully in several cities throughout the summer. The course focuses on helping attendees develop an understanding of how design decisions impact maintenance costs; reasons for clients to invest in a proper maintenance program; identification of common maintenance challenges, and how to address them; how to budget and develop a maintenance plan; and how to diagnose problems on a neglected green roof.

Advanced Green Roof Maintenance will be offered in person at CitiesAlive 9th Annual Green Roof and Wall Conference in Philadelphia on November 30, 2011 ( CitiesAlive runs from Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 and provides an opportunity to meet green roof and wall vendors; take leading-edge training courses; and learn the latest in design, research and policy around green roofs and walls in North America. At CitiesAlive we will also be launching the second course in our Integrated Water Management Series — sponsored by Ewing and Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company. This new course will focus on the practical application of various technologies that support the goal of “net zero water” facilities — another key emerging market opportunity.

 If travel is difficult, the Advanced Green Roof Maintenance course will be provided as an online training course in our new Living Architecture Academy, a 24/7/365 on-demand training center, which features hundreds of presentations from past conferences, technical papers and proceedings. The first Integrated Water Management Course is also now online ( You may purchase the resource manuals for both of these courses, as well as other technical manuals at our Green Infrastructure Store (

There are now more than 500 accredited Green Roof Professionals (GRPs) in North America, individuals who have demonstrated knowledge of the best practices associated with the “black arts” (the non-living components) and the “green arts” (the living elements) of a green roof. Go to and click on “Find A Member” to see if there are any GRPs located in your area.

Understanding the special “black and green art” requirements associated with maintaining a green roof is essential to operating safely and effectively in this rapidly growing market. Investing in professional development that delivers more sustainable products and services is a key business strategy for both your, and our, future prosperity.

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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