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Kimberly Powell

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If green roofs were mandatory in cities would there be less development and building?

William McDonough knows the benefits that come from designing and implementing green roofs. McDonough has helped design living roofs for big companies such as Nike and Ford Motors. But many companies and homeowners overlook the benefits of green roofs. One benefit of green roofs is that they keep the internal temperature of a building steady throughout the year. The National Research Council of Canada found that having a green roof reduced the daily energy demand for air conditioning in the summer by 75%. Toronto is the first North American city to pass a law mandating green rooftops for all new residential, commercial and industrial developments. Any new construction with floor space of more than 2,000 square meters must devote between 20 and 60 percent of its roof to vegetation. But with green roofs comes an unwanted financial upfront cost. Will developers decide that the benefits outweigh the costs for installing green roofs?

If green roofs were mandatory in cities would there be less development and building?

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    May 23 2012: Potentially. It is hard to say what the outcome would be due to the multitude of variables with different locations across the globe requiring different plants and methods. I could see it being a benefit to society and the building itself though. Imagine a rooftop garden that supports a restaurant below it. That would be impressive.
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      May 24 2012: I really like the idea of a rooftop garden that supports the produce for a restaurant below. It would have to be a big garden but it's a really good idea. It kind of reminds me of an article I read on modern Hobbit houses. The houses were partially underground with a garden on top. It was a cool idea.
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      May 24 2012: There is a restaurant in Portland, Noble Rot, that is supported by a rooftop garden. I have not had the chance to go there, but I hear they're doing quite well and the food is delicious. There is so much potential for the idea of mandating green roofs. They would benefit the environment and reduce long term energy costs of the building. They could be used to grow crops for restaurants, private homes, and the general public. The produce could be used to support the occupants of the building or be sold at a market. Needless to say, the benefits absolutely outweigh the cost.
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      May 27 2012: Implementing a rooftop garden or solar panels or something would be a really cool way to keep a building self-sustaining. I think that this would be a very appropriate use of resources in places that are capable of meeting these building requirements. But I wonder about buildings that are not capable. How would you suggest that a building that comes to a peak, like the Empire State Building, or a building in an area that does not get much rain or sun meets some sort of green requirement? Would they pay a tax on their emissions as an alternative? What do you think would be the proper solution for buildings that could not live up to code?
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        May 28 2012: This might be a bit of a tangent, but if there's anything to learn from environmental policy and it's history, it's this: for the older buildings like the Empire State building, it wouldn't surprise me if they end up having a Grandfather Clause to make things 'fair', since it's harder to change older designs to match newer standards. This could in turn inadvertently end up causing a lot of people to want to keep the older buildings instead of building them to newer, 'green roof' standards.

        On a brighter note, I believe that there have been cases where, instead of putting huge fines on people for failing to match up to certain environmental standards, if there are smaller, more manageable fines, people are more prone to respond to it.

        So perhaps a good way to make this come about is to have small fines or taxes for the buildings unable to live up to code, while at the same time give subsidies (like how the govt. gave subsidies for highways and freeways) for the construction of green roofs.

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