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Green Roofs for Healthy Cities works hard to build interest

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by Journal Of Commerce

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities offers a half-day workshop on setting policies, research needs and more to municipalities across Canada.
Korky Koroluk
Korky Koroluk

Construction Corner

Remember The Perfect Storm? That’s the book by Sebastian Junger that traced the growth of a terrible storm in the fall of 1991 that resulted in the loss, with all hands, of an American fishing boat off the coast of Massachusetts.

The title came about because in the course of his research, Junger spoke with meteorologist Bob Case, who described the confluence of three different weather-related phenomena that combined to create what he called the “perfect” situation to generate such a storm. That led Junger to coin the phrase “perfect storm” and turn it into the title of his 1997 book.

Since then the phrase has entered popular use to describe any series of events that come together — often accidentally — to create a single event that is much bigger than the sum of all its parts.

Talking to Steven Peck the other day, I got thinking about perfect storms when he mentioned the explosive growth of the trade association he heads: Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

Briefly, the association began in 1999 with just six interested companies. Now, eight years later, there are more than 75 corporate members and more than 4,000 individual members.

“We’re growing,” Peck said. “Fast.”

That growth echoes the growth in interest in just about all things environmental. It was only a year ago or a bit more, that a project going for LEED certification was newsworthy. Now, it seems, it is the projects not going for LEED that would be worth singling out.

Poll after poll show the environment now tops any list of public concerns — a spot that in Canada has almost always been held by health care. At the same time, the polls tell us people have come to realize that improving the environment, doing what we can to combat global warming, is going to cost us all something.

Repairing and updating our infrastructure is part of that, of course. People know that clean, leak-free water lines are preferable to old lines that leak large amounts of water their tax dollars have paid to treat.

They’re willing to pay a little extra now to get new bridge decks with a 75-year design life, rather than the customary 50 years. And they’re showing more and more interest in things like green roofs.

Do you sense a perfect storm building here?

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities is working hard to increase interest in green roofs. That’s why they devote a lot of time to lobbying local councils.

“We have a half-day policy workshop that we’ve delivered in cities across Canada recently,” Peck told me. “In it we talk about how one goes about setting policy, what sort of research might have to be done, what sorts of policy options might be available.”

“Local governments are very obviously involved in the building process and its regulation. And they have a lot of ability to provide incentives.”

He mentioned density bonuses as one possible tool. Chicago, and Portland, Ore., are two examples where, if you put a green roof on your building, the city is willing to allow you some extra saleable or rentable space.

Of course, cities, besides having the ability to offer some incentives, buy, build and manage buildings of their own, so they are in a position to green their own inventory and lead by example at the same time.

Peck said the policy workshop has been presented in almost 30 North American cities so far, including every major city in Canada except Quebec City. The reason for that omission, he said, is that his group “doesn’t have the bilingual capability we need to work in Quebec City.”

Old and decrepit infrastructure that badly needs repair and/or replacement. General environmental concerns. LEED. Green Roofs. All sorts of things leading, possibly, to more pressure on municipal governments, growing unrest over taxation and service levels — lots of things.

Again: Do you sense a perfect storm developing here?

Korky Koroluk is an Ottawa-based freelance writer. Send comments to editor@dailycommercialnews.com

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