Roofs Alive: Green Roofs are Good for the Environment

Even hospitals are installing green roofs these days; read more about it and learn a few benefits of growing plants on rooftops

by Dani Yokhna

Green roofs help reduce storm water runoff
Courtesy Green Roof for Healthy Cities, Sanitation District No. 1, Ft. Wright, Kentucky and Human Nature, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio

This project was a 2007 Green Roof Awards of Excellence recipient. It was part of the inspiration behind the green roof project at the St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

If someone tells you their roof is green, it may not just be the color of their shingles: today, green roofs are designed to be covered in vegetation.

This is one way some businesses, organizations and even homeowners are making a positive impact on the environment.

Green Roof Benefits
The main benefit of green roofs, according to the Green Roof Research Program at Michigan State University, is to help reduce storm water runoff—especially beneficial in urban areas that offer less surface area for runoff to be absorbed.

Green roofs also:

  • Cut energy costs by providing more insulation
  • Last longer than conventional roofs because they’re protected from ultraviolet radiation and the extreme fluctuations in temperature that can cause deterioration
  • Replace green spaces lost to urban development, thus improving the health of our environment as well as our well-being


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  • Offer a more aesthetically pleasing environment in which to work and live

Another big bonus: building and maintaining green roofs offer business opportunities for nurseries, landscape contractors, irrigation specialists and other green-industry members while addressing the issues of environmental stewardship, according to the university’s research program.

Examples of Green Roofs Growing
Among the growing numbers of examples is the rooftop at Northern Kentucky’s St. Elizabeth Medical Center’s new emergency department and outpatient building.

Installation of the roof is set to be completed in July, according to a report from the Kentucky Enquirer. Plants will include numerous varieties of sedum, a heat- and drought-tolerant plant; they require little maintenance and produce blooms in reds, whites, yellows and pinks.

The medical center is a 120,000-square-foot, three-story building visible from Interstate 71/75 near downtown Covington, Ky. The roof is roughly 18,000-square-feet and situated over the first floor emergency department.

According to Doug Chambers, senior vice president of facilities for St. Elizabeth, Joseph Gross, president and chief executive officer of the St. Elizabeth health system, was the main player behind the development of the green-roof project because he thought the hospital should be caring for the environment as well as its patients, reports the Enquirer.

Those interested in green roofs can benefit from seeing the green roofs put into practice.

Here are a few links to websites involved in green roof projects:

Or you could just swing by the St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

While not open to the public, the green roof, according to the Enquirer, will be visible from the building’s second and third floors and by the estimated 150,000 cars and trucks that travel the nearby stretch of I-71/75 each day.

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