A convenient truth: green rooftops are great for the environment, and for local business

February 15, 2007 at 6:21 am Leave a comment

Green roofs represent a goldmine business opportunity for Australian architects, urban planners, developers, builders, horticulturalists and building owners – but it will require some quick local footwork.

Already, several European countries have developed green roof technology to a high level of efficiency and reasonable cost, while North American municipal governments, especially in Chicago and New York, are discovering similar financial and environmental benefits from well-engineered rooftop gardens (New York’s Rockefeller Centre is a landmark example).

Now this northern hemisphere advance guard is scenting green roof business opportunities in Australia’s native plants.  Why the sudden interest?

Explains Geoff Wilson, Brisbane-based president of Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities, “Overseas green roof technology advances signify important community, corporate and individual responses to the prospect of climate change”.

With the threat of global warming, green roofs provide reduction of ambient temperatures in cities, caused by the “heat island effect” of buildings and roads.  A recent study commissioned by the City of Toronto estimated that a mere 8% of green roofed buildings can reduce a city’s “heat island effect” by up to 2 degrees celsius.

Additionally, rooftop gardens generate significant air cleaning and water cleaning effects.  Green roofs likewise enable slower runoff of rainfall at peak times, enabling drainage infrastructure to cope without massive and costly upgrades.

Key to all these benefits is, of course, the greenery itself.  It must be drought-hardy, low-maintenance and attractive to the eye.  Says Wilson, “Drought-hardy greenery means less costly rooftop maintenance, and Australia’s hardy native vegetation is ideally suited for roof-top gardens”.

An agribusiness journalist since 1957, Geoff Wilson is a keen believer in Australia’s “extraordinarily diverse and weather-hardy plant gene pool’s ability to help defeat runaway climate change effects”.

As Australia’s representative on the recently-formed World Green Roof Infrastructure Network of 15 national organizations, Geoff envisages Australian global greenery supply businesses with a capacity to range from Tasmania and Victoria’s relatively cooler climates,
to the dry arid zones of South Australia and Western Australia, to the tropics of Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Despite the export opportunities for Australian vegetation, Wilson cautions that Australia is still some years behind the main game when it comes to servicing its own market.  Local developers, architects, urban planners, horticulturalists and building owners are failing thus far to capitalise on significant profit prospects posed by the aesthetic, environmental and fiscal benefits of green roofs.

Native flowering plants could support horticultural and roofscaping businesses in addition to providing a riot of delightful, restful colours across CBDs and sun-dried suburbia. Big payoffs would also include reduced fossil fuel energy use, and more efficient water use – two points that should resonate across municipal, state and federal government political levels.

Geoff Wilson concludes, “We should take a good look at these exciting new uses and business prospects for our hardy coastal and inland plants before the Europeans and North Americans swipe our best”.

“GREEN ROOFS FOR AUSTRALIAN CITIES”
is a two-day event held at Brisbane Technology Park, Miles Platting Road, Eight Mile Plains, Brisbane on February 22 – 23, 2007.  It is hosted by Green Roofs for Healthy Australian Cities, and supported by Greenroofs for Sustainable Cities (NZ), and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (North America).  There will be a Green Roof Pictorial Display of up to 100 posters on some of the world’s best green roof ideas.

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Entry filed under: climate change, green roofs, urban ag economy, urban policy.

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