Go Green or Go Home

Sept. 29, 2016

About the author: Amy McIntosh, managing editor, [email protected]

Green infrastructure made headlines on Sept. 15 when the San Francisco Planning Commission unanimously approved a measure requiring green roofs on all new construction projects in the city. Developers now must set aside 30% of a building’s roof space for vegetation, or include a combination of green roofs and solar panels. 

“Rooftops are one of the last untapped environmental resources in our growing city, and we need to be strategic about how we activate these spaces,” said Scott Wiener, member of the San Francisco board of supervisors, in a press release. 

While San Francisco is the first major city in the U.S. to pass such a requirement, this type of action is not as uncommon elsewhere. Toronto was the first city in North America to pass a law requiring green roofs on new commercial buildings, and these types of requirements have taken effect in a number of European cities as well. Other cities offer incentives and rebates for either adding green roofs to new construction or retrofitting existing buildings with vegetated rooftops or other forms of green infrastructure. 

Washington, D.C.’s RiverSmart Rooftops program, for example, will provide a rebate of $10 to $15 per square foot of green roof, depending on the building’s location. This is part of the Washington, D.C., Department of Energy & Environment’s RiverSmart Rewards program, which offers storm water fee discounts for facilities that install green infrastructure to sustainably manage, reduce or treat storm water runoff. The program was created in an effort to protect the district's waterways through storm water management.  

As the benefits of green infrastructure become more widely known, laws like the one passed in San Francisco may soon be more common in cities across the country. Rebate and incentive programs hopefully will encourage developers to consider green infrastructure a valuable part of new construction plans. The more developers are willing to voluntarily include natural storm water features in new construction, the less burdensome a potential green infrastructure law will be. 

Has your organization taken part in green infrastructure rebate programs? What kinds of innovative green projects have you seen recently? Let us know at [email protected].  

About the Author

Amy McIntosh