Green Roofs That Lower Energy Costs

Amy Norquist (left) and Tad Floridis

Green roofs—hardy rooftop gardens intended to beautify and insulate buildings—have been popular in Germany and Japan for more than 50 years. Now they’re starting to catch on in the U.S., says Amy Norquist, founder and CEO of green roof designer and installer Greensulate in New York. The 10-person Manhattan company installed more than one-third of the new green roofs in New York City last year, she says. Norquist, the former deputy director at Beacon Institute, a nonprofit environmental research group in New York, started the company in 2008 after being underwhelmed by the options available for her Long Island home’s 900-sq.-ft. roof. Greensulate’s sales pitch to businesses and homeowners: Because plants absorb sunlight, adding rooftop vegetation lowers building air conditioning costs. "On a 90-degree day, air on rooftops can reach 150 degrees," says Tad Floridis, Greensulate's chief operating officer. Greensulate’s installations of sedum, grasses, and perennials average $13 to $35 a square foot, including warranty and maintenance. Floridis says customers will recoup that cost in energy savings in five years. The company recently completed installations of more than 10,000 sq. ft. for the Fashion Institute of Technology and Regis High School in Manhattan. Now Floridis says it is drafting designs for Fortune 500 office buildings and manufacturers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida within 18 months. Floridis says Greensulate had $1.2 million in revenue last year and expects more than $3 million this year. Industry advocacy group Green Roofs for Healthy Cities estimates that nationwide, the square footage of such installations increased from some 3 million to roughly 8 million from 2006 through 2010. Floridis anticipates the market will grow from $60 million this year to $120 million by 2014, aided by New York’s 20-year, $1.5 billion Green Infrastructure Plan and Philadelphia's 25-year, $2 billion Green City, Clean Waters initiative. —Antoine Gara (posted July 6, 2011)
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