Green Roofs Assist in Flood Prevention

Yesterday Toronto got more rain in two hours than it normally does in a month which meant some serious flooding happened. This got me thinking of a program that Toronto (alleged crackhead) Mayor (busted for DUI) Rob (loves pollution) Ford (reads while driving) cancelled. The cancelled program promoted green roofs to help with flood control while lessening wear on existing infrastructure.

So the ineptitude of the current Toronto mayor got me thinking of how things could have been different with forethought of climate change. It’s worth noting that Rob Ford spent the flood idling in his SUV:

I gathered some example of other cities and areas that are using green roofs (and similar) to curb their flooding problems.

In Singapore they have combined recreation with flood prevention:

The barrage is part of a comprehensive system of flood control to decrease flooding in the low-lying areas in the busy quarters of the city. During the heavy rains, a series of nine crest gates activate to release excess storm water into the sea when the tide is low. When high tide comes in, giant pumps drain excess storm water at at a rate of one Olympic-size swimming pool per minute.

In New York they are looking into a variety of solutions, which we looked at before.

In Rotterdam, the city’s green roof initiative has proven to be effective in flood alleviation.

Although large areas of green roofs have many benefits for cities, such as reducing air pollution and helping to combat the heat island effect, Rotterdam’s priority was for water retention, since the city has a shortage of areas where water can be stored following heavy rainfall. Water management has always been a major concern in the Netherlands, since approximately 60% of the country lies below sea level. The analysis of the potential of green roofs in Rotterdam that preceded the introduction of the subsidies focused heavily on their capacity for water storage in order to reduce peak water discharge following a rain storm and help prevent flooding.

Over in the UK, the Green Roof Centre has quite a lot of information on how green roofs can help flood management:

Once established a green roof can significantly reduce both peak flow rates and total runoff volume of rainwater from the roof compared to a conventional roof. Green roofs store rainwater in the plants and substrate and release water back into the atmosphere through evapotranspiration.

The amount of water that is stored on a green roof, and then evapotranspired into the atmosphere, is dependent on the depth and type of growing medium, type of drainage layer, vegetation used and regional weather. The FLL Guidelines should be followed to ensure that actual runoff will be in accordance with calculated runoff.

A green roof can easily be designed to prevent runoff from all rainfall events of up to 5 mm and as part of a SuDS strategy, should reduce the volume of surface or underground attenuation required at the site boundary. In summer, green roofs can retain 70–80% of rainfall and in winter they retain 10–35% depending on their build-up (Green roofs benefits and cost implications, In association with ecologyconsultancy, March 2004). The difference is due to a combination of more winter rainfall and less evapotranspiration by the plants because growth is not as vigorous during the winter months.

I like this tweet from Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmat as a good conclusion to this post:

Green Roofs Changing Architecture

Over at Treehugger they have a good slideshow about the state of green roofs in architecture.

Sometimes they developed naturally and organically, like this rooftop garden in lower Manhattan that like Topsy, just grew. And grew, and eventually evolved from a New York roof garden into what they now call a Green Roof.
Green roof new york

Green Roofs Coming to Toronto

Toronto is set to implement a law that would make green roofs mandatory for tall buildings. Being Toronto, the policy is confused and is arguably not bold enough, but the fact that this is being tabled with support across the city is a very good sign. Torontoist author Toodd Aalgaard has a look at the green roofs coming to Toronto:

After January 30, 2010, according to a draft version [PDF] of the by-law being tossed around today, every building “with a gross floor area of 5,000 square metres or greater shall include a green roof,” meaning that rooftops greater than five thousand square metres in area will require 30% green coverage, with 60% for rooftops exceeding twenty thousand square metres. Further, the construction and maintenance of new roofing will toe strict guidelines laid out in the Green Roof Construction Standard [PDF], ranging from assembly and load bearing to fire safety and plant selection. Even minimal alterations will be subject to City approval.

The Globe and Mail also examines Toronto’s green roof law:

The proposed bylaw would mandate specially irrigated rooftop gardens that are said to reduce air-conditioning costs and mitigate the “urban heat island” effect blamed on pavement and dark roofs.

Part of Mayor David Miller’s climate-change initiative, the move was deferred for fine tuning yesterday and was to return to a meeting next month of the city’s planning and growth committee.

Good-Looking Green Roofs

WebUrbanist has put together a collection of green roofs and how they look around the world. There is the coolest green roof from Japan and the more mundane, but equally (or maybe more?) useful, green roofs in Scandinavia that have been in use for centuries.

Bizarrely, a bomb shelter has been designed with a green roof.

Take a look!

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