Last summer I wrote about the 1,000 Solar Rooftops Challenge, a project which endeavoured to make the Limestone City the first community of its size to reach 1,000 solar installations by the end of 2011. Five months into 2011, Switch reported that there were a total of 127 brave, sun worshipping participants, and while that is a decent start, it hardly demonstrates that Kingston is a leader in terms of harnessing renewable energy. Unfortunately the total number of rooftop solar installations barely budged throughout the remainder of the year, as it stalled at 134 photovoltaic (PV) and solar hot water systems. As someone who was genuinely interested in becoming a solar farmer, the biggest deterrent for our household, and I suspect was the case for many others, was the steep cost which ranged from $8,000 to $15,000.
Ultimately it’s going to take Kingston much longer than a single year to reach the goal of 1,000 solar rooftops, and at this rate we can realistically expect to get there by 2020. In the meantime, those of us who have abandoned our expensive solar dreams can still utilize our rooftops to help reduce our greenhouse emissions, improve air quality, and enhance stormwater management. With the sustainable potential of rooftops that have yet to receive the solar treatment in mind, what if Kingston embraced a 1,000 green rooftops initiative?
Green rooftops, otherwise referred to as rain or rooftop gardens, consist of roofs that have been covered with greenery, edible vegetation and irrigation systems. The main benefit of living roofs is that they reduce the urban heat island effect, which makes a built-up area significantly warmer than its surroundings, while they also serve as a naturalized sinks for absorbing and cleansing rainwater.
Green roofs can significantly reduce the surface run off volumes and rates of rainfall leaving roofs. As a source control mechanism in the Sustainable Urban Drainage System green roofs can help reduce flash floods as a consequence of intense rainfall events. This will become increasingly important as a consequence of climate change. Green roofs also improve the quality of water and although the amount of water is reduced it is possible to rainfall harvest from roofs that have been greened.
Soaking up all that sun and rainwater, green roofs are ideal for growing produce, which would not only reduce one’s monthly grocery bill, but it could even create a few jobs for urban farmers and rooftop garden designers. Further, rooftop land would add a little bit of diversity to the local ecosystem by attracting and sustaining more feathered wildlife, bugs and even beekeeping. And to top it off, unlike solar panels, rooftop gardens don’t cost an arm and a leg to setup or maintain, so virtually anyone can jump on board so long as they have an appropriate rooftop. In fact, rooftop gardens can be setup for a little as $9 per square foot.
The only question that remains is how do we get Kingstonians on board? The big lure for solar installations is that they can reduce your energy bill, and generate revenue over the long term. Perhaps the financial aspect of lowtech green roofs needs to be investigated a bit more and so that they can be marketed to Kingstonians. Further, City Hall could help by encouraging developers to incorporate green rooftops is all new commercial and residential development with the aid of environmental grants. Of course, identification of existing rooftops that would be ideal for this sort of treatment would also contribute towards our sustainability efforts.
What do you think? Would a 1,000 green rooftop challenge be more successful than the solar rooftop challenge? Would you jump on the green rooftop bandwagon if there was local know-how and support to get you there?
Thanks to oshokim for today’s rooftop photo.