Policy Trends

“The application of integrated design practices turn wasted roof and wall spaces into value-added urban farms, habitat recreational spaces, horticultural therapy centers, energy conservation, green energy production, and stormwater management infrastructure.” 

— Jeffrey Bruch, Chair, GRHC

Green infrastucture, including green roofs and green walls on private property, have public benefits that reach far beyond a building’s borders. Because of that, certain  municipalities are leading the way in policy initiatives that require and/or encourage the installation of green roofs and green walls. The top three metro areas with the most green roof installations include: Chicago, Washington D.C. and New York City. In each case, public policy led the way. In an effort to comply with the Clean Water Act, the City of Portland was the first U.S. city to pass legislation promoting green roofs. Now, more than 75 cities have adopted comprehensive green infrastructure plans, tax credits and other incentives.

Here is a sampling of some municipal policies.

Portland, Oregon

  • If you manage stormwater on your property, you can receive up to 100% discount on on-site stormwater management charges.
  • All new city-owned facility must include an eco-roof with 70% coverage and high reflectance.
  • Grant reimbursements of up to $5 per square foot for ecoroof projects.
  • FAR bonuses based on ecoroof coverage in relation to building’s footprint.
    • 10-30% = one sf of additional floor area per sf
    • 30-60% = two sf of additional floor area per sf
    • 60%+ = three sf of additional floor area per sf

Chicago, Illinois

  • Green Roof Grants – Up to $5000 for residential/commercial applications
  • 25% green roof requirement– Projects that receive public financing or are subject to planning department review are required to have at least 25% green roof.
  • Bonus FAR– (Area of roof landscaping in excess of 50% of net roof area divided by lot area) x .30 x Base FAR
  • Green Roof Reimbursements– Projects in the Central Loop Area can receive reimbursement grants for up to 50% of Green Roof cost (up to $100,000)

New York City

NYC will spend 1.5 Billion dollars over 20 years to enhance green infrastructure. The goal is to manage runoff from 10% of the impervious surfaces through green infrastructure in CSO watersheds through detention and infiltration source controls.

“This is a way of achieving more than one thing with tax dollars. Unlike a sewage works or a new pipeline, which take years to build and which no one wants nearby, green infrastructure projects offer benefits the moment the first tree is planted or a rain barrel is installed.”   — Carter Strickland NYDEP

San Francisco, California

  • New ordinance requires all new buildings disturbing 5000 sf or more to “manage stormwater onsite.”
  • In separate sewer areas, the Clean Water Act requires stormwater management onsite.
  • The SF water agency is  preparing plan to reduce flows into combined sewer system that divides City into 8 watersheds.
  • Low Impact Design (LID) is the primary strategy for reducing stormwater runoff.