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Green Roofs in the District of Columbia

Green rooftop planting photo

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Get a green roof subsidy for your building!

Current Inventory of Green Roofs in the District of Columbia

Green Roof Rebate Notice

The District Department of the Environment's green roof rebate program has launched the 2014-2015 program with new funding. The program will process applications from an existing queue. Applicants should file the necessary paperwork with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) to be added to the queue.

The 2014-2015 green roof rebate program will provide base funding of $10 per square foot, and up to $15 per square foot in targeted subwatersheds. There is no cap on the size of projects eligible for the rebate. Properties of all sizes including residential, commercial and institutional are encouraged to apply. For buildings with a footprint of 2,500 square feet or less, funds are available to defray the cost of a structural assessment. Additional funding may be available for features that further advance environmental goals. This webpage will be continuously updated with additional information.

Benefits of Green Roofs

Green, or vegetated, roofs help to manage stormwater. Stormwater runoff is rainwater that flows off impervious surfaces such as rooftops, driveways, roads, sidewalks and sometimes even lawns. Stormwater runoff travels from these surfaces to our streams, picking up pollutants such as oil and grease from our roadways and driveways as it goes. Nutrients from lawn fertilizers and bacteria from pet waste may also be picked up by stormwater and carried to our streams. Once in the stream, stormwater causes erosion, poor water quality and destruction to habitat for fish and other wildlife.

Green roofs hold and delay rainfall runoff, effectively preventing rainwater from becoming stormwater and reducing combined sewer overflow events. In addition, green roofs filter air pollutants from the rainwater and save energy in buildings and in some cases provide habitat for wildlife.

Green roofs are especially effective in cities such as the District of Columbia (District), where so much surface area is taken up by rooftops. Green roofs are most appropriate for flat rooftops of commercial and residential buildings; modern systems are lightweight but roof structures must be checked for adequacy.

Designs take many forms, but modern extensive systems are simple to install and use proven, tested components. They consist of a drainage layer and root barrier plus about 3-4 inches of growing media and plantings of low-growing "sedums." The plants have been developed and cultivated for local climatic conditions, they survive long dry periods, and they perform well in absorbing heavy rainfalls, with little maintenance after establishment.

Green Roof Demonstration Projects

The District recognized the technical and economic benefits of green roofs in the early 2000s, and began supporting their development through financial incentives to building owners.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation Green Roof Demonstration Program – Final Report  [PDF] summarizes the results of this effort and provides data regarding the benefits of green roofs and the prospects for future expansion.

In 2007, DDOE initiated a $3 per square foot green roof subsidy program that has resulted in funding for 12 green roof projects throughout the District. That subsidy was increased to $5 per square foot the following year. A Green Roof Toolkit [PDF] was also produced as a result of this effort to assist District building owners with practical information to assist decisions about designing and installing green roofs.

These and other efforts have resulted in the installation of numerous green roof projects across the District. We have identified a small group of Showcase Green Roof Projects [PDF] – each of which provides practical green roof data and contact information for site visits or further investigations.

series of photos with examples of green roofs

Green Roof Technical Data

  • Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) is an industry organization that sponsors annual technical meetings and trade shows --- their web site provides information about green roof technology and businesses.
  • Greenroofs.com contains encyclopedic references to green roof industry.
  • Greenroofplants.com is a local grower of green roof plants and provides technical and business data.
  • Green Roof Research Center at Pennsylvania State University is a local source of green roof monitoring data.

Green Roof Reports

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