More than just a pretty roof: Ecoroofs save cash
By Lee van der Voo, Sustainable Business Oregon
Sustainable Business Oregon
Shawn Sullivan's only complaint with ecoroofs is that the pitch to get businesses to install them is sometimes all wrong.
Sullivan, a development manager for Winkler Development Corporation, has managed three ecoroofs projects for his company. And though he appreciates their aesthetic values, the eye-popping awe of rooftop gardening has eclipsed other, practical uses of the ecoroof, Sullivan says.
His point? Rooftop plants can save money, especially for businesses with large commercial buildings, because they can double the life of a roof and reduce energy and maintenance costs.
Sullivan has been busy proving the theory. On the 7,200-square-foot top of the 1200 Building apartment complex at 1200 S.W. 12th Ave., Sullivan recently led a project that covered a new, conventional roof – built for $170,000 – with a $37,591 ecoroof intended to increase the roof’s lifespan from 20 to 40 years.
Including soft costs like design, the ecoroof was added for $5 a square foot, the same amount he received in a grant from a city program. The "Grey to Green" program offers cash incentives for ecoroofs as a means of reducing costs to the city’s stormwater utility. The result for any ecoroof project is essentially two roofs for the price of one, Sullivan said.
"When you take these roofs and turn it into show, there's a tendency to beef up the medium and then you’re into structural upgrades," said Sullivan, which adds significant expense.
Sullivan has learned, however, that ecoroofs can be built for much less than the top tier prices that hover at $25 a square foot.
On top of the 1200 Building, drought-tolerant sedums are planted in light-weight, dry soil above a waterproof membrane. A simple leak detection system underneath pinpoints leaks to prevent problems. With little irrigation required and only annual weeding, Sullivan said the ecoroof is far more affordable than fixing cracks in a conventional roof and then replacing it in 20, rather than 40 years.
Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.
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