More than just a pretty roof: Ecoroofs save cash

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"From an energy-conservation perspective, they certainly help with insulation in the building and also, if you shade the air intakes, it cools the air as it comes in," Medina said, reducing energy costs in the building's heating and cooling system.

PGE’s low-cost design will rely on simple sedum and slow-growing ground cover. The roof will require little irrigation and maintenance over its life and will be built at about $5 to $7 a square foot after soft costs, roughly the amount of a $200,000 grant from the city.

At Portland State University, Sarah Renkens, manager of the transportation and parking department, said a city grant made it possible to install an 1,100-square-foot ecoroof on a bike parking facility at 12th Avenue and Montgomery Street, reducing the university's costs from $12.32 a square foot to $7.32.

The program also helped an ecoroof pencil out at The Ramona Apartments at 1525 N.W. 14th Ave. The more than 30,000-square-foot ecoroof is still under construction, but owner Ed McNamara of Turtle Island Development LLC, said he first considered the idea to help manage stormwater.

"Fifteen years ago when people first talked to me about it I thought an ecoroof was crazy. My whole goal was to get water off the roof," he said.

Now he realizes that "the benefit of the ecoroof is it will actually use some of the water."

He also looks forward to reducing demands on the building’s cooling system, and doubling the life of the roof. He said the ecoroof helps him avoid sun exposure and frequent repair work, the two factors he said are most likely to cause a roof failure.

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Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.

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