Is Your Building Ripe for a Green Roof?

New York City

Green Roof
June 30, 2017

Co-op and condo boards in New York City are always on the lookout for amenities that boost the value – and livability – of their buildings. In the bargain, many are looking to make their buildings more eco-friendly and economical. For these reasons, green roofs are catching on. But do the benefits merit the cost? And what are the drawbacks?

"If you're adding green features, you're looking at staying in the long term, because that's where you get the savings," Anna Karp, a cofounder of Bolster, an online home-improvement service, tells Brick Underground. "A lot of the benefits you're looking at are environmental, some of which are not quantifiable."

Costs, however, are quantifiable, and it’s best to understand them before you take the plunge. "It's better to know everything that's included, from the engineer, the architect, the costs of plants, labor, materials, insurance, and so on and so forth," says Karp. "You really need to know all these variables and numbers before you even start so you're not in a sticker shock situation."

There are ways to cut those costs. Major rebates are available to buildings that go green, most notably a state-sponsored one-year tax abatement, offering $4.50 for each square foot of green roof built, for a maximum subsidy of up to $100,000. Depending on the location of your building, there are grants via the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to encourage green roofs in flood-prone areas because, among their many benefits, green roofs absorb rainwater.

"In Gowanus [and] near Newtown Creek, so many projects have been funded this way," says Sri Rangarajan, Bolster’s advisor on green roof projects. "It does take some time, maybe two to three extra months, to go through the review process." And once the roof is in place, buildings must sign an agreement to maintain the roof for at least 20 years, in exchange for heavy subsidies from the DEP. It may be worth your while to look into it.

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