Green roof projects could fundamentally alter Californian cities, experts say

Sustainable living, thought by some to be limited to communes and isolated areas, may be coming to a major metropolitan area near you, according to experts from the Natural Resource Defense Council and the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law.

In a report released last month, researchers, focusing on the Southern California region for their study, estimated that taking steps to introduce "green roof" technology and practices could save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in utility bills while also helping to limit humanity's environmental impact.

The report, "Looking Up: How Green Roofs and Cool Roofs Can Reduce Energy Use, Address Climate Change and Protect Water Resources in Southern California," proposes that green roof technologies are the best path forward to making American cities more sustainable. For example, a layer of soil and drought-resistant flora planted on the roof can help absorb moisture while consuming carbon dioxide thrown off by cars. Sun-reflecting paint coatings can help reduce the heat absorbed into the building and lessen reliance on air conditioning units, while also working to lower the impact of heat islands, a phenomena that results in heightened temperatures in metropolitan areas.

"The scale of these benefits is truly impressive, and justifies a much more aggressive set of policies and incentives to help advance the adoption of green roofs and cool roofs in our region," Cara Horowitz, an executive director of the Emmett Center, said in a statement published by the environmental advocacy groups.

The authors of the study estimated that converting just 50 percent of the roofs in South California could lower stormwater runoff by over 35 billion gallons each year, a reduction that could help prevent local water supply pollution as well as weather erosion.

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