Vegetative Roofs Could Save On Water Bills

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Often, when I am conducting seminars on sustainable solutions for buildings, the question comes up regarding the benefits of a vegetative roofing system.  One of the major benefits starting to take place provides a boost to a company or building owners’ bottom line – reduced water bills!

Some major municipalities such as Portland, Oregon are beginning to reward building owners with reduced water bills when systems are put in place in or on the building to reduce the storm water run-off.  The reason for this is many municipalities have a co-mingled system where storm water and sewer discharge are carried through the storms drains to the treatment plant together. Very often, in a significant rain event, the capacity of the system is overwhelmed. As a result, the overflow of raw effluent runs into estuaries and the municipality can incur fines because the storm drains were overloaded.


What I have seen is that companies who take measures to control the rainwater run-off on their sites are starting to be rewarded for their efforts.  One practice which is gaining in popularity is the utilization a vegetative or live roof and municipalities are rewarding companies for installing vegetative roofs by reducing water rates.  That can be a significant savings for a large, multi-tenant building.

When you think about it, this is a very interesting angle that municipalities are taking to promote the use of green roofs.  It is a win-win in that it controls utility costs for the building owner which offsets the cost of the installation of the vegetative roof.  It is a positive for the community because it helps to maintain and prolong the life of the utility systems by not overloading them. It also can provide a nice environment for occupants if they have access to the roof.

Sustainability Sprint – The Dash to Keep Up

Lucas Hamilton

The days of not keeping up with trends is over. Like it or not sustainability is here to stay and you don’t want to get left behind.

The race is on to keep up with the ever-changing world of sustainability and it is causing manufacturers and building professionals to scramble to catch up. It’s a subject matter with a great deal to learn. There are outside influences like building codes and socio-economic influences driving sustainability into the mainstream, and people may feel like they are out of step and that their vocabulary is insufficient to accurately communicate about sustainability. 

Training is the key. We, at CertainTeed are in the midst of a continuing education initiative for our sales force, our customers and others on sustainability. We are addressing what programs have changed, what requirements have changed and what new technologies are available. Sustainability is influencing our trends, in terms of types of products we use. There is increased use of vegetative roofs, photovoltaics and other, much needed, energy efficiency methods being incorporated into buildings to improve performance. 

In addition to these “outbound” activities, we have a significant internal focus on our manufacturing facilities and CertainTeed employees. First you have to “green” your products, then your facilities, and then your people and practices. It is an on-going “organic” process which never stops.

Urban areas outpace rural areas with regard to sustainability, which was discussed in a previous blog, indicating that there is still a long way to go with regard to education and training on sustainability.

I am finding that people are a little afraid of sustainability because the practice is still new and it’s catching them off guard.  The trick is to get into it, stay into it, have conversations with people and learn from each other about sustainability. 

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation.