Science The San Diego Union-Tribune — Cincinnati wants to lead green roof

Science The San Diego Union-Tribune -- Cincinnati wants to lead green roof

Officials want to see more green roofs on building tops in Cincinnati. The City Council on Wednesday became the first in Ohio with a plan to channel grants and loans to residents and businesses to replace tar and shingles with vegetation.

CINCINNATI Officials want to see more green roofs on building tops in Cincinnati.

The City Council on Wednesday became the first in Ohio with a plan to channel grants and loans to residents and businesses to replace tar and shingles with vegetation.

Supporters of the idea want to see Cincinnati become a leader in green roofs, a European-born movement that has spread to only a few U.S. cities, including Chicago, Milwaukee and Seattle.

They say the greenery not only is pleasing aesthetically but reduces stormwater runoff, filters pollutants and cuts heating and cooling costs.

In Ohio, pastoral roofs grace the tops of the Toledo public library, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency building in Columbus and the Cleveland Environmental Center, home of the Greater Cleveland Green Building Coalition.

We call it our civic plaza rooftop, Toledo library spokeswoman Rhonda Sewell.

It was installed in 2000.

We were inspired by what we saw in Chicago during a public library conference, said Charlie Oswanski, who heads the library’s facilities and operations. It’s performing very well very low maintenance, and it does benefit us in cooling and heating costs.

Chicago has scores of green roofs, including one atop City Hall. Other buildings elsewhere in the United States that are considered green roof pioneers include the Ford Motor Co. Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich. and the Convention Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.

The plan approved Wednesday in Cincinnati is the first of its kind in Ohio, said Bob Monsarrat, manager of the environmental planning section of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which directs certain federal grant funds toward such programs.

We have wanted to support green infrastructure initiatives in the state directed toward improving water quality, so this was a fairly easy sell to us, Monsarrat said.

He said the handful of green roofs in Ohio have generally been on government buildings, while the Cincinnati program is mainly aimed at commercial buildings.

It’s very exciting, said Vicki Ciotti, director of the nonprofit Civic Garden Center, which plans to begin a roof garden early next year. She said the council’s plan should jump-start a movement that has taken hold in a few cities but has generally been slow to grow.

It’s been slow just because it’s such a new idea for us, Ciotti said. They’ve been doing green roofs for years in Germany.

A report by the Green Roof Research Program at Michigan State University estimates that 12 percent of all flat-roofed buildings in Germany are covered with vegetation. It noted several barriers to widespread acceptance in the United States, including lack of government incentives or tax breaks.

What the city of Cincinnati is doing is the largest effort I have heard of, Monsarrat said. It will be interesting to watch that and see how it works.

About $5 million a year in below-market-rate loans through the U.S. EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund will be available starting in 2009 for green roof projects, city officials estimate, along with an undetermined amount of grant money from other EPA funds.

On the Net:

Michigan State Green Roof Research Program: hrt.msu.edu/greenroof

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