Green Roof Refurbishment: It’s About Time
Green Roof refurbishment. It’s about time we stop focusing just on new build, and how we can make our existing buildings far more sustainable.
We have published several articles and a CPD seminar, about the benefits or green roofs. Both to the environment and to the finances of building owners and lease holders.
Whilst there has been a high level of uptake in the new build market over the last 10 years, the refurbishment market, which concentrates on re-roofing existing buildings, has seen very little.
So what are the reasons behind this?
Planning laws (particularly in London following the 2008 and 2019 London Plan) require new developments to incorporate living roofs and walls. Both documents are silent on greening existing buildings and because there is no such requirement there is far less take up.
Many commercial buildings are let on short leases. There is little incentive for the tenant to invest and there is the risk that at the end of the lease the Landlord will want any improvements removed.
There is also the fact that UK business practices have created a culture built around short-term results. Entrepreneurs create businesses they can sell in a few years and CEOs of PLCs are incentivised to increase their share price.
Our political system has a 4 year cycle; the main objective of government is not to govern well, it is to govern in a way which will ensure they get re-elected in 4 years time.
The environmental issues we are facing require long-term decisions and long-term investment. To achieve this we need to change and we need to change fast.
So how can this change be achieved?
Change is possible; before 2006 you could renew the roof on an existing building without upgrading the insulation. Now it is a statutory requirement and has become the norm. Look also at the increase in green roofs in new construction and look at the huge, unimaginable change which has come about because of the Covid-19 emergency procedures.
We were pleased to hear the government announce the ‘Green Homes Grant Scheme’ promising £2 billion in funding. The main focus seems to be on insulation but it will also cover low carbon energy systems, including photovoltaic and thermal. Unfortunately, there seems to be no mention of green roofs. Is it too late?
Most importantly, it is up to all of us in the industry to take personal responsibility for raising awareness amongst our clients to the issues we face and the solutions which are available and thus drive change. It should be on your agenda for every new roof project.
In April 2010 the Feed In Tariff (FIT) came into effect and resulted in a surge of investment in solar PV.
The return on investment for solar PV is given as 15 to 20 years. The return on investment on a green roof depends greatly on the type of scheme and how it is used.
A building owner may be able to calculate the benefit of having a usable green roof space. Think of Kensington Roof Gardens and the Queen Elizabeth roof garden. It is possible to calculate the increase in value of a commercial or residential property if a green recreational space is added. Studies in the North America and Britain have suggested by 6 – 15%
Green roofs provide additional insulation and protect the roof waterproofing making them last significantly longer and in some cases almost indefinitely. On this basis alone, a return on investment of 10 – 15 years is achievable.
Although there is always a return, the other more important returns are often less tangible and difficult to measure. For example, how do you measure the combined benefit to a town or city of improving the air quality, reducing flooding, improving mental health, reducing the use of air conditioning and heating and providing ecological areas for plants, insets and other wildlife.
These benefits can be calculated but they need to be considered at a societal level for their long-term benefits. It is therefore a decision which needs to be taken at governmental level, preferably with cross party consensus, with long term, holistic policy as the target.
These policies might require that when re-roofing any building in any sector of over 100m2 and with up to a 20 degree slope, it must be greened or green solutions incorporated.
Incentives could then be set in place to encourage building owners and occupiers to invest. These might include:-
- Reduced rates and property taxes for existing buildings which install green roofs
- Zero rates payable on reclaimed roof areas for 25 years
- Zero rate VAT on green roof projects
- 100% tax allowance in year one
- Grants and funding
- Fast track planning
The government has already said, post Covid that it will be investing in the green economy and here it has a great opportunity to do that and boost economic activity, sustainably, both environmentally and economically.
If you want to find out more about how going green will save your clients money, or what sustainable options are available for your roofs, get in touch with one of team here.