Scorecard Highlights: Green Living Roofs & Walls

Scorecard Highlights: Green Living Roofs & Walls

Green living roofs are becoming a growing trend in many large cities across the U.S., with a few even popping up in Lexington. With the benefits these roofs provide to air quality, energy efficiency, and water quality, it is hard to believe that more businesses have not taken advantage of them.

The popularity of these roofs in large U.S. cities  is due, in part, to the intensity of the Heat Island Effect in urban and metropolitan areas. “Heat Island Effect” refers to urban areas that are hotter in temperature (usually by at least 1-5 degrees Fahrenheit) when compared to rural areas, an increase in temperature directly related to the higher presence of human activity and an abundance of asphalt that traps intense UV rays. According to the EPA, “Heat Islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water pollution.”

To combat the Heat Island Effect, many cities have encouraged the installation of green roofs. These sections of dense vegetation absorb sunlight, provide shade, and remove heat in the air through a process called evapotranspiration. Additionally, the buildings that house these green roofs tend to see a decline in energy usage as the vegetation provides shade. Furthermore, the soil from the plants retain stormwater, which prevents extra runoff and, in doing so, improves water quality.  You can find a few examples of green roofs in Lexington, primarily on some University of Kentucky buildings and on the roof of the Klausing Group, a Green Check business. 

Green walls are similar to green roofs, but provide a little more flexibility. Walls can be indoor or outdoor, small or large, and the benefits are still the same. Many business that have indoor green walls will notice an improvement in air quality as vegetation acts to remove carbon dioxide and other air toxins. Just as the green roofs provide a cooling effect for buildings, green walls with an abundance of vegetation provide an added layer of insulation to maintain indoor temperatures and drive down energy usage. The Green Check business Town Branch Tree Experts has a small, indoor green wall that provides air filtration to their office space. 

Though Lexington’s Heat Island Effect may not be as great as Chicago, Los Angeles, or even Louisville, our community would greatly benefit from the many ways green roofs and walls improve our environment. You can learn more about these initiatives from the resources below:

Photo credit: The Klausing Group


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