Could Green Roofs on Schools Be a Climate Solution?
Since 2015, more than 7,000 gardens have sprouted up in US schoolyards. For decades, these green spaces have been praised for their multifaceted benefits: giving children hands-on experience growing fruits and vegetables, helping them develop a taste for healthy foods, and providing teachers with a platform to explore STEM concepts. Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) wants to move some of the world’s school gardens — to rooftops — and plant them next to meadows that also provide refuges for wildlife, reduce stormwater runoff and reduce urban heat islands.
Within the Public School Green Rooftop Program Act – and green roofs themselves
HR 1863, Also known as the Public School Green Rooftop Program Act, which Velázquez introduced in March, would authorize the Department of Energy to provide $500 million in grants to public schools to build and maintain green roof systems. That’s enough for about 14 million square feet of greenery — which some estimates say would hold some 154 million gallons of rainwater and 537 tons of carbon — with priority being given to schools serving low-income students. Velázquez, backed by 20 (Democratic) co-signers and the backing of the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups, says such roofs will help pave the way to “cleaner, healthier communities.”[ies],” said a press release.
“Many things have been thoroughly substantiated: improved air quality, reduced ambient temperatures to reduce the effects of urban heat islands, and the ability to capture and retain rainwater.”
Senior project manager
Restore green roofs
Science is on its side, though Pete Ellis, senior project manager for Restore green roofs, a Massachusetts-based company that has installed green roofs on about 20 school and college buildings and is an industry sponsor of the bill, says more needs to be done to address things like carbon sequestration potential, improving biodiversity and how much green roofs can cost for heating and cooling for a particular building. Nevertheless, he says, “Many things have been thoroughly substantiated: improved air quality, lower ambient temperatures to reduce the effects of urban heat islands, and the ability to capture and retain rainwater.”
Ellis says green roofs are also a great way to “maximize the benefit of underutilized spaces – nothing against” [rooftop] solar panels, but if you’re looking for student engagement that’s all [environmental] boxes, there is no better way to go about this.” Added bonus: Certain types of green roof waterproofing membranes can have an average lifespan of around 40 years – in some cases this equates to a marked improvement over the 17 years a typical school roof membrane lasts before needing to be replaced.
For example, you can search for green roof projects in schools here: