Blue roofs

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Conceptual diagram of flow control drain cover type blue roof/ rooftop detentionThe temporary storage of stormwater to control discharge rates, and allow for sedimentation.

Blue roofs can be a very economical and low maintenance way to manage undesirable rainwater on a flat roof. For rooftop retention on moderately sloped roofs, a green roof is going to be a better choice. On steeply sloped roofs, rainwater harvesting, or diverting roof leaders to a landscape integrated LIDLow Impact Development. A stormwater management strategy that seeks to mitigate the impacts of increased urban runoff and stormwater pollution by managing it as close to its source as possible. It comprises a set of site design approaches and small scale stormwater management practices that promote the use of natural systems for infiltration and evapotranspiration, and rainwater harvesting. is a more appropriate alternative.

Overview

Blue roofs, or rooftop detentionThe temporary storage of stormwater to control discharge rates, and allow for sedimentation., is a popular stormwater management option for flat roof buildings, particularly within the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector. The appeal is the relatively low cost and simplicity of modelling and forecasting performance.

Blue roofs are ideal for:

  • Sites without significant space at ground level for infiltration practices
  • Zero-lot line projects with outdoor amenity requirements

The fundamental components of a blue roof are:

  • A flat roof
  • Flow control device(s)

Planning

Things to consider when planning a rooftop detentionThe temporary storage of stormwater to control discharge rates, and allow for sedimentation. system[1]
Advantages Limitations
  • Do not require ground level space, so particularly well suited where ground space is limited or sites with large flat roofs
  • May not require additional sewer connections
  • Easy to retrofit if structural support and waterproofing are adequate
  • Relatively low cost compared to green roofs (no vegetation requirements)
  • Potential for evaporative cooling and reduction of urban heat island effect
  • Must be regularly inspected and maintained
  • Limited application on sloped roofs or sites with small building footprints
  • Do not provide any co-benefits such as habitat creation or air quality improvements associated with vegetated practices
  • Mechanical systems and other rooftop architectural features must not be adversely impacted by ponded water

Design

Water can be slowed in running from a flat roof (up to 2%) through the use of:

  • drain covers (most common),
  • small check damsStructures constructed of a non-erosive material, such as suitably sized aggregate, wood, gabions, riprap, or concrete; used to slow runoff water. Can be employed in practices such as bioswales and enhanced grass swales. or weirs across the roof deck, or
  • modular tray systems.[2]

All roofs in Canada must be designed to support peak snow loads, providing capacity for supporting an equivalent weight of ponded water. The Ontario building code permits designers to assume that snow and water loads are not cumulative, up to a maximum depth of 150 mm (water equivalent), if precautions are taken to prevent flooding by providing a sufficient number of roof drains with overflows. It is therefore uncommon for roof water detentionThe temporary storage of stormwater to control discharge rates, and allow for sedimentation. systems to be designed to permit more than 150 mm of water to accumulate. This also means that these systems can be retrofitted onto existing roof structures that have been designed to support conventional snow loads.[3]

The Ministry of Transportation does not currently permit blue roofs to form part of a SWMStormwater Management plan owing to concerns over long-term maintenance; this affects relatively few projects[4]. The concerns arise from instances where building operators have found outlet control structures blocked with leaves or other debris. Without understanding the purpose of blue roof systems and flow control drains, these devices have been removed to prevent recurrence of the blockage. A study in New York City found that a modular system of trays outperformed an outlet flow control device in stormwater management[5]. It might reasonably be expected that a modular system would present fewer opportunities for complete failure from a single action, either through clogging or breakage of a storage element.

Smart Design

Blue roofs can also be fitted with smart controls and electrically operated valves to regulate water discharging from the roof. The electrically operated valves can be tied to predictive weather algorithms to forecast incoming rain or snow events as well as extreme heat days. Based on the weather forecast, valves may be opened and closed to accommodate additional rain or snow loads. When coupled with a rainwater harvestingThe practice of intercepting, conveying and storing rainwater for future use. Captured rainwater is typically used for outdoor non-potable water uses such as irrigation, or in the building to flush toilets. system, blue roofs increase rainwater storage capacity to meet non-potable water demand (i.e. toilet flushing or irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47) without the need to oversize tanks. Rainwater harvestingThe practice of intercepting, conveying and storing rainwater for future use. Captured rainwater is typically used for outdoor non-potable water uses such as irrigation, or in the building to flush toilets. tanks with smart controls are able to coordinate with blue roofs to draw water from the roof when the tank water level is low to meet demand and offset municipal potable water use. [6]

Blue roofs in the treatment trainStormwater management following the hierarchical approach: Source Control measures, Conveyance Control measure and End of Pipe treatment to achieve the water quality and water balance target for lot level development of the preferred strategy.A combination of lot level, conveyance, and end-of-pipe stormwater management practices.

Blue roofs can be used in combination with green roofs by employing a scaffold system to keep the vegetation rooting layer out of the ponded water. Blue roofs could also be employed in combination with a rainwater harvesting system which has daily usage demands. Coupling blue roofs with rainwater harvestingThe practice of intercepting, conveying and storing rainwater for future use. Captured rainwater is typically used for outdoor non-potable water uses such as irrigation, or in the building to flush toilets. systems could offset cisternTank used to store rainwater (typically roof runoff) for later use. capacity requirements and supplement tank capacity deficiencies.

For Review

https://www.state.nj.us/dep/stormwater/bmp_manual/NJ_SWBMP_9.8.pdf

Providers

In our effort to make this guide as functional as possible, we have decided to include proprietary systems and links to manufacturers websites.
Inclusion of such links does not constitute endorsement by the Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program.
Lists are ordered alphabetically; link updates are welcomed using the form below.

Flow control devices

Other

These products are designed to suspend green roofA thin layer of vegetation and growing medium installed on top of a conventional flat or sloped roof, also referred to as living roofs or rooftop gardens. (or other) systems above a layer of free water for the detentionThe temporary storage of stormwater to control discharge rates, and allow for sedimentation. period.


  1. https://www.pwdplanreview.org/manual/chapter-4/4.6-blue-roofs
  2. Massachusetts Clean Water Toolkit, Rooftop Detention (Blue Roofs), Retrieved 9 October 2018 from http://prj.geosyntec.com/npsmanual/rooftopdetentionblueroofs.aspx
  3. Richard Hammond (2017). Evaluating Green and Blue Roof Opportunities in Canadian Cities. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11463
  4. Ontario Ministry of Transportation. (2016). Stormwater Management Requirements for Land Development Proposals. Retrieved March 7, 2018, from http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/publications/drainage/stormwater/section8.shtml#controls
  5. Bloomberg, M., & Strickland, C. H. (2012). NYC Green Infrastructure Plan: 2012 Green Infrastructure Pilot Monitoring Report. New York. Retrieved from http://www.nyc.gov/html/dep/pdf/green_infrastructure/2012_green_infrastructure_pilot_monitoring_report.pdf
  6. Credit Valley Conservation. 2018. Smart Blue Roof Project Literature Review Report. Credit Valley Conservation, Mississauga, Ontario.