Green roofs

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Example schematics of extensive green roofs. On the left, a 'built up' system comprising layers: roofing membrane, drainage board, geotextileFilter fabric that is installed to separate dissimilar soils and provide runoff filtration and contaminant removal benefits while maintaining a suitable rate of flow; may be used to prevent fine-textured soil from entering a coarse granular bed, or to prevent coarse granular from being compressed into underlying finer-textured soils., planting medium and sedum mat; and on the right a pre-planted plastic module or tray.

Overview

Modern green roofs are a rapidly developing commercial market in Ontario. Their primary benefit as a LIDA 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. technology is in maximizing evapotranspiration for water balanceThe accounting of inflow and outflow of water in a system according to the components of the hydrologic cycle. targets. Green roofs are sometimes referred to as 'ecoroofs', 'vegetated roofs', 'living roofs'.

Green roofs are ideal for:

  • Sites without significant space at ground level for infiltrationThe slow movement of water into or through a soil or drainage system.Penetration of water through the ground surface.,
  • Zero-lot line projects with outdoor amenity requirements,
  • Projects looking for accreditation with LEED v.4

Extensive green roofs are the most commonly used type of 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. used for stormwater in our region.

Types of green roofs: defined by construction depth
Property Extensive Intensive
Planting medium depth 10 - 15 cm > 15 cm
LoadingThe total mass of a pollutant entering a waterbody over a defined time period.The net amount of something (e.g. chemical, such as phosphorus), calculated as the product of concentration and volume in a given time. Some BMPs significantly reduce loading of pollutants to the environment by reducing volume more so than concentration. up to ~250 kg/m2 Limitless where 'roof' is at ground level
Cost Typically lower Higher, including structural accommodations and plant selection
Maintenance Depends highly on the aesthetic expectations of stakeholders Will be comparable to other landscapes, depending on access requirements.
Stormwater benefit Provides best cost-benefit balance Varies highly
Biodiversity benefit Lower, depends on planting Greater potential, depends on planting
Amenity benefit Usually visual only
i.e. inaccessible
Often accessible

Intensive green roofs are commonly used for amenity space on condo developments or sometimes as urban farms. They are sometimes referred to as roof gardens and encompass diverse uses, design priorities and technical specifications. In the most extreme examples, many urban parkettes including large shade trees may be included in this class, if they have parking garages beneath. As such the discussion on this page is limited to extensive green roofs.8

The fundamental components of an extensive 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. are:

  • a roof able to withstand the load
  • a roof membrane resistant to root penetration
  • a drainage layer
  • a filter layer
  • a layer of planting medium
  • plants

Additional components may include:

  • an irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 system
  • pre-formed tray modules

Planning Considerations

Sloped extensive 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. at Toronto Botanical Gardens, designed with four species of Sedum (Image: Terry McGlade)
Same extensive 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. illustrating the increased biodiversity resulting from very light maintenance over 10 years

Green roofs offer a variety of co-benefits beyond stormwater management. In urban centers they are often constructed to accommodate a roof terrace or amenity space. In this scenario the direct stormwater capture benefit is restricted to the areas with vegetation planted. Another increasingly popular use for rooftop space is for urban farming. Again, the direct stormwater capture benefit is restricted to the areas with planters. To maximize the utility of a 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. as a low impact developmentA 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. tool, coverage with planting should be maximized. In many cases this means only inaccessible spaces are used.

Amenity

Roof gardens with a high proportion of impermeable surface are popular in high rise developments. These amenity terraces are often described as green roofs, but the LIDA 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. benefit applies only to the vegetated areas. The stormwater benefit of all kinds of green roofs is maximized by combined with rainwater harvesting for subsequent irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47. Sedum and native species have all been shown to thrive with daily irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 to saturation[1].

Rooftop farming is also becoming common in some Ontario cities. Again consideration should be given to the proportion of the roof actually planted. Where large open expanses of roof are being cropped, measures may be required to reduce erosion of exposed planting medium. Any digging or furrows will reduce the stormwater benefit.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity opportunities are optimized by planting a variety of species. General advice on this has been prepared by the City of Toronto[2]. In the long term, the richness of species increases owing to 'volunteer species'. The desirability of this diversity varies with the aesthetic concerns of the 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. owner.

Design for Maintenance

Detailed inspection and maintenance advice can be found in Sustainable Technologies' LIDA 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. I&M guide [3]. The primary operational concern for operating a 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. is the development of a leak. Green roofs protect the roof membrane from UV damage and should increase the lifespan of the roof. However, in the event that a leak is discovered a section of 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. would have to be removed for access. Some proprietary systems appear to be easier to remove and replace. This may come at a cost, as the rainwater retention of the system is somewhat reliant on continuous coverage of the 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. surface.

Green roofs should receive as little maintenance as possible. Regular inspection is only required to see that the drains are free from obstruction and that the vegetation coverage is adequate to prevent wind erosionIncludes the protection of soil from dislocation by water, wind or other agents.. During detailed design, all areas adjacent to the 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. itself should be kept free from granularGravel, or crushed stone of various size gradations (i.e., diameter), used in construction; void forming material used as bedding and runoff storage reservoirs and underdrains in stormwater infiltration practices. material. SedimentSoil, sand and minerals washed from land into water, usually after rain. They pile up in reservoirs, rivers and harbors, destroying fish-nesting areas and holes of water animals and cloud the water so that needed sunlight might not reach aquatic plans. Careless farming, mining and building activities will expose sediment materials, allowing them to be washed off the land after rainfalls. accumulates in gravel edging, which then permits the vegetation to take root and spread.

Design

The vegetation on this extensive 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. is designed to withstand the deep shade of being in downtown Toronto.

Roof

Flat roofs should be graded without depressions, with positive drainage ≥ 2% (1:50) towards roof drains. For roofs with pitch greater than 10 % (1:10) additional geo grid or cellular components should be included in the design. These structures reduce the flow rate of the draining water, and help to stabilize 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. components. Green roofs can be installed on slopes greater than 20 % (1:5), but specialized design advice should be sought for the addition of components required to secure the 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. in place. Extensive green roofs do not require additional insulation layers. The underlying roof may be of warm, cold or inverted design. Extensive green roofs add load of around 70 - 300 kg/m2. A structural engineer should be consulted during design to account for the distributed loads including snow accumulation and live loads including maintenance staff. Roof membranes should be waterproof, root resistant, resilient to temperature change, and comply with appropriate CGSB standards as specified in the Ontario Building Code. In most cases a new roof with a modern membrane will not require a separate root penetration barrier. In retrofit scenarios an additional root barrier may be recommended to protect an older roof membrane.

Drainage Layer

The underlying drainage layer is most often a preformed plastic sheet, formed to include depressions for water storage and perforations to drain excess water. This design has the advantage of being most lightweight, but has minimal impact on flow rates once the water has percolated onto the roof membrane below. An alternative drainage layer solution is to use a granularGravel, or crushed stone of various size gradations (i.e., diameter), used in construction; void forming material used as bedding and runoff storage reservoirs and underdrains in stormwater infiltration practices. medium to increase the tortuosity of the flow path and slow peak flow rates.

Filter Layer

The geotextile layer is included to prevent migration of the planting medium into the drainage layer. Current advice is to specify a free draining textile to prevent potential water-logging of the planting medium. Observations 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. assemblies have shown a reduction of flow from specifications owing to interactions of medium particles with the textile.

Planting Medium

The green roof media used in Ontario can be classed according to proportion of composted biological material. Some existing installations use materials which comply with FLL guidelines, whilst others use a much higher proportion of compost[4].

ASTM International have a number of standards relating to various design considerations for green roofs. These standards provide good technical advice on the testing of systems and components. Of particular note are:

  • Standard Test Method for Maximum Media Density for Dead Load Analysis of Vegetative (Green) Roof SystemsE2399, and
  • Test Method for Saturated Water Permeability of GranularGravel, or crushed stone of various size gradations (i.e., diameter), used in construction; void forming material used as bedding and runoff storage reservoirs and underdrains in stormwater infiltration practices. Drainage Media E2396.

When these tests are completed, the results should be interpreted in relation to the objectives of the 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.. A product complying with overseas guidelines may not serve the needs of a 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. installed in Ontario. In particular, the FLL guide recommends 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. media specifications which may not provide optimal stormwater management or vegetation in our region. In many proprietary systems the default option for planting medium will be a granularGravel, or crushed stone of various size gradations (i.e., diameter), used in construction; void forming material used as bedding and runoff storage reservoirs and underdrains in stormwater infiltration practices. material with very low organic matter content. However, many companies can arrange for a high organic matter alternative to be substituted if requested.

Considerations for using a 'high organic', compost based planting medium
Benefits Disadvantages
  • Increased water holding capacity, which benefits both vegetation health and stormwater retention
  • Lighter weight, even when saturated
  • Increased phosphorus concentration in runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. water, however this may be mitigated by the reduced runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. volume resulting in a lower loadingThe total mass of a pollutant entering a waterbody over a defined time period.The net amount of something (e.g. chemical, such as phosphorus), calculated as the product of concentration and volume in a given time. Some BMPs significantly reduce loading of pollutants to the environment by reducing volume more so than concentration. overall
  • The lightweight material is more prone to wind erosionIncludes the protection of soil from dislocation by water, wind or other agents., and this should be accounted for in the initial design, alternatives include erosion controlIncludes the protection of soil from dislocation by water, wind or other agents. blankets, soil tackifiers, or Sedum mats.
Increasing the depth of planting medium from 10 cm to 15 cm has been shown to benefit the vegetation [5]; stormwater retention was not improved with this increase in depth [6]

IrrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47

Regular irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 has been shown to substantially reduce the stormwater capture benefit of an extensive 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.[7]. One way to reduce the irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 used on green roofs is through the use of smart technologies. Responsive sensors that suppress irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 after a rainstorm are routinely attached to green roofs to conserve water. Improvements can be made by instead using a 'soil' moisture sensor to trigger irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47. State-of-the-art management systems now use predicted weather data to suppress irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 ahead of storm events, see digital technologies. Due to their limited water retention capacity, many green roofs are 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. cisternTank used to store rainwater (typically roof runoff) for later use., to capture the excess water. It then becomes desirable to use as much harvested water to regain the cisternTank used to store rainwater (typically roof runoff) for later use. capacity, Green roofs can be irrigated to saturation daily throughout the growing season without damaging the vegetation.

IrrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 technology Benefits Disadvantages
Spray Maximizes evaporationAbiotic transfer of water vapour to the atmosphere. Requires higher water quality
Drip or capillary Harvested rainwater is readily used without further treatment
Uses less water
Planting medium does not 'wick' water sideways readily, so can lead to localized dry areas

Maximizing evaporationAbiotic transfer of water vapour to the atmosphere. with spray irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 is the faster way to empty a stormwater cisternTank used to store rainwater (typically roof runoff) for later use., and provides some cooling benefit for the building and it's surroundings.

Planting

The choice of vegetation on an extensive 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. is insignificant in stormwater management compared to the choice of planting medium or the provision of irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47. The vegetation should be selected to be resilient to both very wet and very dry periods.Sedum species are the most common choice, demonstrating excellent longevity in systems with or without irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47. Some projects expect the low growing Sedum to remain in graphic designs according to species and flower color. This is not a realistic expectation without significant maintenance costs. Instead project stakeholders should be prepared early in the design process to embrace the 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. as a living and evolving ecosystemA biological community, including humans and their natural environment.. Designs which incorporate both Sedum and native species can help with this.

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. plants

Sortable table, click on header you wish to select your green roof plants by
Scientific name Common name Soil Moisture

1=Dry 2=Med 3=Wet

Partial shade tolerance Colour
Achillea millefolium Yarrow 1-2 O
Allium schonaprasum Chives 2-3 1
Aquilegia canadensis Wild columbine 1-3 Y 1
Calendula sp. Marigold 2 2
Carex sp. Sedge 3 Y O
Centaurea sp. Bluet 1-2 3
Coreopsis grandiflora 'Early sunrise' Large-flowered tickseed 1-2 2
Coreopsis lanceolata Lanceleaf coreopsis 1-2 2
Coreopsis tripteris Tickseed 1-2 2
Cosmos sp. Cosmos 1-3 1
Equisetum hymale Rough horsetail 2-3 Y O
Erysimum sp. Wallflower 1-2 1
Geranium maculatum Wild geranium 2 Y 1
Geranium psilostemon 'Rozanne' Cranesbill Geranium 2-3 Y 3
Leucanthemum superbum Shasta daisy 1-2 2
Liatris spicata Blazing star 2 3
Lobelia siphilitica Blue cardinal flower 2-3 Y 3
Lolium multiflorum Ryegrass 1-3 Y O
Lupinus polyphyllus Large leaf lupin 1-3 Y 3
Monarda fistulosa Bee balm 1-3 1
Monarda punctata Horsemint 2 3
Panicum virgatum Switchgrass 1-3 O
Papaver rhoeas Corn poppy 1-3 1
Penstemon digitalis White Beardtongue 1-2 O
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium Narrowleaf mountain mint 1-2 Y O
Rudbeckia hirta blackeyed Susan 1-3 Y 2
Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne' Cutleaf coneflower 2 Y 2
Rudbeckia laciniata 'Goldquelle' Golden glow coneflower 2 Y 2
Saponaria officinalis Soapwort 2-3 Y O
Schizachyrium scoparium Little Bluestem 2 O
Sedum sp. Stonecrop 1-3 O
Sempervivum sp. Houseleek 1-2 O
Silene sp. Campion 1-2 Y O
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae New England Aster 2 3
Trifolium repens White clover 3 O

Drains and vegetation free zones

Vegetation free areas are often required around the perimeter of the roof to reduce wind uplift, on larger areas requiring firebreaks, for access paths and around drains. To prevent accumulation of sedimentSoil, sand and minerals washed from land into water, usually after rain. They pile up in reservoirs, rivers and harbors, destroying fish-nesting areas and holes of water animals and cloud the water so that needed sunlight might not reach aquatic plans. Careless farming, mining and building activities will expose sediment materials, allowing them to be washed off the land after rainfalls. and migration of the vegetation, the vegetation free areas should not be filled with decorative aggregateA broad category of particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates, and available in various particulate size gradations. or river rock. Instead concrete pavers or other surfaces that do not actively trap particles will reduce weeding maintenance.

Green roofs Gallery

Performance

Starting after TRIECA (end March) members of STEP will be undertaking a literature review on the performance of our most popular BMPsThe land draining to a single reference point (usually a structural BMP); similar to a subwatershed, but on a smaller scale.. The results will be combined with the information we have to date from the development of the Treatment Train Tool and agreed performance metrics established. Until then, please feel free to continue to ask questions via email or the feedback box below.

Recently laid Sedum mats on a ground level podium roof.
Detail showing the early root development through the mat to the granularGravel, or crushed stone of various size gradations (i.e., diameter), used in construction; void forming material used as bedding and runoff storage reservoirs and underdrains in stormwater infiltration practices. planting medium.

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. performance has not been reported to reduce over time. Controlled studies have instead indicated that maturing green roofs may have improved water retention properties [8].

The key hydrologic benefit which green roofs have over other forms of LIDA 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 the proportion of the water returned to the atmosphere through evapotranspirationThe quantity of water transpired (given off). Retained in plant tissues, and evaporated from plant tissues and surrounding soil surfaces. Quantitatively it is usually expressed in terms of depth of water per unit area during a specified period. e.g. mm/dayThe combined loss of water to the atmosphere from land and water surfaces by evaporation and from plants by transpiration..

  • In Southern Ontario rainwater retention of extensive green roofs without irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 is between 60% and 70%[9][10][7].
  • Including winter periods with snow accumulation and thaw, the annual retention of extensive green roofs is around 50% [10][7].
  • Using a compostDecayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer. Compost helps to support healthy plant growth through the slow release of nutrients and the retention of moisture in the soil. based planting medium improves retention by around 10% i.e. 60 % for compostDecayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer. Compost helps to support healthy plant growth through the slow release of nutrients and the retention of moisture in the soil. compared to 50% for granularGravel, or crushed stone of various size gradations (i.e., diameter), used in construction; void forming material used as bedding and runoff storage reservoirs and underdrains in stormwater infiltration practices..
  • Daily irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 can reduce the annual retention by 20% compared to a roof without irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47. i.e. 40% for irrigated compared to 60% without irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47[7]. However, recirculating rainwater from a cisternTank used to store rainwater (typically roof runoff) for later use. was estimated to double the annual retention in Florida[11]. The research team modeled 87% retention for a 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. coupled with a cisternTank used to store rainwater (typically roof runoff) for later use., compared to 43% for the 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. alone.

An appropriate NRCS curve numbers for green roofs without irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 in Southern Ontario is 90 [12][7].

Water quality

Many green roofs receive only rainwater, which is relatively clean when it lands. As such green roofs can contribute contamination, most notably in nutrient leaching during early establishment. Reported values of total phosphorus in 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. runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. vary from less than 0.1 ppm to over 10 ppm. But, in dense urban centres, green roofs are increasingly being used to receive irrigationHuman application of water to agricultural or recreational land for watering purposes. City of Toronto Wet Weather Flow Management November 2006 47 from harvested rainwater. Current Ontario Building Code permits the use of rooftop runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. to be reused in this manner, so long as it is 'free of solids'. A 'closed loop' system can be created by coupling 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 to a 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.. by catching and reusing runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface., the only water leaving the system is through evapotranspirationThe quantity of water transpired (given off). Retained in plant tissues, and evaporated from plant tissues and surrounding soil surfaces. Quantitatively it is usually expressed in terms of depth of water per unit area during a specified period. e.g. mm/dayThe combined loss of water to the atmosphere from land and water surfaces by evaporation and from plants by transpiration.. This prevents any runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. from leaving the site and so prevents any nutrient loadingThe total mass of a pollutant entering a waterbody over a defined time period.The net amount of something (e.g. chemical, such as phosphorus), calculated as the product of concentration and volume in a given time. Some BMPs significantly reduce loading of pollutants to the environment by reducing volume more so than concentration. to the environmentRefers to the conditions in which an organism lives and survives or the conditions in which an organism resides. These conditions can be described as aspects of a “physical”, “social” or an “economic” environment, depending on the perspective perceived by the observer..

Total phosphorous concentrations reported in 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. runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface.(abstracted from Hill 2017)

Incentives and credits

In Ontario

City of Toronto updated their 'Eco roof' incentive program in 2017 . It now includes grants for structural assessment and is available to non-profit organisations [1].

LEED BD + C v.4

LEED offer a relatively large number of points for green roofs compared to other LIDA 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. technologies.
Sustainable Sites: Open space (1 point)
This credit applies to accessible green roofs on tall buildings with little other outdoor space.
Sustainable Sites: site development - protect or restore habitat (up to 2 points)
This credit applies to green roofs planted with 'native and adapted vegetation' on tall buildings with little other outdoor space
Sustainable Sites: Heat island reduction (up to 2 points)
Green roofs are weighted as effectively as 'High-Reflectance' roofs in a simple calculation to determine the credit.

Sustainable sites: Rainwater management (up to 3 points)

  • Two points (or 1 point for Healthcare) will be awarded if the project manages "the runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. from the developed site for the 95th percentile of regional or local rainfall events."
  • Three points (or 2 points for Healthcare) will be awarded if the project manages "the runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. from the developed site for the 98th percentile of regional or local rainfall events."
    OR
  • For zero-lot-line projects only, 3 points (or 2 points for Healthcare) will be awarded if the project manages "the runoffThat potion of the water precipitated onto a catchment area, which flows as surface discharge from the catchment area past a specified point.Water from rain, snow melt, or irrigation that flows over the land surface. from the developed site for the 85th percentile of regional or local rainfall events."

External links

Proprietary systems

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.


  1. http://grit.daniels.utoronto.ca/green_roof_image_index/#
  2. https://www1.toronto.ca/City%20Of%20Toronto/City%20Planning/Zoning%20&%20Environment/Files/pdf/B/biodiversegreenroofs_2013.pdf
  3. http://www.sustainabletechnologies.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/LID-IM-Guide-7.6-Green-Roofs.pdf
  4. Hill, J., Drake, J., and Sleep, B. (2016). “Comparisons of extensive green roof media in Southern Ontario.” Ecological Engineering, Elsevier B.V., 94, 418–426.
  5. MacIvor JS, Margolis L, Puncher CL, Carver Matthews BJ. Decoupling factors affecting plant diversity and cover on extensive green roofs. J Environ Manage. 2013;130:297-305. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2013.09.014.
  6. Hill, J., Drake, A. P. J., Sleep, B., and Margolis, L. (2017). “Influences of Four Extensive Green Roof Design Variables on Stormwater Hydrology.” Journal of Hydrologic Engineering.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Hill J, Drake J, Sleep B, Margolis L. Influences of Four Extensive Green Roof Design Variables on Stormwater Hydrology. J Hydrol Eng. 2017;22(8):04017019. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)HE.1943-5584.0001534
  8. Simon De-Ville, Manoj Menon, Xiaodong Jia, George Reed, Virginia Stovin, The impact of green roof ageing on substrate characteristics and hydrological performance, In Journal of Hydrology, Volume 547, 2017, Pages 332-344, ISSN 0022-1694, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.02.006.
  9. http://www.sustainabletechnologies.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/NRC_EastviewGRrept.pdf
  10. 10.0 10.1 T. Van Seters, L. Rocha, D. Smith, G. MacMillan; Evaluation of Green Roofs for Runoff Retention, Runoff Quality, and Leachability, Vol. 44 (1): 33 - 47 (2009). Innovative Approaches to Stormwater Management in Canada
  11. Hardin, M.; Wanielista, M.; Chopra, M. A Mass Balance Model for Designing Green Roof Systems that Incorporate a Cistern for Re-Use. Water 2012, 4, 914-931. http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4441/4/4/914
  12. Curve Number and Runoff Coefficients for Extensive Living Roofs Elizabeth Fassman-Beck, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE; William Hunt, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE; Robert Berghage, Ph.D.; Donald Carpenter, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE; Timothy Kurtz, P.E., M.ASCE; Virginia Stovin, Ph.D.; and Bridget Wadzuk, Ph.D., A.M.ASCE