We’re fast approaching the four year anniversary of the passing of Local Laws 92 & 94, amendments to the New York City Building Code which mandate the installation of solar panels or green roof areas as part of all new construction and any rooftop renovations. We thought it would be great to revisit these landmark amendments, and talk about what this NYC green roof mandate means for builders, for residents of NYC, and for green roof professionals like ourselves.
The details for Local Laws 92 & 94 can be found here in the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) bulletin published on October 24, 2019.
Essentially, all new construction and rooftop renovations in NYC now require that—with the exception of areas designated for mechanical equipment, fire department access, existing structures such as water towers/greenhouses/etc., and recreational spaces—100% of rooftop space must be designated for solar photovoltaic or green roof systems. Collectively, these spaces are referred to as ‘sustainable roofing zones’.
In our portfolio, we’ve helped builders and building owners comply with these laws by installing green roof tray systems (modular green roofs typically made up of pre-vegetated, interlocking plastic grow trays), monolithic green roofs (contiguous planted areas with custom dimensions to fit a given roof space), or some combination thereof.
From time to time, we’ve even partnered with folks like our good friends at Brooklyn SolarWorks to seamlessly integrate solar photovoltaic systems with functional green roof installations.
Green Roof Benefits
Some of the benefits of green roofs seem so obvious to us, it’s tempting to gloss over them, but we’re not going to do that today! First and foremost, green roofs beautify otherwise bland or downright ugly rooftops. Often blessed with an abundance of sunshine, rooftop gardens need little more than adequate irrigation and some decent soil depth to support a wide range of plant life. We’ve planted everything from ornamental grasses, to towering flowering perennials, to full-on trees.
One of the biggest benefits of a green roof in the city is its ability to capture stormwater which would otherwise hit our combined sewer systems. When too much stormwater gets into our sewers, it combines with sewage runoff on its way to our treatment plants. If too much runoff is headed for the treatment facility, an overflow mechanism kicks into place—to avoid over-burdening the mechanics of the facility—and this mixture ends up, sadly, in our public waterways. By capturing stormwater, green roofs provide an elegant solution to this problem, and allow us to make the most of significant rain events—by fueling the growth of plant life!
Green roofs and rooftop gardens do more than simply retain stormwater. They provide food and habitats for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, respite for local and migrating birds, shade for human and canine rooftop visitors, and more! They also tend to prolong the life of the roof membrane itself.
Building owners tend to see an insulating effect from the green roof, whereby heating costs are slightly lower in winter, and cooling costs slightly lower in the summer. In the aggregate, green roofs are part of a green approach to cooling the city altogether by combating what experts have termed the ‘urban heat island effect’ where urban areas experience higher temperatures than the areas in their immediate vicinity.
The passing of Local Laws 92 & 94, among other ‘green’ initiatives show us that lawmakers are, on some level, cognizant of the environmental challenges facing New Yorkers and supportive of measures which beautify, cool, protect, and enhance our shared spaces. At Highview Creations, we benefit from the mandate as we guide building owners, contractors, architects, and others through their compliance with these laws. If you or anyone you know is looking at an upcoming build or renovation, drop us a line and ask how we can help you comply and beautify your rooftop in the process. When it comes to a LL92/94-compliant green roof designed, built, and maintained by the Highview team, the sky’s the limit…