All posts tagged 'Green or Blue Roofs'

Legislative Initiatives to Reduce Stormwater Runoff, Part 3

March 17, 2011 15:37
It appears that the sponsors of the legislation recognized that behavioral change is more likely to occur successfully when positive reinforcement is provided rather than simply mandating compliance with change.  To that end the proposed legislation seeks to create positive financial incentives to spur private development projects that would reduce stormwater runoff through the use of Green or Blue roofs.A3682:  Would provide low interest loans to private parties to build green or blue roofsMany jurisdictions provide financial incentives for “Green” or sustainable design and construction.  This bill would amend the law known as the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” to allow funds from the “Global Warming Solutions Fund” to be used to extend low interest loans to private parties, including homeowners and owners of commercial, industrial, and institutional entities.Material terms of the loans would require: a) that they be made for no more than 85% of the cost of the Green or Blue roof; b) that the term not exceed 20 years; c) that the interest rate be low, and not to exceed 4%; and d) that loans be secured by a promissory note that requires the loan to be repaid if the property is sold or transferred or that requires the purchaser to assume the loan.In addition to specifying which agencies would be responsible for the financial aspects, broad powers are being given to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Community Affairs to oversee and review construction to ensure compliance with the standards that are established.This incentive is no doubt socially desirable.  However, given the fiscal crisis that is faced by New Jersey, and many other states, it is questionable whether financial resources will be available to fund this program at any meaningful level.  There have already been efforts to erode the Global Warming Solutions Fund and such efforts are likely to continue until the economic climate changes significantly.   A3678:  Requires preferential ranking for projects that seek funding from an environmental infrastructure programThe least sexy of the companion bills, this would require the Department of Environmental Protection to provide a preferential ranking to projects that seek funding from an Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program to those projects that include Green or Blue roofs.  Hardly anything controversial in this bill.  For other states it provides an example of positive incentives that can be offered to developers of construction projects.As set forth in this series of posts collectively these bills seek to address a serious problem that many are facing with respect to stormwater management.  These efforts have been noticed by environmental groups.  Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club observed: “It actually helps deal with something called combined sewer overflow which is very much a problem in urban older communities where a lot of rainwater comes off of roofs, gets into the sewer systems, and then the sewer systems cannot handle the higher flow.  So what happens is when you get heavy rainstorms, you get partially treated sewage and sometimes raw sewage going out into our rivers”.Results of a study completed in 2009 by the Penn State Green Roof Center of Pennsylvania State University at University Park, PA indicated that, “green roofs are capable of removing 50% of the annual rainfall volume from a roof through retention and evapotranspiration”.  Accordingly, the effectiveness of Green roofs in combating excessive stormwater runoff cannot be denied.  [Green Roofs for Stormwater Runoff Control, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Publication EPA/600/R-09/026, February, 2009]The extent to which these new measures, if the legislation passes, will assist in stormwater management and controlling water quality remains to be seen.  Two things are certain: 1) the stormwater problem and associated flooding is increasing; and 2)  New Jersey and other states are likely to require a change in design and construction in order to confront the problem.  Think about that the next time that flooding harms your neighbors or inconveniences you.  I know that I will.

Climate Change | Green Buildings | Weather

Legislative Initiatives to Reduce Stormwater Runoff, Part 2

March 16, 2011 13:48
Yesterday we discussed the proposed legislative response in New Jersey to the problems of flooding and stormwater management.  Some have speculated that increasing frequency and severity of flooding and stormwater is a by-product of climate change, and certainly these events are consistent with climate change.  Other studies have pointed to the decreasing amount of pervious cover in urban areas as increasing stormwater runoff.  Regardless of the causes, the problem is quite real.  Although the legislation is pending in New Jersey the problems are not unique to this State nor to the United States.  This post will examine another of the five companion bills.  This proposed law would have the greatest impact upon the design and development of private projects.  A3680: Requires any projects subject to municipal land use approvals to incorporate green or blue roofs. In New Jersey this bill would have the most wide-reaching implications for private development.  The bill would require that all new construction projects for which approvals are required under New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law, which would include most new construction projects in the State, particularly in developed urban areas, incorporate Green or Blue roofs, unless the applicant can demonstrate that it would not be feasible to build with such a roof. The bill further requires the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) to develop, within one year, rules and regulations concerning incorporation of Green or Blue roofs to limit the release of stormwater runoff.  One interesting, but un-answered question, revolves around the statutory mandate that requires such roofs unless an applicant demonstrates to the DEP that such roofs are not feasible for a particular project.  This may be the result of the legislative sponsors failing to recognize that most municipal land use applications are approved at the local level, and not by DEP even though some projects require DEP approvals in order to receive municipal approvals.  Perhaps the statute should be revised to require an applicant to demonstrate to the body that is reviewing a land use application why it would not be feasible to build such a roof in accordance with the criteria established by DEP.The bill provides an incentive for those projects that require some form of DEP approval because it requires the DEP give priority consideration to any permit or authorization that it must issue for a project that incorporates Green or Blue roofs.  This bill seeks to achieve compliance with the desired goal by using both the “carrot” and the “stick”.  The motivation for this series of companion bills is certainly meritorious.  One of the sponsors of the bills, assemblyman John McKeon, set forth the rationale: “We know that there’s a problem with water discharge and an overburdened sewer system.  So green roofs and blue roofs are a way to systemically discharge water so that it goes out in a regimented manner and doesn’t end in the overflow that ends in all the problems that we have with pollution”.Tomorrow, more about positive financial incentives for Green or Blue roofs.

Climate Change | Flood Insurance | Legislation

Legislative Initiatives to Reduce Stormwater Runoff, Part 1

March 15, 2011 05:53
Yesterday I had a negative experience that caused me to think about some of the practical consequences of climate change.  Instead of taking my usual route home, I and many others were forced to use an alternate route because a major state highway was closed due to flooding from an adjacent river.  This condition will exist for several days, and its occurrence has been increasing in frequency and severity within the last ten years.  Worse than that inconvenience to me and other drivers is the flooding of homes and business that occurs with greater regularity in my area of New Jersey including the communities of Wayne, Little Falls, and Fairfield.Is anyone thinking about potential legislative solutions to our storm water problems?  The answer in New Jersey is, “yes Virginia”.  Three primary sponsors in the New Jersey Assembly have introduced five companion bills that are aimed at improving our storm water management and greening our built environment.  We will examine each of these bills in turn over the next few days.  They could provide guidance to other States considering how to respond to this increasing problem.   All of the proposed bills provide various incentives for Green roofs or Blue roofs.  A “Green roof” is one that includes, among other things, a growth medium and a vegetation layer of drought resistant and hardy plant species, designed to improve stormwater management.  A “Blue roof” is constructed with mechanical controls, such as gravel beds, perforated pipes, or rooftop detention systems, that drain stormwater to improve stormwater management. A3679:  Requires incorporation of Green or Blue roofs on new State buildingsBill A3679 would require any new building, facility or structure having at least 15,000 square feet in total floor area that is constructed for the sole use of a State governmental entity to include a functioning Green roof or Blue roof.The bill directs the Division of Property Management and Construction to consult with the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that designs for such roofs comply with this Act.  As currently drafted the law would be effective one year after passage, allowing appropriate lead time for all concerned parties to comply with this fundamental design shift.A3681: Requires Green or Blue roofs on new buildings using State, EDA, or Schools Development Authority FundsThis bill is nearly identical to A3679 in terms of substantive requirements.  However, it expands the scope of the legislation to include any new construction projects that are funded by the State, or that are funded by the NJ Economic Development Authority, or any schools that are built through the Schools Development Authority.  The number of such structures that are built each year is almost always greater than the number of structures that are built for the exclusive use of State government.  As the bill states, in most instances projects that use Green or Blue roofs will also achieve operational cost savings from increased energy efficiency.  The question that some might raise in this context, or with respect to other green building mandates, is whether the costs of construction to comply with the heightened standards will increase, thereby decreasing the number of projects can be built.  That is a topic of much debate that is beyond the scope of this series.  Tomorrow, more about the wide reach of this body of legislation.

Climate Change | Flood Insurance | Legislation

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