A Vision Of Green Roofs In Durham, NC
North Carolina has a stormwater problem. It is a great place to live and because of that a lot of people have moved here creating a lot of development.
That development happened with very little regard for water quality. Many of the rivers are polluted due to pollution carried in stormwater that runs off the developed lands.
The state has adopted rules to attempt to clean up its act and sitting at the epicenter of those rules is Durham. The city’s core sits right on top of the watershed boundary between Jordan Lake and Falls Lake reservoirs. Main st. is essentially the dividing line. Both reservoirs have stringent clean up requirements due to the poor land use practices around them, so Durham has its work cut out for it.
Our office in North Carolina also happens to be located in Durham on the fifth floor of a downtown building. My window looks out over the roof tops of many of the sturdy old tobacco warehouses and buildings that make up the core of downtown Durham.
During rain storms, I watch the rain fall onto the roofs and then surge into the streets and down the stormwater drains that I know flow directly into the creeks that feed Falls and Jordan Reservoirs.
There are more than 5 million square feet of roof top just in the urban core of Durham creating about 140 million gallons of polluted runoff each year. It’s no wonder those creeks are polluted [PDF].
Watching all of this inspired a thought - what if all of those roofs were green roofs? Would that give the creeks a chance? What other benefits would it have for Durham? The multiple benefits of green infrastructure and green roofs are known but they just beginning to be realized across the country.
Beyond storm water pollution reductions, a concentration of green roofs in the urban core of Durham would have many benefits for building owners, the environment, and the community including reduced roofing maintenance, improved building energy efficiency, reduced urban heat island effect, improved habitat for wildlife, improved air quality and the potential creation of a ‘green economy’ work force.
American Rivers has partnered with Downtown Durham, Inc. to make this thought a reality. In the fall of 2011, we put on a forum for more than fifty city and business leaders that explored the potential that green roofs could provide to Durham.
There were presentations from green roof experts that focused on the general benefits of green roofs, the technical and engineer aspects of a green roof, and from the municipal perspective of why green roof incentive programs make sense for cities.
The forum created momentum within the city and business leaders to move in the direction of establishing a green roof program in Durham. The city has realized that it must do everything it can to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and business leaders are excited to partner with the city to create a more sustainable city.
Durham has an opportunity and a need to be the leader in green infrastructure in North Carolina.