ConstructionPro Week, Volume: 1 - Issue: 27 - 11/05/2012

Market for Green Roofs, Walls Expected to Soar over the Next Five Years

By Steve Rizer


At least one research firm is expecting a huge boom in the worldwide market for green roofs and walls over the next five years. Last month, Lux Research predicted that the market will reach approximately $7.7 billion in 2017 with green walls accounting for the lion’s share of that amount. And what does Lux foresee propelling the increase? 


Mandates and incentives by cities across the globe will drive green roofs to roughly $7.0 billion in 2017 and green walls to about $680 million by that time, according to Lux. “With rising environmental awareness, growth of the green roof market is driven by cities in the developed world such as London, New York, Singapore, and Tokyo. Growth in the developing world will depend on the global economic environment.” Many policymakers see green roofs and green walls as a viable way to help mitigate problems involving air pollution, urban “heat islands,” and the loss of green spaces in cities.


Lux believes green roof installations will jump approximately 70 percent to 204 million square meters, “but costs and lack of validation will limit their rise.” Green roofs are expected to present a $2-billion opportunity to suppliers of polymeric materials such as geosynthetic fabrics and waterproof membranes. In addition, Lux sees green walls facilitating the use of $200 million worth of materials such as self-supporting polyurethane foam growth media.


“The environmental benefits of building-integrated vegetation [BIV] remain hard to monetize, and many wonder if it’s just a green curiosity,” said Aditya Ranade, Lux Research senior analyst and lead author of a report entitled “Building-Integrated Vegetation: Redefining the Landscape or Chasing a Mirage?” “But with key cities around the world putting incentives in place, a significant market opportunity is emerging.”


Lux Research analysts examined the drivers and barriers for growth in this emerging market. Lux reported that installed cost -- $300-500 per square meter for green roofs and $900-1,100 per square meter for green walls -- is far higher than alternatives. The firm also determined that building material suppliers will create special grades of waterproof membranes and geosynthetic fabrics suited for BIV, improving on existing offerings as the market enters the mainstream and performance standards become more established.



As an architect that has designed several green roofs, there are limited situations where they are actually justified as an application versus an application where they are a novelty or environmental statement. There are many approaches to dealing with storm water run off, heat island effect and other commonly stated justifications. Each green roof requires added structural support, on-going maintenance and general expertise in roof vegetative management. Each green roof application also requires almost error free installation of the roofing systems underlying the vegetative systems which can be problematic. The issue of long term repair, maintenance, changes and replacement are also issues to consider. There are other approaches to achieve the goals green roofs are intended to address that are less costly.

Green roofs do have valid applications and can be a good direction to take. But each application should be objectively evaluated before accepting the common stereotypical statements touting their benefits. In many cases, the popular attraction to green roofs is greater than the supporting factors.

Posted by: Marshall Wilson - Wednesday, November 7, 2012 8:59 AM


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