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Living Roofs Bring the Green

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Living Roofs Bring the Green


June 26, 2018
Greenery in a building exterior
Photo: Unsplash/Ricardo Gomez Angel

New York City has about 1,200 buildings with green roofs, accounting for about 60 acres of the overall rooftop space. Homeowners with living roofs explain the pros and cons. 

Green roofs can reduce air pollution, retain rainwater, and reduce sewer discharge. They may also double the sales price of a home. Susan and Neil Whoriskey of Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. say, “New York City’s sewers are all ancient, and one just collapsed on our street last summer. With the crazy rainstorms we’ve been getting, it would make a big difference if more people had green roofs. Even if you don’t want to give up your entire roof, you can still do a partial roof like we did.” The New York Times recently spoke to living roof homeowners to find out what they cost, how hard they are to install, and if they are safe.  

Over the past decade, acres of living roofs have appeared in New York City, as commercial building owners have transformed their rooftops into meadows of wildflowers, sprawling beds of sedum, and even vegetable farms, reaping the environmental benefits. Now individual homeowners — those lucky enough to have a roof or terrace that can accommodate a patch of dirt — are beginning to follow suit.

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