France just passed a new law that will require all new buildings in commercial zones to be covered with green roofs or solar panels.
Environmental groups hope to reduce the energy costs of commercial buildings while creating an urban jungle in the world’s most beloved city of progress.
According to The Guardian:
The law approved by parliament was more limited in scope than initial calls by French environmental activists to make green roofs that cover the entire surface mandatory on all new buildings.
The law will change the face of the urban landscape in France by promoting more urban greenery.
While solar panels have an obvious purpose, the benefits of green roofs are less well known. Not only do they beautify buildings and create space for community gardens, they have a number of other environmental benefits.
In the summer, green roofs retain 70 to 90 percent of precipitation and in the winter they retain 25 to 40 percent of precipitation. This reduces runoff and decreases the stress on sewer systems. The daily dew and evaporation cycle along with the light absorbed by vegetation, help to cool buildings down. Green roofs also reduce smog by slowing the distribution of dust and particulate matter.
According to Think Progress:
France has lagged behind other major European countries like Germany, Italy and Spain in solar power development. As of last summer, France had just over five gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity, accounting for around one percent of total energy consumption. Germany has nearly 40 GWs installed. France is heavily reliable on nuclear power for its energy, and nuclear generation in 2012 made up about 83 percent of the country’s total generation.
The combination of solar panels and green roofs create dual environmental tools. Both help reduce the power demands on the national grid, especially when temperatures peak in the summer time.
Green roofs are popular in Germany, Australia, and parts of Canada. Since 2009, Toronto has had a similar mandatory law for green roofs on commercial buildings. But they’re also gaining traction in the U.S. New York City leads the pack in green roofs and it’s home to the largest roof top garden in the country. James Farley Post Office is topped with a greening system that saves the massive post office $30,000 per year in energy costs. Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Portland are all home to a number of green roofs.
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Image of a green roof from Shuttershock