style trumps sustainable

The best friends environmentalism can turn to, time and time again, are fashion and marketing. Occasionally, they might stab it in the back, but not with green roofs.

From many standpoints, a green roof can pay off quick and easy as well as in the long term.

The hard sciences insist on a bevy of benefits. A green roof can act as a sink for CO2 and volatile organic compounds (just like spider plants in your kitchen), it can control temperature in the building and offset heating and cooling expenses, and it can sponge up much of the rain water that causes millions of dollars in damages in Montreal when the drainage system overflows. With a layers of soils and bedding and plastics, the roof superstructure gains added integrity. The roof also needs less roof tarring, from every five years to, well…

Remember the line from T. S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” that goes:

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The phrases like ‘green buildings’ and ‘sustainable living’ come together over coffee with this sort of parlour talk. Citing these sort of benefits is quick and easy, and with enough people talking this way, city funds will start to pour in to these projects – not just because of the economic reasoning behind the money saved with these projects, though this does make for an added conversation piece.

Nonetheless, from the purely economic standpoint, it is not surprising that so many grant givers and foundations are actively supporting projects, such as Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE), part of Natural Resources Canada, Green Municipal Enabling Fund (GMEF), and the ever-popular EcoAction program of Environment Canada.

Also, a giant databank of articles and contacts can be found at Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and

For a densely-populated area with plenty of flat rooftops, Montreal makes for a good base for such initiatives, and the people are all abuzz.

At a recent formal event for the green roof installed by the Urban Ecology Centre between avenue du Parc and rue Jeanne-Mance attracted a variety of upstanding citizens, well dressed and one lady with a parot on her shoulder. Last week was also an info-night at the UEC,
Called “Green Roofs 101” (call (514) 281-8381 for the next event).

A week earlier, Santropol had a party for its own rooftop garden project. Read more in this Montrel Mirror article.

As for the community aspect of green building, an interesting wrinkle develops: with more rooftops covered in greenery, a city might lower the degree of its well-documented island heating effect. In Manhattan, the average temperature is 10 degrees hotter. Therefore, panoramic solutions are the best, in both senses of the word.

Some institutions and commercial businesses have expressed little interest so far in pitching green roofs on their buildings, one source at the UEC tells me, and I suspect that maybe the social standing and social circles the decision makers live within have clouded them from the trendiness of it as well as the sensability. They likely don’t have a membership to the sustainable style foundation* (look fabulous, live well, do good). And, to quote Albert Camus from “The Fall”:

…what else can one say for man, other than he fornicated and read the papers.

Thus, an article from the New York Times.

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