Archive for August, 2014

Green Roof–Black Hole

Want to do some good? Rid the world of evil CO2?  Cool the city? Reduce air-con energy? Recycle rainwater? Pretty the cityscape? Grow veggies for a locavore ? If so,  a roof garden could be in your future.

A roof garden is a fun way to enjoy a flat (ish) roof.  Its parent, the green roof, is  a modern version of sod houses of yore.  In our case, it supplies perhaps half our annual veggie needs, with exuberant excess being shared or traded with friends and  colleagues.   And its a great place for entertaining.  Guests and kittens love to nibble on fresh herbs.  What’s not to like?

First Lady Harper knows–she got stung by a roof bee, which I’m sure pleased all the lefties in Canada.  But if you’re a taxpayer, you’re also getting stung!  Huh?

What’s taxes got  to do with it?  That’s the black hole. The scam.

Roof gardens, like solar panels and windmills, are another way to syphon hard earned money from the poor to the rich via green taxpayer subsidies.  City after city has implemented green roof incentive plans to try and achieve the listed benefits, illusory as they might be.

While my personal benefits are real, I can assure you that any benefit I produce for you is way overblown.  How can CO2 be reduced anyway? My garden, which received no subsidy, probably gives  a smidgeon of net environmental benefit, because I used recycled and found materials and avoided doing anything that would impact structural or envelope (roofing) requirements.  It is highly unlikely that a ‘professional’ (subsidized) roof garden will ever recover the significant cost and energy of construction.   The need for subsidy (or bylaw) proves the case.

My methods, though applicable anywhere,  are unsuitable for subsidized installations.  Green roofs are either trying to make money, like the Royal York’s famed spice and honey garden cum roof restaurant or they are trying to claim environmental benefits for the entire roof   which allows bureaucracies, consultants and politicians to bask in glory.  The latter generally requires specialized (and expensive) turf systems.   Nothing but the best when haute cuisine or taxpayer money is involved.  Maybe a landlocked city like Singapore could claim a pure business case.

Why are  farms on cheap rural land?  Can farmers afford to build costly elevated structures to grow buck-a-bag potatoes?  Greenhouses are for weather protection not for heavy soil loads.  Soils can be avoided, but only with expensive substitutes that mimic the function of hydroponic systems.   So if you want to do something on most or all of your roof, either you spend to create soil-less systems or you spend to reinforce structures.  How many spuds does it take to justify tons of extra concrete and steel, never mind intensive irrigation?  The only thing that makes it work is a subsidy, without which none of this would take place.  No wonder they call them green roofs!  Or you can suspend the laws of economics with a bylaw.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my roof garden.  Just like solar panels (I have 4) and windmills (still hoping).  The rich are good enough getting money from the poor, sometimes giving value and ipods in return.  But it’s a dark day when the poor are tricked into voting for socialistic roof gardens that pretend to give them benefits.  Let rich landlords do what they want on their own dime, you and I can have our own fun in the sky without asking the less fortunate to pay for it.

As always, your curmudgeonly GreenTop.