According to a new French law approved recently, rooftops on new buildings in commercial zones across France must either be partially covered in plants or solar panels.
Green roofs, which cover rooftop space with a layer of grasses, shrubs, flowers, and other forms of flora, offer a number of benefits. They create an insulating effect, reducing the amount of energy needed to heat or cool a building depending on the season. They increase local access to green space, which often comes at a premium in urban environments. They retain rainwater, thus decreasing runoff and any related drainage issues. They provide a space for urban wildlife, such as birds, to congregate and even nest, and they reduce air pollution by acting as natural filters.
Approved by French Parliament, the law was scaled back from initial proposals by environmental groups asking for green roofs to cover the entire rooftop surface of all new buildings. The compromise gave businesses a choice to install solar panels instead or to only cover part of the roof in foliage.
Even in a trimmed-down form, the law is trailblazing and will both change the urban landscape of cities across France as well as potentially inspire other countries to follow suit.
France is already considered a green roof leader in Europe — the country has ten times more green roofs than Germany, which pioneered this field.
The push for solar panel installations is only good news for France, which derives roughly 75% of its electricity from nuclear power. The country is lagging in solar energy, with only five gigawatts of photovoltaics installed as of last year, accounting for only 1% of all energy production (Germany, in comparison has nearly 40 gigawatts installed).
Although “green roofs” are not a specific focus in South Africa, some developers and architects are starting to look into the possibilities as it certainly provides ample opportunities and offers a much friendlier environment. The South African government, however, made cool surfaces, which includes roofs, walls and walkways an important focus area while partnering with the Global Cool Cities Alliance (GCCA). Some individuals have already received training overseas on the evaluation and rating of different material types to be used for cool surfaces. Additionally, SABS has been tasked with the revival of the “hot-box testing facilities”. A two day workshop with a large focus on cool surfaces was also held during May 2015, as part of Energy Month, in Rosebank with representatives from all over th