Denver's Green Roof Initiative: The pros and cons

Posted at 4:30 AM, Nov 01, 2017

DENVER -- Voters will decide on Denver's Initiated Ordinance 300, a proposed ordinance that will require large, newly-constructed buildings to install a rooftop garden or solar panels. 

Brandon Rietheimer, the founder of the Denver Green Roof Initiative, was the one who started it all. The organization had to collect 4,700 signatures by August to get the measure on the November ballot. 

There are a few green roofs around Denver already. The Denver Botanic Gardens planted vegetation on one of its roofs for a research project. The roof was once cement.

Researchers found the benefit of having green roofs all around Denver would help reduce pollution and noise. Garden rooftops also help keep a building warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. That can help save money on utilities. 

But opponents of I-300 argue having green roofs will drive up construction costs and rent prices. 

Denver7 spoke with an economics professor about what could happen.

"From an economic standpoint, it's pretty well understood that whenever you put regulations on a building, it increases the cost of construction," said University of Colorado Denver Professor Andrew Friedson. 

Friedson adds, if this ordinance passes, development won't stop in Denver's booming market.

"It’s going to be costly either way. I would argue if you’re going to do something like this, this is probably the better time, from a business-cycle standpoint, in Denver to do it," Friedson said.

Existing buildings will be exempt, but once the roof needs to be replaced, building owners would have to swap it out with a green roof or add solar panels. 

If passed, green roofs or solar panels would be required for most buildings 25,000 square feet or larger that are constructed after January 1, 2018.