08 Sep 2010

greenHILLhome: A Greener H Street

uploaded to flickr.com by NCinDC

The H Street corridor from Union Station to Bladensburg Road is quickly becoming a major food, drink, and entertainment destination for DC, but will it be a major green neighborhood as well?  If DC Greenworks has anything to say about it, then yes.  The organization — one of the area’s preeminent authorities on greener urban living and a nonprofit here in DC — has a program targeted at the H Street NE corridor to aid in the construction and planting of green roof systems. 

A green roof system is a building assembly that tops the waterproofing layer of a traditional building roof.  It often includes a layer of rigid insulation, a water retention mat that captures and holding rainwater to keep plants well-hydrated, growing medium that is often lighter than normal soil, and plants that are native to the area where they are being planted.   Drought-tolerant plants like sedums and lichens are common, but they can be supplemented with wildflowers and herbs.

Green roofs offer many benefits to the buildings they top.  They reduce the urban heat island effect — that nasty tendency of dense urban areas to have higher temperatures than surrounding greener areas.  The green roofs reduce the amount of dark-colored materials that can absorb sunlight, capturing and holding the sun’s heat.  The added insulation of the soil in the system means that spaces underneath the roof stay cooler.  A green roof system also reduces the amount of stormwater that flows into the sewer because the rain that falls on the roof is absorbed by the soil.  The plantings create additional habitat for local wildlife and depending on the types of plants can attract butterflies, bees, and birds.

DC Greenworks greeNEr program was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Deputy Mayor’s Office of Planning and Economic Development to subsidize the installation of green roofs along the H Street NE corridor.  According to their website, the program will “leverage community volunteers and train several green collar apprentices, while providing business owners with comprehensive project management and installation services, as well as up to $9,000 in subsidy towards applicable green roof expenses.”

For more information about the program, contact Peter Ensign at DC Greenworks at peter@dcgreenworks.org.

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