Concrete Jungles to Green Oases

Benefits and Success Factors for Green Roofs in the Netherlands

By: Joelle Juergensen

Opportunity Awaits

In 2020, ULI published their “Blueprint for Green Real Estate," outlining the key steps for successfully integrating sustainability into real estate. They point out that buildings contribute to a large percentage of global greenhouse gases. These can be upwards of 70% in cities. 

In their report, ULI stresses the importance of building momentum for sustainability projects with quick wins. We view the opportunity of green roofs as fitting into this category - as generating success with a green roof project could help drive future sustainability projects - both large and small. 


Whilst there are various types of green spaces in cities (green walls, facades, gardens, roofs, etc.) and different motivations to implement them, this blog will dive into the benefits and success factors of green roofs in the Netherlands. Click here for more information on the different types of green roofs.

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Photo by Robin Benzrihem on Unsplash

The Benefits of Green Roofs

Green roofs are not just pretty green spaces, they also benefit the local communities in many ways. Here are some of the economic, environmental and social benefits for building operators and the surrouding communities: 

Economic Benefits:

  • Extends rooftop lifetime from 10-30 years to 40-50 years

  • Reduces energy bills up to 6%

  • Increases property value

  • Creates alternative noise insulation

  • Improves reputation with visible and tangible sustainability efforts and eligibility for green certifications 

  • Generates more commercial opportunities, such as event space, restaurants, and bars. 

Environmental and Social Benefits:

  • Impacts from CO2 emissions reduced through carbon capturing

  • Heat island reduction in cities

  • Smog reductions

  • Improves biodiversity

  • Higher satisfaction for living and work spaces

  • Educational factors, such as involving tenants in growing/farming food

  • Encourages circularity, such as composting to reduce food waste

Trends in the Netherlands 

Roofs are sometimes up to 40% of the urban paved area and therefore provide a great basis to collect water, provide additional green space to inhabitants - and many of the other benefits listed above. Over the last decade, more than 200 green roofs were built in Amsterdam alone, with a total surface area of approximately 120.000 sqm despite the typical steep canal houses. Rotterdam, which has larger and flatter roofs, is planning to reach 1 million sqm of multifunctional roofs by 2030 as part of their Rotterdam Roofscape Program (more infos here). 

 

Aside from the environmental benefits of more green spaces, Dutch cities, as well as building owners/operators, are realising the social and also commercial benefits of these. Similar to the High Line in New York City, “Luchtpark Hofbogen” in Rotterdam, connects various buildings with a bridge, where you can find one of Europe’s largest harvestable rooftops, as well as restaurants, cafes and bars. It has become a prime hotspot for meetings, outdoor lunches and relaxing walks in the busy city. 

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Luchtpark Hofbogen. Source: Trfihi Parks

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Rooftop Green Space at Zoku, Amsterdam. Source: Zoku

In addition to city scale projects, there are single buildings introducing green roofs. For example, Zoku, a co-living and co-working provider in Amsterdam, placed their lobby/check-in area on their green roof to encourage regular activities with a “green twist." Another great example is the Nest Rooftop at the hotel Casa 400 in Amsterdam, where guests can enjoy cocktails and bar snacks prepared with herbs, fruits and vegetables from their rooftop garden. Whilst the initial investment was rather high, the success of the rooftop bar led to a return of investment of only two 7-month seasons. 

 

Tip: Dutch cities provide subsidies for companies looking to introduce green roofs. For example, Amsterdam has a program offering sizable subsidies available on a first-come first-serve basis. More information about these can be found here.

Success factors of green roofs

 

After researching green roofs for various projects, we have identified 3 success factors to help maximize a quicker return on investment:

  1. Combining a green roof with a function, this can range from simple lounging furniture to bars and restaurants. We would recommend keeping the use flexible, meaning it can have a primary function, but can also be booked for events for example

  2. Engaging your visitors in the design process. For example, if you are a building owner/operator and want to provide a green roof to your tenants, ask them what sort of function they would like, such as social lounging spaces or a herbal garden. 

  3. Making it a desirable point for people to come visit, whether you provide a panoramic view, pretty aesthetics or quirky activities for your guests - if people like it and really want to be there, they will share it and your visitor numbers should rise.

 

We hope we have inspired you with this blog to turn your roof into a green oasis, too! 


 

References

  1. ULI Blueprint for Green Real Estate. Available here

  2. Licheva, V., 2018. The Dutch and Innovation: Installing Blue and Green roofs in Amsterdam – DutchReview. [online] DutchReview. Available here.

  3. MOSS Amsterdam, 2018. The Financial Advantage of Green Roofs - Moss Amsterdam. [online] Moss Amsterdam. Available here

  4. Better World Solutions. Available here