Are green roofs the next big thing after solar? Just like solar panels have become more commonplace through a combination of advances in technology, government regulations & incentives, and growing awareness, now green roofs are attracting more interest and appearing on more rooftops.

In the United States, a variety of incentives at the local, state, and federal levels exist for green roofs, and they are increasing. Here in New York, the state recently expanded its green roof tax abatement program, and New York City’s recent Climate Mobilization Act requires many new buildings to have solar panels, green roofs, or both.

Understanding Green Roofs

But what makes a green roof great? And how do we account for all of their benefits?

Besides transforming roofs into inviting spaces, green roofs reduce the urban heat island effect and decrease the amount of stormwater that flows into sewer systems. For building owners, one of the best benefits is that green roofs can sharply reduce the heating and cooling costs of buildings since they provide additional insulation and protection against extreme temperatures.

Newtown Creek Alliance is working to better understand green roofs and best practices for maintaining them. They manage Kingsland Wildflowers, a beautiful set of green roofs in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with stellar views of the Manhattan skyline.

Working with Temboo, NCA has installed a network of soil sensors across their green roofs that will monitor the health of their plantings and enable them to see when and how often they need water. By comparing sensor readings with in-person observations and local weather data, NCA will learn how best to maintain their green roofs and be able to share those learnings through its education and outreach programs.

Let’s take a look!

One of the soil moisture sensors at Kingsland Wildflowers. Each sensor has a probe in the dirt that is connected to a the transmission device inside a weather-proof enclosure.
This sensor is located on the Upper Meadow, the highest green roof at Kingsland Wildflowers and the one with the best view of the Manhattan skyline.
The largest and lowest green rood, called the Backfields, is shown here. There is another soil sensor here hidden behind on the skylights.
Kingsland Wildflowers is literally a breath of fresh air in an otherwise heavily industrial area. In addition to a large wastewater treatment plant, the site is located among energy and fuel facilities.
The Lower Meadow features sculptures and also has a view of Kosciuszko Bridge, which crosses Newtown Creek nearby.
Another great view of the Upper Meadow.
All the green roofs are planted with beautiful wildflowers like the ones shown here. The soil moisture sensors will help NCA better understand how their green roofs are performing and how to water them most efficiently.
This green roof is called the Patio and, being on the side, has different exposure to the sun than the other green roofs. The soil moisture sensor here will help show how that affects the plants and their watering schedule.
Lisa of NCA installing one of the soil sensors with a gorgeous view of Manhattan in the background.

What’s Next

Now that the network of soil sensors is up and running, Newtown Creek Alliance is collecting and analyzing the data as well as sharing it with the community and research partners. They are also planning on incorporating this data into the educational curricula they are designing.

As the summer progresses, NCA will be gathering insights from the soil sensors, combining that data with rainfall & other relevant weather data, and learning as much as they can about their green roofs. A big goal is to use this data for green roof advocacy more generally and for teaching more people about their benefits.

Stay tuned for what NCA and Temboo uncover.

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Posted by:Vaughn Shinall, Head of Product Outreach

Vaughn leads the Product Outreach team at Temboo. He spends his days connecting people, places, and machines while helping customers implement IoT technologies.