Surface water and stormwater management are important parts of the urban condition. Down through the history of development, it’s been a challenge to figure out what to do with the water that enters a construction site.
The use of green and blue roofs as design elements seems to be helping address that challenge and sustainability at the same time. While you may see more press about green roofs that support vegetation and provide a range of benefits besides storing water, there are also valid uses for blue roofs, which don’t.
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As pressure from planning departments progressively focuses on sustainable design, the use of blue and green roofs is increasing, as described in a recent article by Roofing Magazine. There are debates about aesthetics of the two methods, but each has suitable applications.
Green Roofs and Infrastructure
Pennsylvania State University has conducted research on green infrastructure and the part it can play in creating a sustainable water future.
Blue Roofs and Infrastructure
Blue roofs are also known as rooftop detention or controlled flow roof drain systems. They are non-vegetated controls to mitigate flooding and alleviate combined sanitary and storm sewer overflows (CSOs) by providing temporary storage of rainwater and releasing it slowly.
Some urban sites are too constricted to accommodate green infrastructure. In this case, a blue roof can slow and store water without the greenery. Blue roofs are most often used in dense urban areas where heavy rains can result in water sheeting off impermeable surfaces and where the risk of CSOs is high. Here, other methods of stormwater detention may not be practical.
As the Roofing Magazine article explains, the next frontier in stormwater management is rooftops. In urban settings, roofs are part of the problem and the potential solution.