a mild April afternoon, the sun baked a Detroit
rooftop to the tune of over 104 degrees. Just yards away, another
sat beneath the sun, but only measured about 70 degrees.
difference? The cooler roof was a green roof, 5,600 square feet of
plants called sedum. Green roofs are critical to the future of cities.
roofs are a powerful technology to help cities confront the threats of
to a conventional roof, the green roof stays cooler in the sun, drinks
rainwater, and reflects sunlight that would otherwise heat the roof
like a blow
torch on a steel girder.
are hotspots of worry for climate scientists because expansive urban
coated in asphalt and belching the summertime exhaust of countless air
conditioners already pose problems for air quality, heat and excess
which can foul water systems. In the coming years, global warming is
to make these problems worse.
predict that global warming will increase the intensity, duration and
heat waves in the United States.
And this is in addition to an
existing problem; the urban heat island, a stifling pocket of air
with pollutants that surrounds cities on hot summer days.
roofs are not new, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley installed 20,000
of green roof on City Hall as an experiment to encourage green
has a green roof on top of its
Portland, Boston and Baltimore are
some of the other cities with
policies to promote green roofing for new development. And New York City
has proposed a tax incentive
for green roof installations in Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s PlaNYC
in many cities, green roof production has been slow to gain momentum.
the reason is cost. Installing a green roof in the United States
can cost anywhere
from 50 to 500 percent more than a normal roof, depending on factors
the design, height and location of the building.
the investments are offset by tangible returns. Green roofs
summer power outages from strained electrical grids, as well as other
by lowering air conditioning needs of buildings, and cooling and
local air. The plants absorb carbon dioxide, the villainous greenhouse
They filter pollution from the air, which helps lower air temperatures
the building. And green roofs act as insulation, lowering heating and
costs for buildings during the winter and summer months.
sedum plants themselves are easy to maintain, requiring weeding for
first few seasons until they fill the roof with a dense, verdant
sedum plant can survive long periods of drought, heavy rainstorms, and
interest in green roofs is
sprouting up, and entrepreneurs are taking notice. From 2004 to 2005,
roof square footage grew 80 percent in the United States, with Chicago
Washington, D.C. leading the way, according to Green Roofs for Healthy
a green roof industry organization with more than 4,000 individual and
Roofing and General Building Restoration is well-poised to lead the
Green Roof technology in major U.S.
cities. Bright enters this market with two distinctive
product lines – a
Green Roof product and a
Living Wall product. This allows us
versatility of low slope, steep slope, and vertical installations. Our light weight system
meets the design
criteria necessary for many retrofit projects.
What is a Green
A green roof is
a roof of a building that is partially or
completely covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium,
a waterproofing membrane. The term does not include roofs
that are merely
colored green, as with green shingles. It is significantly
the standard roofing products in that it is supplemental, not primary
In this age of
green building, which stems from the threat
of global warming and reducing carbon footprints, green roofs have been
to support the planets environment by:
- Reducing Storm
- Reducing the
Urban Heat Island effect.
- Extending the
service life cycle of roofing systems.
- Reducing building
- Sound proofing.
- Improving the
atmosphere by absorbing Carbon Dioxide and emitting Oxygen.
- Social and
- Green Roofs can
contribute up to 17 points to a LEED Building Certification.
Bright Roofing and Restoration was featured in the cover story of the April
2009 issue of Roofing Contractor for our rehabilitation and installation of a
green roof system on the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. You can read
the article below or click
here to view the digital edition of the magazine (the article is on page
Green Gains a Foothold in the Motor City
At the corner of Woodward and Jefferson in downtown Detroit, the Coleman
A. Young Municipal Center houses courtrooms, city offices and the mayor’s
office. It’s also famous for the statue that abuts it—Marshall Fredericks’
bronze statue “the Spirit of Detroit”—or, as it’s also known, the Jolly
Green Giant. Recently, at the same time the statue was being refurbished,
a splash of green was added to the building’s rooftop in the form of a
The story of how the green roof took root there illustrates the ingenuity
of a contractor, manufacturers and city officials who found a way to
include a garden roof without incurring additional costs or additional
came time to restore the roof at the Coleman A. Young Municipal
Center, the crumbling pavers were replaced with a modular garden
roof system from ELT Easy Green.
Built during the Korean War when steel was in a short supply, the
building had critical design limitations that restricted the options when
it was re-roofed in 1985. The design implemented was an inverted EPDM
system topped with 12-inch by 12-inch pavers. After more than 25 years,
many of the pavers were crumbling, and the property manager became
concerned that the roof was nearing the end of its useful life. He
approached T.J. Daniels, owner and president of Bright Roofing and
Restoration in Detroit, to obtain an estimate for a replacement roof.
Daniels’ company had been servicing the roof and restoring and replacing
the flashings on a service contract, so he was familiar with the building.
He had a hunch that the roof could be restored for far less than the cost
of a roof replacement.
“As we removed the pavers and got down to the membrane, we found it was in
excellent condition,” said Daniels. “It had been protected from
ultraviolet radiation by the pavers, and since the wall flashings had been
well maintained, there were no problem areas at the perimeter.” After the
membrane was power washed, no leaks were found, so Daniels recommended
that the roof be restored. He put together a proposal to restore the
membrane with Thermo Materials’ SEBS Reflective Liquid Roof coating,
replace the insulation and covering, and re-use the existing pavers that
were in good condition. As for the pavers that were crumbling, Daniels
recommended that they be replaced with a section of rooftop garden made up
of modules from ELT Easy Green.
their handiwork after the completion of the project are
(standing, from left) Domenic Morelli of Thermo Materials, David
Morency of Bright Roofing and Restoration, David Billing of
Tri-R Products, T.J. Daniels of Bright Roofing and Restoration,
John Townsend of Bright Roofing and Restoration, (kneeling, from
left) Jim Rizzo of Bright Green Technologies, and Lee Daniels of
Bright Roofing and Restoration. (Photos by Chris King.)
The quote for a replacement roof would have been more than $1 million,
and the size of the building—which takes up an entire city block and
stands 22 stories tall—would make for a difficult installation, which
could possibly disrupt city offices and courtroom activity. With Daniels’
restoration proposal, the city would save money and minimize disruptions.
It would also add an environmentally friendly and aesthetically appealing
green roof without adding extra weight—at the same cost as replacing the
The plan is to expand the green roof each year as the city’s budget allows
by simply removing existing pavers as they fail and adding green roof
modules. “It’s a win-win for the building,” Daniels said. “As the green
area gets bigger, the urban heat island effect is minimized, and the
bumblebees will come back. Plus, it turns into an item for the maintenance
side of the ledger rather than a capital expense for the building.”
about an hour to install the ELT Easy Green modules. The plan is
to expand the green roof area year by year as the city’s budget
After the pavers and insulation were removed and the existing membrane
was power washed, it was coated with SEBS Reflective Liquid Roof from
Thermo Materials. The seams were coated with three courses of SEBS and
SB-075 polyester, then the entire field assembly was coated to increase
the water-tight protection, extend the life of the EPDM, and qualify as an
ENERGY STAR coating. Once the coating cured, the insulation board and
protection pad were re-installed. The system was then covered with the
remaining pavers and the ELT green roof surfacing.
The crumbling pavers were ground up to dress up the edge of the garden
roof area, eliminating the expense and labor of removing them. The
20,000-square-foot project took three days to complete, with the 500
square feet of green area serving as the final piece of the puzzle. “The
ELT panels went down in about an hour,” said Daniels.
When the plants in the pre-grown modules were spread out, the seams
between the panels weren’t even visible minutes after installation.
“Instant gratification,” Daniels said. “It’s a sedum carpet.”
“The logistics of accessing the roof areas with our products is always a
key problem,” said Daniels. However, his restoration plan solved access
problems beautifully. Everything was easily taken up in the freight
elevator and walked up the final flight of stairs to the roof. Here, the
lightness of the ELT panels was a big help. “We put them in when they’re a
little dry, then water them as they’re installed,” he said. “The panels
are 1 meter square—about 39 inches by 39 inches—and each panel can weigh
120 pounds soaking wet, but they’re significantly lighter when dry.”
Since the insulation and pavers were re-used, very little material came
back down the elevators. This was a plus, as Daniels soon found out that
the mayor and judges made frequent use of the freight elevator to get
around the building. However, there was no disruption of city business of
courtroom activity as a result of the project. “We were very quiet,” said
of the center is visible from several high-rise buildings,
including GM’s corporate headquarters in the Renaissance Center,
visible in this photo behind Ivory Burks (left) and T.J. Daniels
of Bright Roofing and Restoration.
When asked why the ELT green roof system appealed to him, Daniels cited
its versatility. “It can be lightweight or heavyweight, flat roof or steep
slope, pre-grown or grown in place,” he said. “It works with new
construction and retrofit applications. It can be used on all slopes from
dead level all the way to vertical, and it can manage northern climates as
well as southern climates.”
Daniels and Jim Rizzo, co-founder of Bright Green Technologies, are hoping
that green roofs and vertical living walls will flourish in Michigan and
throughout the country.
“We were looking for a retrofit green system that was lightweight, and we
found it in ELT Easy Green,” said Rizzo. “We think retrofit is the way to
go—it’s the market with the most potential. With the green roof market,
the issue is how do roofing contractors get their arms around green. The
answer is lightweight retrofit systems with warranties from major
“There’s a new mentality when it comes to green roofs,” said Daniels, who
noted that he has received several calls from occupants of nearby
buildings that look down on the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. “The
mindset has changed a little. It used to be building owners would say, ‘I
have a roof leak; I need to call a roofer.’ When it comes to green, they
say, ‘I want green; can I afford it?’ It’s a paradigm shift.”
For more information about Bright Green technoloigies, visit
For more information about Bright Roofing and Restoration, visit
For more information about Thermo Materials, visit
Article Credited to Chris
Chris King is editor of Roofing
Contractor. He can be reached at 248-244-6497.