How to: Enter the green roof market

How to: Enter the green roof market

Features - Strategies

As the density in cities increases and more green space is turned into development, residents, companies and government officials are looking for ways to replace that lost land.

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July 14, 2011

Photo courtesy of Steele Blades Lawn & Landscape.

 

As the density in cities increases and more green space is turned into development, residents, companies and government officials are looking for ways to replace that lost land. And the way they’re going about it – through green roofs – means more work for the landscaping industry.

Case in point, in 2010, the green roof industry grew by 28.5 percent, according to a Green Roofs for Health Cities’ (GRHS) survey, and the segment is poised for continuous growth. But working on a roof is much different than working on the ground and the risks are significantly greater from a safety and construction standpoint.

“Going into green roofs, it’s good to understand the bigger picture of where green roofs fit in and what the expectations are,” says Roger Grothe, whose company Aloha Landscaping, has been involved in the installation of more than 600,000 square feet of green roof space.

Depending on the job, the profit margin for a green roof is at least equal to what a landscape contractor can expect for a good residential or commercial project, Grothe says. The profit margin is good because the job requires risk and expertise and currently there is a barrier to entering the market. After installation, there’s also profitability in the green roof’s maintenance.

Before entering the market, consider these five steps, Grothe says. – Carolyn LaWell



Illustration by Vic Kulihin


1. The most important step is education. Contractors need to know what green roofs are and how they work. Books, state association courses, GRHC curriculum and green roof websites all help. “(It) is just super important to fully understand what is going on in the world – what’s working, what’s not, what products are working, what’s not,” Grothe says.


2. Understand the landscape contractor’s role. The expectations include protecting the roof’s waterproofing membrane, maintaining worker safety and meeting client’s needs. “There is a lot of stuff on the roof that is just a little bit different,” Grothe says. “It’s important to understand what’s going on and what your role is in the process.”


3. Due to all of the aspects involved in working on a roof, landscapers usually need to partner with others outside of the industry. There is a roofer for waterproofing, perhaps a crane operator for hoisting materials. Entering the green roof market means building partnerships, maintaining communication and understanding each person’s role.


4. There is a plethora of products available for green roofs, and improvements continue to be made. “You really need to know your product and what’s going on in terms of soil, in terms of irrigation, in terms of plant materials,” Grothe says.


5. Every company wants to make money, so performance is important to understand. Ask yourself: How fast can you move soil and plant materials to a roof? How fast can you install? What will be the maintenance cycle for the green roof? Having performance characteristics down to a science will help in the installation and bidding process, Grothe says.