The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How green roofs can save you lots of green

(Tracey A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

David Charron, president and chief executive of Rockville-based multiple-listing service MRIS, writes an occasional column about the Washington-area real estate market.

Green roofs offer homeowners and the public a wide range of benefits. They capture rain and lessen the amount of stormwater runoff into city sewers and watershed. They drastically lower utility bills by reducing the need for air conditioning. And they have become a coveted feature for buyers looking to purchase a home in the Washington region.

According to the District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), there are about 2.3 million square feet of green roofs in the city. The department plans to increase that by another million square feet over the next 10 years. To reach this goal, it has instituted several green roof incentive programs.

Green roofs can be good for people, too

• The RiverSmart Rewards program allows residents and property owners in the District to receive a significant discount on their water utility fees if they install approved stormwater management features. Installing green roofs, permeable pavements or driveways or effective rainwater harvesting can save homeowners up to 55 percent on their stormwater fee and up to 4 percent on the Clean Rivers Impervious Area Charge. This calculator can determine how much of a discount your property is eligible for. Property owners can also apply to RiverSmart Rebates to receive compensation for rain barrels, tree planting and other landscaping features that reduce stormwater runoff.

• The Anacostia Watershed Society offers a rebate of $10 to $15 per square foot to help defray costs of installing a green roof. The rebate is available for residential or commercial buildings. For buildings that are less than 2,500 square feet, there are additional funds available for structural assessment costs. There are nine regions around the District considered targeted watersheds that qualify for rebates in the upper end of that price range. But since the goal is to get as many green roofs installed as possible, everyone who thinks their roof would be a good candidate is encouraged to apply.

In addition to programs for individual buildings, there is also a community RiverSmart Rewards program. This provides rebates for neighborhoods or higher density buildings, such as multi-family buildings, churches, community gardens, parks or other outdoor gathering spots. Projects often include the installation of rain gardens. These landscaped beds are filled with native plants and succulents that can withstand heavy rains, deep snow and the summer droughts. Properties that manage their storm water above the minimum regulated thresholds can sell their Stormwater Retention Credits on the open market to generate even more revenue.

A Petworth homeowner’s green roof one year later

There are hundreds of green roofs in the District. We need hundreds more to keep up with the needs of a rapidly growing city. These programs provide additional financial incentives on top of the built-in cost savings for home energy bills. Review what the DOEE offers. You just might find your home is a perfect fit for a green roof.

For more information on green roof programs, click on the links:

• RiverSmart Rewards

• Anacostia Watershed Green Roof program

• RiverSmart Communities Rewards

• Locations of D.C.’s targeted watersheds,38.8338,-76.9081,38.9442

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this column said that the District’s RiverSmart Rewards Program can save homeowners up to 55 percent of their water bill. The program actually saves homeowners 55 percent of their stormwater fee.