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By Josh Wingrove

Business & Technology Editor

Toronto is North America’s leader when it comes to developing green roof technology, thanks to Ryerson research.

An announcement was made late last month by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), an organization based in Toronto.

Green roofs use soil and vegetation to collect runoff water, expand the city’s green space and insulate the building. A 2005 Ryerson report outlined the costs and benefits of widespread green roof use in the city. “The work (Ryerson) did was really groundbreaking,” said Jane Walsh, a project manager at Toronto City Planning. “Nobody else had really done that before,” Hitesh Doshi, an Architectural Science professor at Ryerson, was responsible for Ryerson’s bid.

It beat out Queen’s University and the University of Waterloo for the city contract. “They were looking for some applied kind of knowledge, not pure research. The team we were putting together, we were not just a bunch of professors who had PhDs and were putting out heads in books,” he said. “This is what Ryerson is known for: the applied side.”

The 88-page study quantified the qualitative changes brought about by green roof implementation, such as the one featured on top of Ryerson’s new George Vari Centre for Computing and Engineering. The building’s environmentally friendly roof was made possible by an accomplished alumna, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said.

“It was financed by a gift from (Radio and Television Arts graduate and former Canada A.M. host) Valerie Pringle and her husband,” he said. “It has several advantages, including green space for birds and insects.”

Toronto has since begun exploring initiatives that would promote green roofs by offering incentives for private developers. It’s part of Toronto’s ongoing effort to develop green development standards. “Council approved a whole slough of information around green roofs, one of which is that there be an incentive program, on a pilot basis that would provide incentives up to $10 a foot for green roofs,” Walsh said.

While a green roof’s initial cost is higher, the Ryerson study aimed to put a dollar value to the broad benefits the technology has to the greater population. “The benefits accrue to a community… if there’s something in it for everybody, then there is something in it for me as well,” Doshi said. GRHC President Steven Peck agreed. “Green roofs deliver private benefits to a building owner, and a whole host of public benefits, particularly if they’re implemented on a wide scale,” Peck said.

Green roofs insulate, grow (rather than degrade) and collect storm water runoff, among other benefits. “There are literally dozen and dozens of benefits to green roofs. There is no technology that exists that can deliver the same range of benefits as a green roof system,” Peck said. “Not a single technology, anywhere in the world.” The Ryerson study is currently in its second phase. Peter Luciani, a Georgraphy graduate student, will be making a presentation today on the study’s findings.

“The goal for the second phase is can we generalize what we did for the city of Toronto that can be applied to other cities,” Doshi said. “Ryerson has played a significant role in moving the city of Toronto agenda forward. We’re really proud of it.”

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