A year after passing green-roof law, Denver is focus of 'cool roof' debate

A green roof on an urban building.

Nearly two years after Denver mandated that businesses install green roofs, it's happening in Larimer Square.

The Denver Green Roof Initiative, which passed in November 2017, initially required most large buildings to install environmentally friendly green-roof features, such as rooftop gardens.

After opposition from Mayor Michael Hancock and business leaders, though, the measure was revised by the City Council to loosen the requirements, allowing businesses to opt for various other green designs.

Since then, projects have been navigating zoning issues in a city not prepared for rooftop gardens.

The Larimer Uprooted project has successfully installed rooftop gardens above Larimer Square, says project owner Bio-Logical Capital. The farm and community space on top of the square's parking garage grows vegetables, fruits and native plants.

Larimer Uprooted created the space for people to gather, learn about farming and discuss the ecosystem. It has murals, tables, garden beds and places to sit and visit.

"Rooftop agriculture will never be implemented at a scale large enough to have a large impact on climate change (in the same way that land-based agriculture operations can), but rooftop agriculture can have many other positive ecological benefits to our community, including that these plants — particularly the native perennials — help create pollinator and bird habitats, mitigate stormwater runoff, create shade, sequester carbon, all in our urban environment," said Meriwether Hardie, chief of staff at Bio-Logical Capital.

Hardie said her crew is working on a report to share what they have learned from the project. "Our goal is to disseminate our learnings so that we can share such knowledge and inspire others to do the same thing."

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