Green Roof Ordinance: Interview Questions with Brandon Reithmeier

Interview Questions with Brandon Reithmeier, January 30th, 2019

Facilitated by Phoebe Loyd, MLA Graduate Student Candidate, University Colorado Denver

Green Roofs – Policy & Marketing | Independent Study Fall 2018


Describe your role with the Green Roof Ordinance.

BR: Essentially the founder I guess you could say. It really started when President Trump was elected, and Bernie Sanders messaging of getting involved locally really resonated with me. I looked to other cities to see what other people were doing versus what we were doing, which wasn’t much in terms of sustainability. I discovered Green Roofs, and it really matched with Denver’s Sustainability goals, so that’s what led to the pursuit of the Green Roof Mandate. They had an audit of Denver’s 2020 Sustainability goals during our campaign and realized they had no way of tracking anything or if they were meeting their goals. The city did not have a lot of resources either, so it was clear they were not going to reach those goals. Instead of doing something that went against their plan, I was intending to do something that would help with their plans. The city didn’t necessarily see it that way.

What were some of the initial steps you had to take to get the ordinance going?


BR: First off was getting the correct language together, which was pretty much taking something that already existed. In this case, modeled after Toronto’s code and try to adapt in here for Denver. I did that as best I could, I had some lawyers look at it pro-bono, and then it was filing it with the city to initiate a petition. That goes through a small process, starting at the director of city council and the city attorney, then they have a comment session where you try to explain what you are trying to achieve. They approve your language, whether it be with provisions or changes, and then from there you have to get your petition packets together and get those approved by the elections division, and they have to meet certain requirements. Once thats approved, then we just had to collect signatures. We had 180 days to collect signatures, and then we had to get 4700. The goal was to get double that, mostly for validity reasons.

What was the experience like to find people to support the work you were doing?

BR: That was the hardest part. After the wave of post-election marches, I connected with groups who wanted to take action on climate change. Two individuals that stemmed from these groups agreed to meet with me, and I shared with them the language and what I was trying to do. They helped get everything prepped and setup for our initial campaign kickoff party. The goal with that event was to educate people and recruit volunteers. We got 50 people to the kickoff, it was a good showing – everyone was really motivated after the election to get involved and do something. So that’s kind of where it started. After that kickoff party, the next weekend we were supposed to meet with volunteers to collect signatures and no one showed up, it was just me. It really was a terrible feeling, I had never done this before. So there weren’t that many people in the beginning, but it gave me the chance to practice my messaging. After that we targeted environmental groups, Greenpeace volunteered 10 people on their own time to help us get support. 350 Colorado also lended volunteers, as well as various neighborhood organizations. When it was all said and done, we ended up with 50-60 volunteers total, who were all collecting signatures to get it on the ballot.

What were some of the difficulties in the process of getting it on the ballot?
BR: Finding volunteers, usually people say they want to help and then they don’t show up. Organizing people was definitely one of the biggest challenges, and tracking down all of the collected signatures. I was doing all of it myself, from campaign finance to volunteers, so that took a whole lot of time and stress from always doing that.


Where did you find the funding for the Green Roof Ordinance campaign?

BR: We reached out to a lot of people within the Green Roof Industry at the CitiesAlive! conference, like the manufacturers, and they were supportive. It was really difficult to get donations, I think we raised about $20,000 throughout the whole campaign, which I had my doubts if that was enough. We ended up doing our best and putting the money in the right places, whereas once the opponents came out and were spending a quarter of a million dollars, it made me wonder if we had the means to do it. Those were probably the most doubtful times once the numbers were coming in. To our benefit, we stayed focused on executing one thing at a time, which was a huge help to staying organized and on-budget.

What type of messaging was the most relevant and well-received?

BR: It had to be the anti-development, citizens hate the developers here. They are building our city out, they are taking all of our green spaces and building curb to curb, so we really pushed that the developers need to do their fair share for the city. Essentially since they are the ones building it, they need to be doing more. Yeah, the climate was important, but anti-development and housing crisis and just everything combined put the developers in a bad light, and people saw this as a shot to take at that industry. To slow it down, and to make it more eco-friendly and livable and not just concrete. What we found to be successful was the pitch, when we included the fact that solar was also part of the ordinance, that tended to be a trigger for people to get engaged.

How was the ordinance received? (In regards to citizens vs. local gov.) What were the hesitations or concerns with the implementation of the ordinance?

BR: The developers hated it, and mostly because the general public didn’t know what a green roof was. I remember one time I was canvassing in the park, and one individual was confused and asked if our mission was to paint the roof green. Developers only understood that green roofs were super expensive, wherever they were getting their information from was really off-base. They were just mostly afraid of costs, which is understandable. Some of them had arguments that single story shopping centers were adversely affected, because they had a higher gross-floor area and not necessarily owned by a giant corporation, it could be owned by a mom-and-pop small shopping center, and they would have to pay the same amount as a 5 story commercial office building. They had great points, which is what led to the Task Force. Some of our wording was wrong, we used “retain” instead of “detain” for stormwater – which violates water codes for Denver. We were concerned about that. We had a clause for major structural alterations if you had to do that then you could get an exemption, and that was meant to be if you had to add new pillars or beams, but it was never officially defined so the city was defining it which was a grey area. It was clear there were real concerns with various building types and codes and logistics, so initially they were pretty afraid. Once they saw all the benefits and the real numbers, is when the bargaining for the Building Ordinance really began.

What are your thoughts on the Task Force’s role of the Green Roof Ordinance evolving to the Green Building Ordinance?

BR: Essentially, I just did a copy + paste from Toronto’s policy. What works there doesn’t necessarily work here in Denver. Denver’s climate is harder for plants to grow, we need more arid plants, so design and implementation is really important. However it is great that buildings now have more options than just the green roofs. I think I would be worried that if they could only do green roofs, that we would see only basic tray systems and we would see them fail and now we have options to do this well. So, I think it is better in the end. Everyone came together to learn about the industry – green roofs, white roofs, climate concerns, so we could get everyone on the same page. They did a cost benefit analysis and really dove in deep into everything. If there was ever a question or concerns around various building types and logistics, we would always be able to address it by the next weeks meeting. Opponents were pretty afraid of the idea at first, but one they saw all of the benefits over time they realized it was not necessarily the end of the world.

Do you see a potential for this model (citizen led, grass-roots, progressive applications) being used for other sustainable initiatives (i.e. city-wide composting utilities, stormwater treatments, water conservation, etc.)

BR: I do, but it comes down to finding the messaging that you can receive signatures for. Even though the city might state it doesn’t have money for these types of systems, if the voters want it then they are forced to find a way. In the case of composting or new systems that potentially involve personal finances, it becomes a much more sensitive issue. Whereas greenroofs target growth and development which is something that indirectly affects citizens and does not affect individuals wallets.

Do you believe Denver could be a model for other cities to follow suit to implement various sustainable initiatives under the umbrella of one or two policies?

BR: Yeah definitely. At the latest Denver Sustainability Summit, the city acknowledged that this is going to be a model for other cities to follow, it has the potential to become Denver’s sustainability calling card. People are going to be asking about how they achieved this.

What advice would you have towards individuals who would also like to implement sustainable systems at a grass-roots level?

BR: Don’t take no for an answer! I got so much pushback and naysayers from trying to introduce this ordinance. I would reach out to all the necessary people and go through the proper channels, and I just got a lot of flat out no’s. Everyone was quick to discount the validity of green roofs in Denver, people didn’t want to hear me out. Many officials made excuses instead of really listening, so it just gave me more motivation to run the ballot initiative because clearly the citizens had the same sentiments. But now it is great, the opponents have all admitted after the fact, that now they are more open to talking about new ideas and listening to our citizens. I’m hoping this process has inspired others.


The People vs. Denver’s Growth – an Evolution of Green Roofs and Buildings

The People vs. Denver’s Growth – an Evolution of Green Roofs and Buildings

by Phoebe Loyd, MLA Graduate Student Candidate, University Colorado Denver

Green Roofs – Policy & Marketing | Independent Study Fall 2018


I had the opportunity to meet with the founder of the Green Roof Ordinance, Brandon Reithmeier. Political views aside, I asked him what one of his motivating factors was to get the Green Roof Ordinance on the ballot, and his main concern was acting locally on sustainability. He shared that “Green Roofs matched with Denver’s sustainability goals. During our process of getting Green Roofs on the ballot, there was a sustainability goals audit that showed that the city of Denver wasn’t advancing on tracking or measuring if they were meeting those goals. They didn’t have enough people and resources in the sustainability department. It was clear that not going to hit the goals, I wanted to find something that would help support that”.


His efforts, a grassroots citizen-led mandate that made it from knocking on doors to landing on the local elections ballot, took city officials and the building sector by complete surprise. When asked what was the most effective messaging to citizens to vote in favor of the Green Roof Ordinance, Reithmeier says that it was “Anti-development, people hate the builders here. They aren’t building any more parks, and they are taking our green spaces. Developers need to do their fair share for the city. If they are building it, they need to be doing more. To make it more livable, and not just concrete.”


When the ordinance passed, the city looked to Katrina Managan, the City of Denver’s Energy efficient building lead, to lead a process of implementing city-wide green roofs and revising the Green Roof Ordinance. Katrina’s experience in working with buildings of conveniently similar size tacked her as a prime leader for the cause to see if she could make some improvements. I had the opportunity to meet with Katrina as well, and ask her about her experience with implementing the ordinance.


“The citizens were excited about this opportunity,” however she said that convincing businesses to adopt the Green Roof mandate took a very different approach during its evolution into the Green Building Ordinance. Managan stated that “The challenge for the city were that the original ordinance conflicted with many of Denver’s building and state water codes. Green roofs are also really expensive – from the city’s perspective we were hearing a lot from stakeholders about the cost, and more importantly the cost was disproportionate for certain building types. Cost was particularly burdensome on retail with large flat roof surfaces, and 90% of the current buildings were not constructed necessarily to handle the weight.”


The Green Roof industry however, is a fairly new concept to many. Both parties agreed, that initial discussions of green roofs proved to be confusing to both the public and private sector. Since this technology and industry has risen in popularity within the last decade, many individuals are still unaware of the implications and benefits that green roofs can bring.

“A lot of people didn’t know what it was, some people actually thought we wanted to paint the roof green,” Reithmeier said, “When we mentioned solar, (which was also in the ordinance) it was more of a trigger for citizens to sign the petition to get it on the ballot. People just weren’t familiar with what green roofs were. Especially developers, they didn’t like it, they just knew that it was super expensive, so they were just afraid of costs”.


The cost of green roof operations is what caused most of the initial opposition from developers. However now, Managan says that “Developers see a path, especially new buildings in Denver now there is options to make their buildings very competitive in the market, folks are increasingly seeing property values go up and sustainable buildings in high demand. Sustainable, greener cities resonate with citizens. People want to live in buildings that are energy efficient.”


These concerns are what help launch the Task Force, a group of 21 stakeholders comprised of both opponents and promoters of the ordinance. Over the course of a year, and rewriting the Green Roof Ordinance into the Green Building Ordinance, the task force was able to honor the voters wishes while improving the deliverables to the building sector across the board. Managan shared that “the benefit of going through a process to really look at that is to see if we can do something that is better, that improves the benefits for the voters while making it a more workable policy for the regulated sector to make it equal policy across different buildings types and achieve everybodies goals.”


When asked about the the 2020 sustainable goals as Reithmeier also indicated were not being met, Managan said that “[The Green Roof Ordinance] doesn’t do nearly enough for our climate goals to go all the way – but it takes a really good step for a lot of these buildings. It is not going to be one policy that solves everything, but it certainly has accelerated things. Some ways this policy was awkward – because we had options from the beginning (green roofs vs. solar) it ends up pinning options up against each other.  It’s not how most cities do policy. We need more green spaces in Denver, we need to address climate change in Denver, I don’t know necessarily if those two should compete.”


The biggest challenge, Managan states, was enacting on the ballot without any initial input from stakeholders as well as having a small time frame to make the changes necessary. “We always involve citizens really heavily, it’s the way Denver does policy is through extensive stakeholder engagement and getting citizen input – because that is how good policy is made.”


While the entirety of this process had mixed feelings from both parties, the biggest surprise was that both sides of the task force came to a conclusion that they were both really excited about. Managan shared that “The task force goal was eager compliance for all buildings. We’ve accomplished this – it will slow down and add some steps to new developments, but we saw the real estate sector got comfortable with this as being really doable. Every building could find a pathway to eager compliance and it will help our city be more sustainable with more green spaces and solar and green buildings.”


While the ordinance has evolved from green roofs to green buildings, ultimately the entire process showcases how citizens, stakeholders, and governing bodies can work together in a true democratic fashion of implementing sustainable systems. Ideally, this model can provide a framework that other cities can adopt towards embracing greener, urban environments. Thank you to Katrina Managan and Brandon Reithmeier for their valued input and efforts in achieving these goals.


Full interviews available with Katrina Managan and Brandon Reithmeier.

More information about the Green Building Ordinance Update can be found here.


Green Building Ordinance Task Force: Interview with Katrina Managan


Interview Questions with Katrina Managan, January 23rd, 2018

Facilitated by Phoebe Loyd, MLA Graduate Student Candidate, University Colorado Denver

Green Roofs – Policy & Marketing | Independent Study Fall 2018

Describe your profession and your work for the city of Denver, as well as your involvement with the Green Roof Ordinance.

KM: I am the energy efficient buildings lead, which means I lead the city to solve climate change by improving the energy efficiency of buildings. Buildings are responsible for 57% of the cities greenhouse gas emissions, so I run a whole program that helps buildings over 25,000 sq. ft. to report their energy performance every year, (similar to a mile per gallon rating on a car). When the ordinance passed, the city took a look at who would have the expertise to lead a process to consider if we should make some revisions, and they said “hey you work with buildings over 25,000 sq. ft and the existing ones you work with in particular are a challenge in this new ordinance because they cant support the weight which was challenging, see if you can go make some improvements.”



How was the ordinance received? (In regards to citizens vs. local gov.) What were the hesitations or concerns with the implementation of the ordinance?

KM: Citizens were really excited, because it had really good ideals. The challenges that we faced were that it conflicted with our code in a whole number of ways, because it was code from Toronto, Canada. It conflicted with building code, our state water laws in requiring the retention of water, and it was also really expensive. From the cities perspective, that was something we were hearing a lot of from our stakeholders was the concern of the cost. More important than just the cost, was that the cost was disproportionate on certain building types just the way the ordinance was designed. The cost was particularly burdensome on retail and other large flat buildings, because they had the highest coverage requirements per square foot that would increase construction costs by 15%, which is a big bump and there was real concern that we might not see another new grocery store in Denver. We also had a lot of challenges with existing buildings, and we found that about 90% of existing buildings would not be able to support the weight (of green roofs). So while the voters were well intended, if 90% of the buildings cant do it, then they just have to do these costly structural engineering to show that they can’t do it – we are not achieving anything for the voters.



What were the (city/departments/people) gains or benefits from the ordinance?

KM: The benefit is that we had to start implementing the ordinance on January 1st, 2018. The benefit of going through the process to really look at it is to see if we can do something that is better, that improves the benefits for the voters while making it a more workable policy for the regulated sector. To make it an equal policy across different building types and to achieve everybodies goals.



Considering these installations come with a high cost- how do you feel the ordinance will contribute to Denver’s urban development? Will it help grow our economy and make our city more sustainable by providing more jobs and opportunities around the sustainability sector? Or will it create more bureaucratic processes and restrain commercial growth?

KM: The task force’s goal was eager compliance for all buildings, and I believe we have accomplished that. This will slow down and add some steps to new development or a roof replacement, but I think that we saw the real estate sector get comfortable with this as being really doable. That every building could find a pathway to eager compliance, and it is also going to make our city more sustainable with more solar energy efficiencies with green spaces and green roofs. Would the real estate sector wish that this would just go away? Sure. But the voters voted for it, and it’s not going away, so this is something they finally said this is workable for development.


How did the Green Roof Ordinance evolve to the Green Building Ordinance? What key players were involved in this process to accelerate the incorporation of other sustainable systems?

KM: The critical players were the main proponents who put the ordinance on the ballot, and then the lead opponents of that original ordinance. They were the two sides of the task force, and I tried to involve a lot of experts in the middle from each of the key real estate sectors to make sure we were not leaving anyone out. We had a retail expert, industrial expert, hotels, apartments, and offices – we had a good balance. There was representation from real estate experts, green roof proponents, an affordable housing provider, Xcel Energy, a solar expert, an energy efficiency expert – just folks who were technical with this type of industry that could help the task force wrestle with what we should be considering.



Do you feel that the real estate sector had the most representation on the task force?

KM: I feel that by necessity they had the most representation. Out of the 21 task force members, 7 were real estate seats (one from different sectors) because we really needed to understand what limitations hotels might have, versus what apartments might be putting on their roofs, or industrial or retail – they all needed a seat at table. I tried to have people on the task force wear multiple hats, so the retail sector was also someone who helps finance energy efficiency projects and is an expert for PACE financing. My industrial sector was the Vice President of Sustainability for Prologis, so they know how to deliver sustainable buildings in ways that actually work for their bottom line. They helped us guide the task force on ways on how to do that but also represent the whole industrial sector. We also had members of the task force representing offices Downtown, like the retro-commissioning engineer, but they also knew how to make buildings more sustainable. You can say real estate was heavier, but it depends which hat I tell you people were wearing at that time.



What was the internal consensus of incorporating more dynamic policies and applications with the Green Building Ordinance?

KM: I don’t think anyone knew where this process was going to go. We had all the key departments and representative advisors on the Task Force, like myself, Community Planning and Development, Public Works, and that helped the Task Force figure out what that path was. It took a couple different directions until the new ordinance landed where it has. The city is here to do what the citizens want us to do, so when you put all the right smart people together in a room on a Task Force, we were happy to assist citizen voters in helping them achieve what they wanted?



What has been the most effective means of messaging or communications with this type of initiative?

KM: It depends on who the audience is. If I am talking to a more general audience, their ears are perking up when we talk about this vision of a more sustainable, greener city that is solving climate change by adding green spaces. If I am talking to the real estate sector audience, what gets them engaged is hearing that the Green Building Ordinance is better than what the voters originally voted on with the Green Roof Ordinance. I think that there are quite a few folks in the real estate sector, and those who followed the task force, that were chiming in how this really could be good for their bottom line.



What do you think will be the contributing factors for the Green Building/Green Roof ordinances to garner acceptance from the development sector?

KM: Green spaces are great amenities, people want to live in buildings that are powered by renewable energy, and people want to rent space in those buildings for their businesses. Developers see this as an asset for the bottom line. Architects also get really excited, they now get a chance to do all the “cool” green stuff they have always wanted to do but never had the funding for. Developers see the path, especially concerning the new buildings in Denver. There are now options in this ordinance that now make buildings more competitive in the market.



What has been the biggest challenge in working with this citizen led policy?

KM: This was really challenging because it was just dropped on our ballot without any stakeholder or city input. It happened so fast –  it took effect two months after it passed. It really left the city and developers scrambling with such a short timeline. Change is hard – we should not be afraid of it, especially in terms of making a greener more climate-friendly city, but we have to do it in a way that is also sustainable. We have to do it in a way that works and not be completely disruptive as this was. Now that the new ordinance is in effect, we are starting to see a lot more permits coming through.



What has been the biggest surprise or achievement in creating the GBO?

KM: That everyone from the different sectors came together, and weren’t like “oh I can live with this…” but instead were really positive about how we could make the ordinance better. I didn’t think we would ever get to the point where both sides were actually excited. When all said and done, they all seemed to generally like each other too.



Do you see a potential for this model (citizen led, grass-roots, progressive applications) being used for other sustainable initiatives (i.e. city-wide composting utilities, stormwater treatments, water conservation, etc.)

KM: We always involve citizens really heavily, it is the way that Denver does policy is with extensive stakeholder engagement and getting citizen input – that is how good policy is made. When citizens just throwing something on the ballot, I am not sure if that is if city staff could really say this is a “model” on how to bring change.



Had there not been a citizen led mandate, what efforts is the city of Denver making to make sure we hit our 2020 sustainability goals?

KM: We have a lot that was in the works to reach those goals, this ordinance certainly helps us but it doesn’t do nearly enough, especially on our climate goals. It takes a really big step for a lot of these buildings. It is not going to be one policy that solves everything, but this certainly accelerated things. In some ways this policy was awkward, because it combined options from the beginning that was either green roof or solar and it actually ended up pinning the two sustainable options against each other. We have goals of having more green spaces in Denver, we need to solve climate change in Denver, and I don’t know that these two should need to compete in compliance with one policy.



What advice would you have towards professionals engaging with the Green Building Ordinance? How would you like to see this mandate reflect your efforts?

KM: I really hope this ordinance helps buildings take different compliance paths, and that’s what we are seeing so far – and we will see how that plays out over the next couple years so that we are achieving multiple goals (like greenspaces, green roofs, and solar, and energy efficiency for the city). I think it will be really interesting because they are all really important opportunities in moving forward for different sectors. In how professionals can really dive in, we will see more opportunities for the consultant, architecture, and the roofing fields. There are going to be a lot of industry that needs to learn what these options are, and help evaluate the lowest cost compliance options. My biggest advice would be to help folks understand the life-cycle costs of these measures of green roofs and energy efficiencies, and not be intimidated by the upfront costs. This ordinance might restrict development to have a high first-cost, but it has these great benefits for the tenants or occupants that will attract them to the building. I know this is really going to force individuals to evaluate these technologies in a way that they hadn’t before in terms of making a building or replacing a roof. I think that there is a really interesting opportunity to help effectively evaluate the different compliance options and find a path that works really well for their buildings and accomplishes these changes for what works for them financially. There are a lot of people who want their careers or their firms to be part of a bigger goal, and so I hope that we can help folks start to see we can all be a part of this together.

4th floor green roof installation_credit Areti Athanasopoulos

The Denver “Green Roof” Ordinance is Now “Green Building” Ordinance – What does it mean?

Updated Green Roof Ordinance is now the “Green Building” Ordinance – what does this mean for the future of Denver?


On November 7, 2017, the citizens of Denver, Colorado voted in favor of creating a Green Roof Ordinance for the city’s rapid development and in efforts to introduce sustainable initiatives and mitigate climate change threats. The ordinance was a true grass-roots effort, spearheaded by local Brandon Reithmeier and a small group of volunteers. Adopted from a policy model from Toronto, Canada, the ideology was to use Denver’s accelerating growth as a way to directly address concerns like Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect, stormwater management, and increase biodiversity within the urban corridor. (Denver Green Roof Initiative)


The ordinance required that any new commercial building over 25,000 sq. ft. would have to include at least 60% of the roof area to include a “green roof” – meaning designs allowing for vegetation to grow on these new edifices. The mandate also included that any roof retrofits or additions to these types of commercial buildings would fall under these regulations. (Denver Green Building Ordinance, City and County of Denver)


The designs, according to the accrediting non-profit Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, require materials such as a waterproof membrane, drainage and irrigation systems, growing media, and the living vegetation. (GRHC) Collectively, these materials and installations have shown to be costly, and also demand for high-load capacity of buildings due to their weights. These immediate concerns arose within the City Council after the mandate was passed, and consequently a Task Force teemed with local professionals, public officials, and concerned citizens were assembled to construct the appropriate wording of executing the construction of what the policy was suggesting. (Denver Green Building Ordinance, City and County of Denver)


After careful consideration from the Task Force and consulting with various industries like the local Denver government, real estate spokespeople, engineers, roofing companies, landscape architecture professionals, and horticulturists (to name a few), the Green Roof Ordinance evolved into the “Green Building Ordinance.” Taking into account that the majority of retrofits would not be structurally sound for these designs, as well as some of the immediate up-front costs that the ordinance required, proved difficult to focus solely on utilizing green roofs to combat the social and environmental concerns that Denver is facing. (Denver Green Building Ordinance, City and County of Denver)


On October 29th, 2018, almost one year later after the ordinance was voted in favor, the Green Building Ordinance was passed by City Council, which allowed for more construction and buildings to incorporate “green building” methods. The ordinance now includes options for off-site green spaces if the buildings don’t allow for green roofs, onsite solar, energy programs (for carbon offsets), and third-party green building certifications (such as the LEED programs). Regarding the cost and building limitations of these concepts, a combination of these options has also been allowed to encourage developers and business owners to accelerate the various ways in which to build sustainably. (Denver Green Building Ordinance, City and County of Denver)


So what does this mean for the future of Denver? There has been some pushback from developers in the obtaining of permits and execution of these designs, considering the concept of green roofs and their installation is still a new industry here in America and not as widely accepted or understood. However, with Denver’s rapid growth and development, the creation of this ordinance now opens the doors for new professionals to find work and boosting the local economy to include more variety of integrated design. The Green Roof for Healthy Cities non-profit has an accreditation for ‘Green Roof Professionals,’ meaning individuals within the professional construction, landscape, or architecture field can add a more knowledged and dynamic skill-set to the execution of these designs. It also helps address some of Denver’s 2020 Sustainability Goals, which Mayor Michael Hancock introduced in 2016 after the federal administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Hoping to lower carbon emissions, increase the air quality, and better management of land use – the Green Building Ordinance now compliments these targets. (Office of Sustainability, City and County of Denver)


The Green Roof Ordinance at its inception was unprecedented. While modeled after Toronto, it was the first of its kind in the United States of America to be voted on by the local citizens, and adapted to quickly into the political infrastructure. It showed that the people of Denver care about seeing their city become more sustainable and empowered individuals to feel that they were taking climate action. The Green Building Ordinance, on the other hand, highlights how elected officials, local professionals, and concerned citizens can work together in achieving progress of implementing environmental standards in an thriving, urban setting.




Denver Green Roofs – Website for the Original Ordinance to inform citizens on the details and specifications of the mandate that appeared on the 2017 ballot.


Denver Green Building Ordinance, City and County of Denver – Official city website regarding updated ordinance details and building codes. Permit information, ordinance outline, and Task Force memos can be sourced here.


Office of Sustainability, City and County of Denver – Official city website regarding Mayor Hancock’s 2030 Sustainability Targets.

Green Roof Healthy Cities – Website for the Non-Profit, which provides accreditation for Green Roof Professionals and sets the standard for Green Roofing practices in the United States.


CU On the Air


Denver’s rooftops are going green: What does it mean?

Green roof expert Leila Tolderlund, Assistant Professor (CTT) and Associate Chair of the landscape Architecture Department at CAP, UCD and CU on the Air host and University of Colorado V.P. of Communications Ken McConnellogue chats about the future of green roofs.

When: April 2nd 2018

cuontheair – University of Colorado Denver

About CUOnTheAir:

Through our four campuses, the University of Colorado plays a profound role in the lives of individuals, businesses and communities throughout Colorado, across the country and around the world. Nearly half a million alumni have led the way in business, science, the arts, health care and their communities, and they’re joined by 15,000 more each year. In Aurora, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Denver, all four of our campuses are all for Colorado.



On November 2017, fifty-four percent of Denver voters passed the green roof initiative (I-300), requiring rooftop gardens for new buildings with at least 25,000 square feet of gross floor area, and for roof replacement on existing buildings.

This podcast answers a lot of questions related to I-300,  Denver’s new Green Roof Ordinance: 

What exactly constitutes a green roof?

Some examples of green roofs in Denver.

What are some of the benefits overall?

How can Denver maintain a green roof in its arid climate?

What plants work best here?

Will this help people grow food in the cities?

What will it mean to have green roofs in Denver’s extreme freeze/thaw climate?

What is the urban heat island affect?

How can solar panels and green roofs work together?

How much space do they require?

How expensive are they and who will shoulder the expense?

Will there be any building incentives to offset cost?

What are some of the maintenance needs?

Thanks to: Cathy Beuten for all her help and coordination.

Podcast can be accessed at: http://cuontheair.blubrry.net/2018/04/02/denvers-rooftops-are-going-green-what-does-it-mean/

Image: (photo credit: by Leila Tolderlund)

Green roof expert Leila Tolderlund, Assistant Professor (CTT) and Associate Chair of the landscape Architecture Department at CAP, UCD and CU on the Air host and University of Colorado V.P. of Communications Ken McConnellogue.

Other relevant links:

Design Guidelines for Green Roofs in Semi-arid Climates (EPA):


Denver Green Roof Initiative: http://www.denvergreenroof.org/

City of Denver’s Green Roof Initiative: https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-development-services/commercial-projects/green-roof-initiative.html    

Solar Decathlon_Green Roof for 4th floor CAP_Credit LeilaTolderlund

Solar Decathlon 2018


Solar Decathlon 2018 and donated green roof for CAP 4th floor patio – temporary installation

Faculty and green roof expert Leila Tolderlund, Assistant Professor (CTT) and Associate Chair of Landscape Architecture provided green roof guidance to the Solar Decathlon 2018 winning team. The Swizz team took first place overall by designing, building, and operating the house that best blended smart energy production with innovation, market potential, and energy and water efficiency.

Here is a video about this project; 

Denver Solar Decathlon was sponsored by: https://www.solardecathlon.gov/2017/sponsors.html


October 2017


Solar Decathlon 2018: Denver, CO



Master of Landscape Architecture students and Leila Tolderlund, Assistant Professor (CTT) and Associate Chair of Landscape Architecture in front of the winning 2017 Swiss Team house at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Denver on October 16. They volunteered and helped disassemble and transport the green roof trays (350+) from the house destined for our CU Building fourth floor green roof, and helped set up the temporary installation.

Pictured (disassembly operation at Solar Decathlon with blue crane in the background), from left to right: Kathryn Landers, Troy Britt, Leah Bryant, Jana Raines, Jake Seymour, Nick Patin and Leila Tolderlund  (image credit: Leila Tolderlund)

Before and after image: (photo credit: Leila Tolderlund (before) and Areti Athanasopoulos (after)