This law means that new buildings in France’s commercial areas, such as shops, offices, and restaurants, must now have either solar panels or green roofs. A green roof provides a growing medium such as soil and a covering of vegetation. The most cost-effective way to install a green roof is during a building’s construction, rather than adding it on later.
The new rooftop vegetation will provide habitat for birds, absorb airborne pollutants, reduce sewer overflow by retaining rainwater and reduce the urban heat island effect whereby high concentrations of concrete buildings and asphalt increase air temperature. Green roofs could even improve worker productivity, with a recent study by the University of Melbourne finding that participants who took a 40-second break to look at a green roof were more focused and accurate when they got back to work compared to those who viewed a concrete roof.
Similar green-roof bylaws exist in various cities around the world, including Tokyo, Toronto, Copenhagen, and Zurich. In Toronto, the first city in North America to enact such a law, all commercial and large residential buildings built since 2009 have been required to have at least 20% green-roof coverage. In Copenhagen and Zurich all new flat roofs, both private and public, must be vegetated, and since 2001 all new buildings in Tokyo larger than about 11,000 square feet are required to have at least 20% usable green-roof space.
However, France is the first to introduce such legislation country-wide, which allows solar panels to count as green roofs. This may help France catch up with its European neighbours in terms of installed solar capacity. Currently, all of France’s solar panels can add a maximum of 5 gigawatts of power to the national grid at any one time, compared to 20 GW in Italy and almost 40 GW in Germany.
Any golf club considering building a new clubhouse or maintenance facility should investigate the option of a green roof and/or solar panels. The new R&A equipment testing centre, being built at Kingsbarns Golf Links near St Andrews, will have an extensive sedum roof. The St Andrews Links Trust’s office and warehouse facility, The Morris Building which was opened in 2013, has a sedum roof which is comprised of organic materials from indigenous herbs and bushes, aided by rainwater harvesting techniques.