Green Roof Bylaw leads to channel opportunity

Toronto – Now that the City of Toronto has passed a Green Roof Bylaw, new building developments of certain sizes will be required to build green roofs in the coming months.

ESRI Canada Ltd. has taken a voluntary stance in support of this bylaw yesterday unveiling a new 704-square metre green roof atop of its head office building in Toronto.

The company, which specializes in geographic information systems (GIS) software solutions and services, first began its green roof initiative two years ago. The green roof was completed in about 15 days because the plants, which are now housed there, were all pre-grown in a greenhouse.

Alex Miller, president of ESRI Canada, said he saw an opportunity to build a green roof at the 12 Concorde Place location owned by Crown Realty Partners, where ESRI Canada is a tenant along with Fujitsu Canada, for a number of reasons.

“I saw the opportunity to build a green roof not only for energy conservation, but also to provide an increased habitat for birds, other insects and wildlife,” he said.

Where ESRI Canada’s more than 130 business partners, which include OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), resellers and developers come into play, is around helping customers save money and create efficiencies by implementing green roofs and other environmental practices, Miller said.

Chris North, director of technology strategy at ESRI Canada, said GIS technology helps make sense of information that’s commonly used on spreadsheets and databases by putting them on a map. This information is then used to help users better understand, analyze, and visualize data that otherwise may not have been evident on a paper map. Because GIS helps businesses make sense of things such as roads, buildings and cities, the technology is applicable to many industries.

“Our users primarily use our software to help make their company more efficient and environmentally friendly,” Miller said.

North also said GIS technology can be used to help businesses determine if buildings meet the metrics of being considered a green roof candidate. When the City of Toronto Green Roof Bylaw comes into effect, North says partners will see an abundance of GIS opportunities with their customers.

The company is looking to increase its partner base in areas where GIS technology isn’t as widely used, such as in the business and healthcare market segments, Miller explained.

“We’re also looking for business partners in the business intelligence area, retail, banking, insurance, mobility, public safety, which includes fire, police, and ambulance, and more,” he said. “I’d like to sign up another 10-12 partners within the next year to help balance out the partners we do business with because some drop off with time.”

On the developer front, Miller said his number one goal right now is to encourage developers to build business applications that will help ESRI Canada extend into new application areas in existing and new markets.

Another goal is to get business partners more connected to the company’s sales force so that the channel can better leverage ESRI Canada’s sales force, he added.

“GIS is a mature technology that’s spreading fast into the enterprise market and is important to markets like utilities, government, banks, etc.,” he said. “GIS is reaching the same level of importance like ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions are, so this is a huge opportunity for the channel.”

Miller referred to a new city bylaw that will apply to all new building permit applications made after January 31, 2010 and the same date in 2011, for all new industrial development.

On the City of Toronto Web site, the Green Roof Bylaw states the new bylaw will apply to all new development, which includes residential, commercial and institutional buildings, with more than 2,000-square metres of gross floor area. These buildings will be required to have “a graduated coverage … ranging from 20 to 60 per cent.”

To help promote the early adoption of building green roofs, the city has launched its Toronto Eco-Roof Incentive Program for all commercial, industrial and institutional buildings located in Toronto. Under this initiative, businesses can apply to receive a grant to help fund a green roof project with $50 per square metre, or up to a maximum of $100,000.

The city, which opened up its first phase of the application process for this incentive program in July, has now seen its deadline pass. The next application phase will begin on February 1, 2010 and the deadline is set for April 2, 2010.

ESRI Canada was one of the businesses that applied for and received a grant from the city.

Miller said ESRI Canada’s green roof garden project, which is home to 52 types of plants, cost about $235,000 in total. They were able to use a grant from the city worth about $35,000 to help fund the project.

In addition to providing another habitat for insects and other wildlife, Miller said a green roof also has obvious environmental benefits, such as helping to mitigate the urban heat effect. A green roof also helps to reduce heating and cooling costs because the plant layers provide insulation to the building beneath it, while still being able to cool and filter the nearby air. Miller said the green roof also saves the city money in storm water management costs, since the roof’s soil, or “growing medium,” helps to collect extra water.

The City of Toronto Web site defines a green roof as “a roof surface that supports the growth of vegetation over a substantial portion of its area for the purpose of water conservation or energy conservation. It is comprised of a waterproofing membrane, drainage layer, organic growing medium (soil) and vegetation.”

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Maxine Cheung
Maxine Cheung
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