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Green roofing: more than a Philly trend

A green roof has the best of both worlds: the charm of a country meadow and a top-notch Philadelphia view.
A green roof has the best of both worlds: the charm of a country meadow and a top-notch Philadelphia view.

Unless your name is Godzilla, you (probably) can’t see the tops of the multi-story buildings when strolling the streets of Philadelphia. What’s nestled atop almost a hundred roofs of the Travel + Leisure-deemed 6th dirtiest city in America starts with “gr” and ends with “een.”

The Philadelphia Water Department has record of 94 green roofs currently existing in the city, totaling to about 19 acres – that’s a little over 14 football fields. As you may have guessed, green roofs are covered in vegetation – vegetation that soaks up stormwater, reducing the volume of runoff into our sewage system.

Within our sewage system, the average age of the wastewater lines is about 100 years old. Some working pipes date back to the early 1800s. Whether age is the culprit or not, reports of flooding and water main breaks make headlines during any given rainstorm.

Soaking water isn’t all they do. Green roofs provide buildings with insulation, and homes for some of PA’s finest birds and wildlife. And the extra oxygen the vegetation emits can only do this city good.

But a roof isn’t technically considered “green” by simply setting down a few potted plants. Green roofs look like a suburban backyard. After installing a waterproof lining, grass and plants are sown to do the extent of the eco-friendly magic.

Some of Philly’s well-known commercial and institutional buildings have green roofs, including WPVI-6 Station, Comcast Center – the tallest recorded green-roofed building in the country, Temple University Department of Architecture, and the PECO building – with the largest green roof in the city (39,505 square feet).

The Philadelphia Water Department reports an additional 48 green roofs under construction to date, while 17 more are in the design phase.

For more information on green roofing (tax credit, FAQs, etc.), check out

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