Denver developer found an unseen upside of green roofs during last year's hailstorm

Green roof suffered little to no damage

DENVER -- One year ago, the most damaging hailstorm in Colorado history wreaked havoc on cars and roofs and caused $2.3 billion dollars in insurance costs, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

Denver developer Kyle Zeppelin had hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to his membrane roofs at his latest office development in The Flight, in the River North District.

"All of the membrane roofing was required to be replaced as a part of the hailstorm," he said.

While his regular roof had to be thrown out, Zeppelin said he found his luscious green roof – on the same building – was hail-proof.

"The green roof here was left completely intact after the most-recent hailstorm," he said.

It's an unseen upside, Zeppelin said, that more than outweighs the upfront costs.

"This is not likely to be the last hailstorm, so there's that advantage and the green roof provides a significant installation value over just the membrane," Zeppelin explained.  

Voters passed Denver's green roof initiative last November, and city leaders are in the process of overhauling the requirement to give builders more alternatives to having to install them.

"It would cost about $137,000 more for a building of 25,000 square feet to comply," said Denver city councilwoman Mary Beth Susman.

Those costs are why she said the city is working to change the rules to find a way to make it more cost-effective to implement.

For Zeppelin, he said his green roof is already paying for itself and hopes his story will push more developers to do their part to reduce Denver's growing ozone levels.

"It's a win-win as far as [it] makes sense economically, makes sense for the environment, and really enhances the livability of the building," he said.

What's next?

The future of Denver's green roofs is up to city council, which has the power to alter a voter-approved ordinance six months after it takes effect. And Susman said the council plans to do so.

"We are trying to find a way where we can help reduce that cost," she said.

The city council is holding two public sessions over the next few weeks to get community input on the proposed changes, and hopes to vote on a final version in July or August.

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