This is the first in a series of articles on everything you need to know about implementing a green roof or other green building elements into your building project. Before you can even start designing your green building, there are a lot of considerations to be made first. We call this the Pre-Design Phase, and it is probably the most important step in the process.

Determine the Goals of the Project

What are the main goals you would like your project to achieve? For example, is it food production, energy conservation, or simply complying with local ordinances at the lowest cost? You may even have more than one goal in mind if you are attempting to reach a certain level of certification, such as LEED. Regardless of what they may be, establishing your goals first will help you stay focused on achieving the optimal design for the roof.

Rethink the Design Hierarchy

Integrative and environmental design projects often require a more holistic and integrated team hierarchy than traditional building projects where the architect oversees the various people involved. Instead they often need a more multidisciplinary approach in order to achieve their goals (such as conserve energy, manage water quality, support biodiversity, promote healthy environments for people, etc.). With all the stakeholders involved in the design process, you can gain valuable insights that allow the project to move smoothly and succeed.

Determine the Scope and Scale of the Project

Once you’ve set your goals, you’ll need to understand your site’s constraints and opportunities to establish a baseline for success. If you decide on green roofs, they should at the very least ensure leak-free waterproofing, health plants, and assume structural integrity. Beyond that, a structural engineer can help you do things such as a preliminary code analysis, structural feasibility investigation, and basic concept designs.

Setting a budget is also important in determining the scale and scope of the project. Green roofs can cost anywhere from $10-25/sq ft to install, but the payback on the average green roof project is around 6 years if well designed and maintained. Solar and LEED certification also have higher upfront costs, but provide energy savings and increased valuation. Luckily there are many financing options available that allow green project to be added to new and existing buildings with little to no upfront cost.

Consider Performance Specifications

Using an expert to advise on performance specifications for the project can help contractors choose materials and meet various project certification requirements. They also aid in meeting local ordinances and the end users needs and expectations.

Determine Your Maintenance Needs

It may seem like putting the cart before the horse, but at best a green roof, solar or green certification projects should come with at least a 5-year maintenance plan. Considering the level of maintenance needed, this is best done at the beginning moving into the design phase.

There are many things to consider before even going to the drawing board, but there are many benefits to installing a green roof, solar or green certifications. You take advantage of these benefits without worrying about all the moving pieces throughout the project timeline with Sow Green. Contact Sow Green today and let us help you with your green building project.