Green Roof

Real estate owners are replacing concrete, shingle, and tar roofs with lush, green vegetation. Green roofs are becoming more common in the push toward energy conservation. Organic infrastructure is a valuable resource in mitigating against climate change, and it does more than help the environment—it comes with tax savings.

There are two basic types of green roofs. According to, “[a]n extensive green roof system uses low-lying plants, creates a light roof load and requires less maintenance than its high-profile counterpart, the intensive green roof, which can include trees, shrubs and heavier architectural features. Both types are most easily installed on flat roofs.” Generally, there are no special structural requirements for green roofs, and property owners realize long-term benefits from the longevity of the roof and energy cost savings.

Several municipalities and the District of Columbia have all gotten on board with providing tax incentives to support green roof projects. explains that green roofs are especially important in large cities because they “reduce the amount of storm water runoff … resulting in decreased stress on sewer systems at peak flow periods” The website also explains that green roofs can reduce dust and smog.

Tax and Fee Incentives

In 2007, Philadelphia began offering a tax credit against the business privilege tax of 25 percent of all the costs incurred to construct green roofs, with a maximum credit amount of $100,000. Philadelphia Bill No 160004 recently amended the green roof coverage requirements. Previously, roof top green space had to cover at least 50 percent of the building’s rooftop or 75 percent of eligible rooftop space, a green roof must now cover 60 percent of the rooftop. 

New York offers a green roof property tax credit up to $100,000. The program was created by 2008 Senate Bill A11226, and provides a one-year tax abatement, or tax relief of $4.50 per square foot (up to $100,000 or the building's tax liability, whichever is less). Amended by Senate Bill S4802 in 2013, the tax abatement is now available through March 15, 2018.  

Washington D.C.’s District Department of the Environment 2015-2016 green roof rebate program provides base funding of $10 per square foot, and up to $15 per square foot in targeted areas, with no cap on the size of projects eligible for the rebate. The rebate extends to residential, commercial, and institutional properties. According to the Department of Energy and Environment website, Washington D.C. has 2.3 million square feet of green roofs within just 69 square miles, and has plans to add more than 1 million more green roofs over the next 10 years. 

A 2008 Bloomberg View article notes that, “Property owners who build green roofs, rain gardens and the like are given credits they can sell to others who need to offset the runoff from their developments…. If the effort works as it's supposed to, additional community benefits will follow, from improved health to increased property values.” The environmental advantages flowing from green roofs also include better air quality, noise and sound insulation, and a decreased need for waste disposal. The grass is greener for green roof properties—where grass actually grows.

Continue the discussion on LinkedIn: Do you know your state’s green roof tax incentives?

For more information about state tax issues, sign up for a  free trial on Bloomberg BNA’s Premier State Tax Library.

By Cynthia N. Wells