We Are All Hobbits Now: U.S Navy Greens Up with Turf Covered Roof

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U.S. Navy is installing an energy efficient green roof at Naval Station NorfolkThe Army has a green roof and the Air Force has a green roof, so it was only a matter of time before the Navy got its green roof, too.  Construction on a new energy efficient green roof at Naval Station Norfolk just got under way earlier this month.  In addition to the value of a plant-covered roof for saving money through energy conservation, the Navy’s press release describes a downright Hobbit-like extra benefit, “the formation of a living environment that provides habitats for birds and other small animals…[and] an attractive alternative to traditional roofs.”


Shades of the Shire! The habitat angle is not an isolated one for the U.S. Military.  Wildlife conservation at military bases across the U.S. has become a point of focus for the Department of Defense as part of an increased concentration on environmental stewardship overall.  Though Naval Station Norfolk is far from being a pristine rural area, its new green roof can help demonstrate the value and viability of green roof micro-habitats in high density industrialized civilian areas as well as military installations.

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A green roof is simply a layer of soil and vegetation that covers part or all of the waterproof membrane of a conventional roof.  Green roofs can range from lightweight, ultra low maintenance coverings of hardy grass and succulents to elaborate gardens and landscaping. The economic value of green roofs has been well documented and they are becoming commonplace in Europe.  As insulators, they save on heating and cooling costs.  They trap stormwater, which helps the property owner reduce utility costs and can help reduce local flooding.  They also protect the surface of the underlying roof membrane, which saves money on periodic roof repair and replacement.  As for the environmental and public health benefits, green roofs enhance community health by reducing the summertime “heat island” effect caused by bare roofs, and they reduce smog by trapping pollutants including carbon dioxide.

Green Roofs in the U.S.A.

Despite all of these advantages, green roofs have been slow to catch on in the U.S. compared to Europe.  Perhaps their wider adoption by the armed forces will encourage more builders and planners in the civilian sector to view green roofs as a sensible, economic alternative to traditional construction.  Capt. Kelly M. Johnson, Commanding Officer of Naval Station Norfolk, noted that a green roof makes a building “more self-sustaining” and less reliant on the energy grid, “benfitting not only Naval Station but the entire Navy.”  That same advantage would apply equally to office buildings and any other civilian structure, as illustrated by the gigantic new Department of Defense office complex in Virginia, which is aiming to achieve LEED Gold certification for environmental design in part with a green roof perched squarely atop the new Visitor Center.

Image: U.S. Navy by mashleymorgan on flickr.com.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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