The Embassy of France has taken the first steps toward installing a green roof on the largest of its three buildings in Georgetown, deputy press counselor Dana Purcarescu says.
The Embassy had the plugs for the 10,000-square-foot roof installed in December. In March, when the weather is warmer, the plant cuttings will be added. It will be at least a year before the plants have grown to their full sizes.
Ultimately, "we are expecting a 'prairie' look," Purcarescu says in an email.
The Embassy decided to install its green roof after contemplating a number of sustainability measures. A green roof turned out to be one of the most feasible.
Green roofs cool the interior of a building by using living, growing plants to absorb heat; the plants' roots also reduce stormwater runoff.
The project's expected impact is difficult to quantify, Purcarescu says, as the Embassy is undertaking a number of other energy-saving projects simultaneously, such as improving the four-decades-old building's insulation. Therefore, it won't be easy to identify which of the energy-saving measures contributed to exactly what -- however, Purcarescu said in a phone interview, at minimum the roof should lower interior temperatures by a few degrees Celsius, which in itself is enough to break even on the cost of the roof. (The Embassy spent $128,000 on installation, but a portion was covered by the Anacostia Watershed Society.)
The plants will also cut the maintenance needed on the roof in half. "Currently refurbishments take place every 20 years, and cost $240,000," Purcarescu says.
By Rachel Kaufman. This story originally appeared in Elevation DC on Jan. 17, 2013.