Earth Institute Research Projects

Quantifying the fundamental behavior of green roofs in an urban environment

Lead PI: Professor Patricia J. Culligan , Dr. Wade McGillis , Stuart Gaffin

Unit Affiliation: Columbia Engineering

July 2009 - June 2013
North America ; United States
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Numerous groups in the U.S. have initiated research programs to investigate green roof behaviors. These groups are using instrumented model roofs, green roof platforms and larger-scale green roofs on buildings in rural and peri-urban environments to further understanding of green roof performance under a variety of different conditions. The unique contribution of this project to this body of ongoing effort is the quantification of extensive green roof behavior in a dense urban environment, where the complexities of local eco- and climatic conditions, coupled with building density, are likely to significantly impact green roof performance. Over the course of three years, the project will develop a monitored Urban Green Roof Network to quantify: (i) the impact of different plant species and growing medium thickness on green roof behavior, (ii) the contribution of evapotranspiration to stormwater retention and reduction of urban heat island effects, (iii) the quality of green roof water run-off, and (iv) the ability of green roofs to trap air-borne particulates and take up other contaminants such as CO2.


National Science Foundation (NSF)





Gaffin, SR; Khanbilvardi, R; Rosenzweig, C. "Development of a Green Roof Environmental Monitoring and Meteorological Network in New York City," SENSORS, v.9, 2009, p. 2647. View record at Web of Science doi:10.3390/s9040264

Susca, T; Gaffin, SR; Dell'Osso. "Positive Effects of Vegetation: Urban Heat Island and Green Roofs," Environmental Pollution, v.159, 2011, p. 2119. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2011.03.007

S.R. Gaffin, M. Imhoff, C. Rosenzweig, R. Khanbilvardi, A. Pasqualini, A.Y.Y. Kong, D. Grillo, A. Freed, D. Hillel, and E. Hartung. "Bright is the new black รข?? multi-year performance of high-albedo roofs in an urban climate," Environ. Res. Lett, v.7, 2012, p. 014029. doi: doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/1/014029

TB Carson, DE Marasco, PJ Culligan, WR McGillis. "Hydrological performance of extensive green roofs in New York City: observations and multi-year modeling of three full-scale systems," Environmental Research Letters, v.8, 2013, p. 024036. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024036

DiGiovanni, K., F. Montalto, S. Gaffin, and C. Rosenzweig. "The applicability of classical predictive equations for the estimation of evapotranspiration from urban green spaces: Green roof results," J. Hydrol. Eng., v.18, 2013, p. 99. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)HE.1943-5584.0000572


climate change water urban areas stormwater infrastructure low impact development (lid) green infrastructure


Sustainable living