UWindsor Daily News The living wall at the University of Windsor. Architect Kevin Stelzer calls it an "organic air filter."

Spring is here, and the grass is growing. But in some parts of Windsor it’s not just sprouting from the ground, but the roofs and walls as well.

According to the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Association, green roof installations are up 24 per cent across North America. While less prevalent in Windsor than other parts of Canada, the trend is still taking root in the Rose City.

“People are starting to see the benefits. The market is responding to this technology and saying they want it more, and I think it makes for better buildings,” said Kevin Stelzer, the architect behind the living wall and green roof at the University of Windsor’s engineering building.

In addition to energy savings and cleaner air, Stelzer says green building initiatives offer benefits that are harder to quantify.

“The more social and comfortable you can make a building, the more productive the people inside become,” he said. “In the case of the university, that building will produce more good ideas… They’re also going to get more publicity, which can lead to more enrollment, and there’s a research benefit as well. It’s very layered.

“And birds love them,” he added.

Since 2005, there’s also been a green roof at St. Christopher Catholic School on E.C. Row Avenue.

“To this day, eight years later, it’s a constant reminder of how we have to respect our environment,” said principal Joe Iacono.

The roof saves an estimated $25,000 a year in energy costs, Iacono said, earning St. Christopher the title of most energy efficient elementary school in Ontario.

The roofs at UWindsor and St. Christopher may soon have company, as a green roof is being planned for the new Penalty Box restaurant and urban farm on University Avenue.

“It’s about making the best use of the space,” said David Fields, an organic gardener and one of the project’s managers. “Having a green roof could really make a difference in terms of utility costs and allow us to increase our growing capacity.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S., costs for installing a green roof range between $10 and $25 per square foot. Annual maintenance costs are between $0.75 and $1.50 per square foot. Although such costs are higher than regular roofs, everyone Metro spoke with felt the expense was worth it.

“The premium isn’t really that much,” said Stelzer.

In a study conducted at the University of Michigan, a 21,000-square foot (1950 sq. m.) green roof cost $130,000 more to install, but saved approximately $200,000 over its lifetime. Two-thirds of the savings were energy-related.

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