By:  David A. Firmin, Esq.

On November 17, 2017 the voters of the City and County of Denver, by an 8.5% margin, approved Initiative 300.  Initiative 300, or the Denver Green Roof Initiative, requires all buildings in Denver that are over 25,000 square feet use a “green roof” at the time of construction or when full roof replacement occurs.  A “green roof” is defined as:

An extension of an above grade roof, built on top of a human made structure that allows vegetation to grow in a growing medium and which is designed, constructed and maintained in accordance with the Denver Green Roof Construction Standard.

While this Initiative may seem overbearing, there are exemptions to the requirement.  Specifically, the Initiative does not apply to residential buildings (or building additions thereto) with a height that is equal or lesser than four stories or 50 feet.

“Height” does not take into consideration the height of electrical, utility, mechanical, or ventilation equipment, or other portions of the property such as elevator shafts, chimneys, vents, antennas, and flag poles.  Therefore, associations should determine whether or not such an exemption applies prior to moving forward under the Initiative.

While seemingly straight forward, the Initiative has created concerns for Denver associations. Specifically, complying with the Initiative is a considerable expense for communities as roof replacement costs are much higher when replacing with green roofs.   Additionally, many Denver associations are now in the process of replacing their roofs as a result of the May, 2017 hail storm, and are wondering how to pay for the substantial increase in roof replacement costs created by the Initiative.

The full impact of the ordinance has not yet been determined in relation to existing structures.  To obtain more clarity prior to finalizing implementation of the Initiative, the City formed the Green Roof Task Force.  The Task Force is conducting meetings of the stake holders to work out details of the ordinance and a strategy for implementation.

The stakeholders are trying to find a working balance between the intent and goal of the Initiative, i.e. reducing the “heat island effect” of cities, while also addressing water issues and the financial practicalities of retrofitting buildings.  One proposal currently being discussed is a modification of the ordinance to allow a combination of green roofs and energy efficiency, or LEED, certifications over the next ten years.

It has been reported the Initiative passed because of a very low voter turnout.  Furthermore, nowhere on the proponent’s website or in the Task Force’s meeting minutes are associations mentioned.  It seems that associations may have been overlooked stakeholders in this process.

Because the City is not yet sure how to implement the Initiative, the roof permitting process, a task that historically has been a rather straight-forward administrative process, has now become a lengthy, expensive, and complicated matter.   For this reason, we encourage Denver associations to keep track and attend the Task Force meetings if possible.   The schedule of the Task Force meetings can be found on the City’s Web Site.

For questions concerning Denver Green Roof Initiative, please contact a Altitude Community Law attorney at 303.432.9999.