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Urban Ecosyst (2008) 11:399408 DOI 10.


Roofenvelope ratio impact on green roof energy performance

Ryan Martens & Brad Bass & Susana Saiz Alcazar

Published online: 15 April 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Abstract This paper addresses the impact of roof-to-envelope ratio on overall energy savings of a green roof design over conventional roof designs. Simulations were performed using a modified version of the Environmental System Performance program simulator, developed at the University of Strathclyde. The modified design employed a model developed by Columbia University and the Goddard Institute of Space Science which models the evapotranspiritive effect of a green roof calculated using the Bowen ratio; that is, the ratio of sensible heat flux to the surrounding air to the latent heat flux resulting from evapourative energy losses. The resulting heat flux term is proportional to the external surface convection, but inversely proportional to the surface Bowen ratio, which is held constant and chosen to match experimental results obtained for a given roof design. The present study performed simulations for the month of July in a Toronto climate on square warehouse style one, two, and three-story buildings, with windows occupying 10% of the area of each wall. For the first set of simulations, the internal building load of each story was set to zero, and the roofenvelope ratio was increased by increasing the building width and length. For the final simulations, several roofenvelope ratios were chosen, and the internal load of each story was increased from 0 to 50,000 W. As the roofenvelope ratio increases, the cooling load of the upper floor for multi-story designs approaches the entire building cooling load. This indicates the importance of upper zone cooling in total building energy reductions. Furthermore, the total energy savings of a green-roofed building over a conventional roofed building were far more significant for single-story structures. A 250250 m green-roof design with 50,000 W internal loading was found to have percentage energy savings of 73%, 29%, and 18%, for a one, two, and three-story design, respectively. Keywords Green roof . Building energy simulation . ESP-r . Building envelope . Latent flux
R. Martens (*) : B. Bass : S. S. Alcazar Adaptation and Impacts Research Division, Environment Canada, 33 Willcocks Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3E8, Canada e-mail: B. Bass e-mail: S. S. Alcazar e-mail:


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Introduction Historically green roofs have been used as a medium for providing insulation and protection in cold climates, mainly in northern parts of Europe, while in hot dry climates they have been used to cool the indoor air and increase its moisture content through evaporative processes. Nowadays, green roofs are being implemented not only due to their thermal insulation properties, but also because they are considered as a way of recovering the benefits provided by the lost green space of cities. Various studies which have analyzed the effects of green roofs have focused on a number of key benefits, including reduction in energy consumption, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, reduction in heat island effect, improvement in air quality, reduction of urban noise, storm water management, and various social and recreational opportunities. Green roofs reduce the heat transfer through the roof, thus reducing the heating and cooling energy consumption in the building. The heat transfer processes in a common flat roof, that is, convection, conduction and radiation, are affected by the green roof not only through a change in the thermal characteristics of the materials and surface properties, but also through the evapotranspiration and the plant metabolic processes occurring within the plant system. It is therefore necessary to analyze the thermal performance of both the soil and vegetation layers added to a conventional roof design. Niachou et al. (2001) conducted a measurement of surface and air temperatures on green roofs to examine their thermal properties and potential energy savings. The authors analyzed the effect of green roofs with different levels of insulation, reporting reductions in energy consumption ranging from 40% for the non-insulated roof to 2% for the well insulated roof (considering roof conductance values of 0.4 W/m2C). This work employed the green roof mathematical model developed by Palomo del Barrio (1997) to evaluate if a green roof could provide a cooling effect to the buildings. The conclusion of this study was that green roofs increase the insulating value of the roof, but do not provide any additional cooling effect on the building. In another study, several experiments were conducted comparing insulated and non insulated green roofs (Eumorfopoulou and Aravantinos 1998). It was concluded that green roofs must be used as a complementary system to the common insulated roof, and cannot substitute the insulation layer to achieve thermal comfort inside the buildings. The study identified the shading effect of the green roof as the main factor in the improvement of the thermal performance. Wong et al. (2002) analyzed the effect of different types of green roofs on the energy consumption of a five storey commercial building in Singapore. They compared different types of vegetation layers (e.g., shrubs, trees and turfing) and various soil thickness. They reported total energy savings of 15% in relation to the energy consumption of the building with a common flat roof when a green roof composed by shrubs and 300 mm of clay soil with 40% moisture content was installed in a building with a roof to wall surface ratio of 0.2. Although green roof technology has been under development for some time, a reliable and general-purpose model does not yet exist for performing energy-based simulations of a generic green roof. Such a model would allow simulations to be performed on a variety of design alternatives, allowing intelligent design decisions to be made without the high cost of obtaining experimental data on a given design alternative. In many fields of study, computer modeling and simulation has proven to be a low-cost means of obtaining a wealth of information quickly and efficiently. What would previously require considerable effort and cost in construction, instrumentation, and time for monitoring data, can now be performed and analysed in minutes on a typical computer of today. In order to perform this work, however, a numerical model must be developed and fully validated under a variety of circumstances.

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Although this study does not develop a general-purpose model of a green roof for use with energy-based building simulation, it does demonstrate the ease in which a great deal of data may be obtained efficiently and easily using a building energy simulation tool, Environmental System Performance program (ESP-r; Energy Systems Research Unit (ESRU)). In this study, a rooftop energy balance model for a green roof is integrated into an existing full buildingenergy simulation tool in order to determine the performance of a simple green roof model. In a study conducted by Gaffin et al. (2005, 2006), based on experimental results obtained from test buildings at Pennsylvania State University (DeNardo 2003), a rooftop energy balance model was used to model the thermal characteristics of a green roof. The evaporative heat loss from a green roof, or latent heat, was modeled as proportional to the convective heat transfer from the rooftop surface to the surrounding air. This factor of proportionality, the Bowen ratio, is the ratio of the sensible heat flux to the latent heat flux. Thus the latent heat flux from a green roof, may be expressed as: Qlatent Qconvection b

where is the Bowen ratio. For a control roof, this term is assumed to be zero. Unlike the previous study, however, no equilibrium conditions have been assumed, resulting from the ability of ESP-r to simulate transient heat transfer. Furthermore, the entire test-building was modeled in ESP-r, rather than just the roof. The base-case model was then extended to model a larger warehouse-style building in a Toronto climate. Various sized buildings were simulated, with varying internal loading, in order to determine various trends in the overall green roof energy savings over a conventional roof design. It is important to note that not all components of a green roof, such as heat storage and insulation from the soil medium, were accurately modeled, as the green roof improvements were captured simply by adding the latent heat flux term containing the pre-determined Bowen ratio value. Implementation in ESP-r ESP-r is a general-purpose, transient building simulation tool developed at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, which accurately models the heat, air, moisture, and electrical power flows of a building under the control of a plant system (ESRU). This multidomain problem is solved at user-configurable time-steps. ESP-r is an open-source project, which allows the implementation of new features, as well as a full understanding of the theory and assumptions made in the simulation. Further information on the theoretical formulation of ESP-r is documented by Clarke (Clarke 2001). In order to perform the present study, the simple one-dimensional model employed in (Gaffin et al. 2005, 2006) was integrated in ESP-r. A full validation was performed using data obtained from (Gaffin et al. 2005, 2006), as well as experimental data used in (DeNardo 2003). Several complications arose in this comparison, namely due to inconsistent climate data. A larger set of climate data was required for the full building model used by ESP-r, as compared to the one-dimensional model of the roof. Not all of the required data was logged at the Pennsylvania State test site. As a result, it was necessary to obtain some of the required solar radiation data from logging performed at a nearby site. This inconsistency, as well as the inability to obtain full thermal properties of all portions of the building modeled, proved problematic, and many assumptions were made in the comparison. The building modeled in this study maintains only the same roof properties as


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those used in the Pennsylvania State test building, which were in fact known. The wall properties were changed to account for requirements of the new building design, discussed later. Furthermore, the climate data used was that for the city of Toronto (43 N, 79 W). This climate is similar to the Pennsylvania State (40 N, 77 W) climate, and all quantities in this data set are in fact consistent, eliminating the problems previously discussed. The climate for Toronto and Pennsylvania State are shown in Tables 1 and 2, respectively (Weatherbase 2007). The convection model employed was the same as used in (Gaffin et al. 2005, 2006), based on a model by Terjung and ORourke (Terjung and ORourke 1980b), but modified at low wind speeds to prevent the convection term from vanishing. Qconvection g 1 u0:8 Tsurf Tair ; u > 1:75 Qconvection + 2 Tsurf Tair ; u e 1:75 In the above, g 1 and g 2 were set to 6.5 and 10.3, respectively, as obtained for the control roof using statistical analysis (Gaffin et al. 2005, 2006). Convective heat-transfer from the green roof was assumed to be similar to that of the control roof. Any changes in heattransfer for the green roof will be caused by the latent transfer, which as previously discussed, is proportional to the convective transfer. The zone air temperature was assumed well-mixed and held constant at 22C through the use of an ideal air-conditioning and heating model. A control time-step of 2 min was chosen to ensure that the zone air temperature remained constant at all times. As the simulations were performed during the month of July, the focus of analysis was on total cooling loads. It should be noted that on some nights, a small amount of heating was required to maintain this fixed internal air temperature. The effect of heating on building energy consumption was ignored in this study.

Model of a simple warehouse A simple warehouse building was modeled using ESP-r. As previously noted, the roof properties of the green roof used were identical to that of the Pennsylvania test site to maintain compatibility with the parameters used in the model. All other properties were
Table 1 Average climate for Toronto, ON Quantity Average temperature Average high temperature Average low temperature Average precipitation Average relative humidity (morning) Average relative humidity (evening) Units Annual Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec C C C Cm % % 7 12 2 76 83 64 6 2 9 4 83 76 5 1 9 4 83 73 3 4 5 82 68 6 11 1 6 78 58 12 18 7 6 76 55 17 22 12 6 78 54 21 26 15 7 79 54 20 25 14 8 86 57 15 20 10 7 89 61 8 13 3 6 87 65 6 86 74 3 6 2 6 6 84 78

All simulations in this study were performed using climate data from Toronto. A summary of the Toronto climate is provided for comparison with State College, PA, USA

Urban Ecosyst (2008) 11:399408 Table 2 Average climate for State College, PA, USA Quantity Average temperature Average high temperature Average low temperature Average precipitation Average relative humidity


Units Annual Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec C C C cm % 9 15 4 98 74 2 1 6 7 77 2 2 6 6 73 2 7 2 8 72 8 14 3 8 68 14 21 8 10 72 19 25 13 10 72 21 27 16 9 74 20 26 15 8 76 16 22 11 7 76 10 16 5 7 73 6 75 4 8 1 2 5 6 77

Previous studies developed a green roof model using a test site in Pennsylvania. Due to inconsistencies in available PA data, and a requirement for results in the city of Toronto, simulations were conducted for a Toronto climate

modified, but were consistent between the green-roofed building and the control building. For all cases, the height of each story was fixed to 3.0 m, and windows were assumed to occupy 10% of the total area of each wall, except the north wall, which contained a single door. Table 3 shows the material properties used in the simulated buildings. The individual materials for each construction are specified from the outside to the inside. With the exception of the roof, which is based on Pennsylvania test site constructions, the properties were obtained from the ESP-r construction database. As a result, some of the materials used may not be familiar to North American readers. It is important to note that the green roof model does not contain any material for increasing the thermal capacitance. The sole effect of the green roof is obtained through the latent heat loss term, resulting from water vapour evaporation. Further experimental comparisons should be performed to examine the effect of including thermal capacitance in the model. Since the soil medium employed at the test site studied was quite thin, the overall effect is expected to be small. Although simple to add in the simulations performed, this was not modeled to maintain consistency with the parameters obtained at the Pennsylvania State test site. The study was performed for the month of July in a Toronto climate. It should be noted that the chosen Bowen ratio, 0.12, is highly dependent on the green roof itself, as well as the climate in which the roof is implemented. The previous study (Gaffin et al. 2006) used Bowen ratios ranging from 0.21 to 0.35. The lower value was chosen as the simulated model is already somewhat conservative in nature. As mentioned previously, no thermal capacitance was modeled for the roof. Also, the model calculates the temperature of the roof-top surface, not the temperature below the soil surface in contact with the roof insulation, which is slightly cooler. The combination of the above factors justifies the selection of 0.12 for the Bowen ratio. Although the Bowen ratio employed was determined for a Pennsylvania climate, the Toronto climate should result in similar values. A Toronto climate was chosen for several reasons. First, and most important, is the fact that the Pennstate data obtained was pieced together from several sources. Inconsistencies in data sets proved problematic in ESP-r simulations. In addition, the Toronto climate proved of immediate interest for other research, although it would be beneficial to repeat the study under other climates. Recall, however, that the Bowen ratio is strongly dependant on humidity, and other climatic factors.

404 Table 3 Summary of simulated building material properties

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Thickness Conductivity Density Specific Longwave Solar Diffusion heat emissivity absorptivity resistance (m) (W/mC) (kg/m3) (J/kgC) Wall Brick Glasswool Air Breeze block Roof Aluminum Air Glass fiber quilt Aluminum Green roof Plywood Fiberglass OSB Ground floor Earth Gravel Heavy-mix concrete Air Chipboard Wilton Suspended floor Wilton Chipboard Air Heavy-mix Concrete Steel

0.100 0.075 0.050 0.100 0.003 0.025 0.080 0.003 0.019 0.089 0.006 0.250 0.150 0.150 0.050 0.019 0.006 0.006 0.019 0.050 0.140 0.004

0.960 0.040 0.000 0.440 210.0 0.000 0.040 210.0 0.200 0.049 0.110 1.280 0.520 1.400 0.000 0.150 0.060 0.060 0.150 0.000 1.400 50.000

2000 250 0 1500 2700 0 12 2700 560 300 600 1460 2050 2100 0 800 186 186 800 0 2100 7800

650 840 0 650 880 0 840 880 1000 1000 1210 879 184 653 0 2093 1360 1360 2093 0 653 502

0.90 0.90 0.99 0.90 0.22 0.99 0.90 0.22 0.90 0.90 0.80 0.90 0.90 0.90 0.99 0.91 0.90 0.90 0.91 0.99 0.90 0.12

0.70 0.30 0.99 0.65 0.20 0.99 0.65 0.20 0.70 0.50 0.65 0.85 0.85 0.65 0.99 0.65 0.60 0.60 0.65 0.99 0.65 0.20

25 4 1 15 19200 1 30 19200 576 5 12 5 2 19 1 96 10 10 96 1 19 19200

Roof properties used in the simulation are identical to those of the Pennsylvania test site. All other properties used in the simulation are taken from the ESP-r construction database

Roofenvelope ratio analysis In order to assess the impact of roofenvelope ratio on overall energy savings resulting from a green roof, a variety of simulations were performed on the previously described warehouse-type building. One, two, and three story buildings were examined in order to determine the drop in energy savings with increasing building height. Building-envelope ratio was varied by changing the length of each wall, and the internal loading was assumed to be zero, unless noted otherwise. The benefit of a green roof over a conventional-roof was obtained by comparing the total building cooling loads required for each case. The percentage savings is defined as the ratio of the difference in cooling load required for a green roof to the total cooling load of the control roof. Figure 1 shows the total cooling load for both green and control roofs as a function of building roofenvelope ratio, for a constant internal loading of both 0 and 5,000 W. It should be noted that the latter load employed is somewhat low for the building sizes investigated in this study. Nevertheless, the increase in cooling load required is still significant, and provides further evidence of the advantage gained through the use of a

Urban Ecosyst (2008) 11:399408 Fig. 1 Variations in cooling load for a single-story building with the control and green roofs. The simulations were performed with a modified version of the ESP-r model. Each simulation is run with a constant internal loading of 0 and 5,000 W, with 0 representing a baseline situation where cooling is the only demand for electricity in an unoccupied building


green roof. The reduction in cooling load for the 5,000 W case decreases steadily for both the green and control roof due to the increased total building size required to obtain larger roofenvelope ratios. What is more important is the increase in savings obtained by a green roof at these higher ratios. Figures 2 and 3 extend these findings to a two and three story building, respectively. In addition, these figures break down the cooling load required into that required to cool only the upper floor of the building, as well as that required to cool the total building. Again, for small roofenvelope ratios, the green roof provides no benefit, as expected. At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, the reduction in cooling load with the use of a green roof is significant. More importantly, it becomes clear how important a roof is in dictating the overall energy load of a building. As is clearly shown in Figs. 2 and 3, the cooling load of the upper floor alone approaches the total cooling load at higher roofenvelope ratios. In fact, above a roofenvelope ratio of 0.7 for a two-story building, the upper floor value equals the total building cooling load. This effect is slightly less pronounced in the threestory design. In both cases, the increase in cooling load with increasing roofenvelope ratio
Fig. 2 Variations in cooling load for a two-story building with the control and green roofs. Cooling load is shown for the entire building, and also for the upper floor alone, demonstrating that for large roofenvelope ratios, cooling of the upper floor accounts for the entire building cooling load. Green roofs provide significant savings over the control roof with increasing roof envelope ratios

406 Fig. 3 Variations in cooling load for a three-story building with the control and green roofs. Cooling load is shown for the entire building, and also for the upper floor alone. Slightly larger roof envelope ratios are required for the upper floor cooling load to reach the total building cooling load, when compared to the twostory building

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is due to the larger building sizes of the high roofenvelope ratio buildings. Of more importance is the energy savings of the green roof case over the conventional roof design. Figure 4 summarizes the percentage savings in cooling load of a green roof over a conventional roof for all cases previously considered. The reduction in performance for multi-story buildings quickly becomes apparent, although the gain in performance for high roofenvelope ratios is significant in all cases. The results obtained for the single story building represent an extreme case. The high roofenvelope ratio was obtained for a building of 250250 m. Although this is not uncommon with some warehouse building constructions, the convection model employed may not provide accurate results for a rooftop of this size. Further studies should investigate the use of other convection models in order to fully understand the flow over such a large surface. Furthermore, a building with no internal loading does not represent a practical case. The next section will deal with the addition of internal loading, and the overall effect on reducing the performance gain of a green roof.
Fig. 4 Percentage savings in building energy usage of green roof design over the control roof for a one, two, and three-story structure. Overall savings from a green roof are reduced for an increasing number of stories, but become more substantial for higher roofenvelope ratios

Urban Ecosyst (2008) 11:399408 Fig. 5 Net energy savings obtained from a green roof as a function of internal loading for a one, two, and three-story warehouse structure measuring 100 100 m. Energy savings increase approximately linearly with increasing internal load. A maximum value is shown in the single-story case, after which net energy savings decrease with increasing internal load


Internal load analysis In addition to examining the impact of roofenvelope ratio, the effect of internal loading was also examined. For several representative roofenvelope ratios, the internal loading was varied from 0 to 50,000 W, a load more representative of buildings of this dimension. Figure 5 shows the effect of increasing the internal load for each of the test buildings, with a roof area of 100100 m. As shown in the plot, the net energy savings increases approximately linearly with increased internal loading. This increase, however, reaches a maximum value, after which an increase in internal loading results in a drop in net energy savings. For a 100100 m square roof, the effect is not noticed for two and three story buildings. Similar plots may be generated for larger roof areas. Although the energy savings are larger, notably a net energy saving of up to 13,000 kW h for the three story building with a roof area of 250250 m, the plots are considerably more flat, indicating the reduced effect of total internal load on such a large building. Furthermore, the peak in energy savings is not present in the case of larger buildings.
Fig. 6 Percentage energy savings for a single-story with varied internal loading. Increased internal loading results in an overall reduction in energy savings, although savings are still substantial


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Figure 6 demonstrates the percentage energy savings of a single story building with varying internal loading. As shown in the figure, more realistic values for energy savings are obtained when realistic internal loading is assumed. The values approaching 100% obtained for all cases with 0 W internal loading are clearly not obtainable in a practical structure. For loadings more typical of a practical structure, however, the savings are still significant. A 250250 m green-roof design with 50,000 W internal loading was found to have percentage energy savings of 73%, 29%, and 18%, for a one, two, and three-story design, respectively. In addition to addressing the issue of improved convection modeling, future studies should investigate several further issues. This model accounts for the evapotranspiration present on a green roof. The model does not directly account for changes in convection resulting from the green roof. Furthermore, a green roof with a larger mass should also be studied using the present model, in order to investigate the effect of thermal capacitance on energy savings. The present study has assumed a constant value for the Bowen ratio. Additional studies should identify the Bowen ratio as a function of climate conditions, as well as any additional required green roof parameters. This would allow an investigation of green roof performance at other sites and under other climates.

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