Green infrastructure bills offer incentives to builders

A series of bills designed to promote "green infrastructure" would provide incentives to offset the additional costs of adding environmentally friendly roofs to public buildings.

A sponsor, Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-South Orange), said he hopes businesses take advantage of the potential opportunity to participate in green infrastructure projects.

The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee was scheduled to hold hearings on the five bills at 2 p.m. Thursday.

The package of five bills, also sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben J. Ramos Jr. (D-Hoboken), require the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Financing Program to give preference to projects that include roofs that reduce stormwater runoff, require new state buildings and buildings built with state funds to have such roofs, require the state Department of Environmental Protection to establish rules for the roofs, and allow the DEP to provide low-interest loans to install the roofs.

So-called "blue roofs" use gravel beds, perforated pipes and rooftop water detention systems to improve stormwater management, while green roofs use rooftop vegetation to accomplish the same goal.

McKeon said coming changes to the state energy master plan may reduced incentives for solar construction, but these bills could help different types of environmental project.

While builders have expressed concern about additional building costs, "the financial incentives are hopefully going to vitiate that concern," McKeon said, adding that the roofs will only be required where it is feasible.

"This is an area that either you have expertise in it or if you're a dynamic type of company, you're going to get it," McKeon said of engineering firms and other businesses that could benefit from the projects.

Wayne DeFeo, a sustainability consultant and founder of Warren Township-based
DeFeo Associates, said that bills shouldn't have a negative effect on builders. He said the life-cycle costs of blue or green roofs are lower than standards roofs, despite higher upfront costs.

"The concept is one that is sound," he said.

DeFeo doesn't anticipate working on the projects, but supports the bills as a director of the U.S. Green Building Council's New Jersey chapter.

McKeon added that while the bills could benefit some businesses, his primary concern in proposing them is to improve the condition of the state's waterways, many of which are unfit for swimming or as a source of drinking water.

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