Green roofs are enjoying a growing popularity both with the public and with Czech institutions. Recent European discussions of urban green infrastructure as a means of adaptation to climate change have also found fertile ground in the Czech Republic. Building upon previous experience with a national subsidy program, as of 2017, green roofs have been added to a nation-wide subsidy program. The quality of Czech green roofs is being assessed by the recently published Czech green roof standards.
In the last couple of years, the topic of green roofs has been enjoying a growing popularity in the Czech Republic. There are a number of factors playing a role in this growth. With the general public, green roofs are sought after mainly due to their esthetic properties and progressivity in architecture, which corresponds with the growing demand for sustainable construction solutions also apparent in Europe and elsewhere in the world. As a result of increased engagement of public institutions in the topic of climate adaptation and urban greenery, green roofs are also gaining traction with the Czech authorities. The most appreciated benefits are their ability to offset the Urban Heat Island Effect, water retention capacity, increased energy efficiency of buildings and a general appetite for low‑carbon construction.
The functional benefits of green roofs are preferred especially by the authorities and municipalities, whereas the esthetic and progressivity reasons are of interest to the public. The current demand is predominantly steered by private investors and the vast majority of green roofs in the Czech Republic are extensive. Exact figures are difficult to determine, however, an unpublished survey by the Czech Green Roof Association estimated around 110,000 m² of green roofs built in 2014 (Czech Green Roof Association, 2015) which amounts to around 40 percent of green roofs built in the UK in the same year (EFB, 2015). Since then, the number has been growing significantly each year, according to indications by suppliers of green roof materials.
The following pages illustrate the most significant policy developments contributing to the growth of green roof market in the Czech Republic.
Engagement of Czech authorities in pan-European debate on climate adaptation
The Czech policy environment is becoming increasingly more favorable towards green roofs and walls as city administrations turn to nature-based solutions to improve urban life. 10 Czech cities, including 5 of the most populated (Prague, Brno, Ostrava, Pilsen and Liberec), have signed the Covenant of Mayors or joined the Mayors Adapt initiative grounded in the EU Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change and aiming to motivate and support European cities to share knowledge about adaptation to climate change. Some of these cities are planning to specifically include green roofs among their adaptation measures. Furthermore, municipalities and the state administration are beginning to participate in international conferences on the subject of green infrastructure or climate adaptation and are receptive to successful examples of climate adaptation projects in other countries, particularly the neighboring ones.
On the national level, the biggest platform for this debate has been created by the UrbanAdapt project in 2015 and 2016. The project, supported by EEA grants, focused on ecosystem-based approaches to climate adaptation and incorporated green and blue infrastructure solutions. UrbanAdapt featured a series of workshops in Prague, Brno and Pilsen and publications of findings were circulated as an outcome of the work of research, policy and civil society project team organizations. The project embraces green roofs and walls as a part of green infrastructure and an important factor in increasing the energy efficiency of buildings.
UrbanAdapt was also building upon the Czech National Adaptation Strategy approved in 2015. In the Strategy, green roofs are listed under a number of adaptation measures, specifically under measures to:
- Minimize runoff water;
- Ensure a functional and ecologically stable system of urban greenery;
- Mitigate risks related to temperature and air quality;
- Contribute to adaptation to climate change;
- And measures to protect, restore and improve ecosystems (Ministry of the Environment, 2015).
Good experience with the (New) Green Savings subsidy program encouraging low-energy construction
In 2009, the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic launched a new subsidy program, Green Savings (Zelená úsporám), to promote energy efficient heating, the use of renewable energy but also investments in energy savings measures in new buildings and reconstructions. The primary motive of the program was lowering the carbon footprint and hence also the financing of the program – mainly from the sale of emission units (AAUs) under the Kyoto Protocol. The program was considered extremely successful: In total, around 80,000 applications were filed and more than CZK 20 bn. (EUR 740 mil.) was disbursed (Ministry of the Environment, 2014).
Drawing upon the success of the program, it was extended as the New Green Savings program (Nová zelená úsporám) for the period of 2014-2021. In 2016, green roofs were included in the program as one of the supported measures.
Subsidies for green roofs in the New Green Savings program
On November 21, 2016, the Ministry of the Environment together with the State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic announced a new continuous call in the New Green Savings subsidy program which applies to low-energy residential buildings. Apart from the previously supported energy-efficiency measures, the call has newly expanded to include subsidies for the construction of green roofs and wastewater heat utilization. The applications opened on January 9, 2017, and will last until the end of 2021 or until allocated funds are exhausted. As with the previous calls, available funds are determined by the sales of emission units.
Currently, green roofs are supported on the following types of buildings:
- Existing houses together with measures reducing energy demand (insulation of the building envelope, e.g. change of windows and doors, thermal insulation of walls, ceilings, floor and roof);
- Newbuild houses with reduced energy demand.
- Newbuild apartment buildings with very low energy demand.
Apartment buildings in Prague
- Existing apartment buildings together with measures reducing energy demand (insulation of the building envelope, e.g. change of windows and doors, thermal insulation of walls, ceilings, floor and roof).
Subsidies are provided for the construction of extensive and semi-intensive green roofs. Intensive green roofs are only supported on condition that water for their irrigation does not come from the potable water mains (permissible irrigation is, for example, rain water accumulated from surrounding surfaces or the use of grey water). A fixed subsidy of 500 CZK (approximately EUR 18.50) is provided per square meter of green roof area. The following technical criteria further specify conditions that must be met to receive the subsidy apart from compliance with the low-energy building standards:
- Minimum height of the vegetation layer usable by plant roots must be ≥ 8 cm;
- The vegetation layer must be formed using an appropriate green roof substrate for the type of roof;
- The vegetation must comprise at least 5 sustainable plant species;
- The applicant is responsible for long-term maintenance of the green roof;
- Vegetation in a good condition must cover at least two thirds of the green roof area for the whole duration of sustainability (10 years);
- The green roof must be in accordance with the document Green Roof Buildup – Standards for the Design, Installation and Maintenance published by the Czech Green Roof Association (a section of the Czech Landscape Gardening Association).
The application is to be administered by the State Environmental Fund within 3 weeks of its receipt and if eligible, funds will be disbursed within 9 weeks of its approval.
The Czech Green Roof Association
The Czech Green Roof Association (Sekce Zelené střechy) is the major actor in raising awareness about green roofs in the Czech Republic. It brings together stakeholders interested in green roofs and walls from the whole country with various backgrounds – suppliers, installation companies, research and other interested parties – providing a platform to develop expertise and share experience. The Association actively engages in discussions on the national level and offers advice to municipalities and Czech authorities. Working closely with its European partners in EFB, the Association makes it easier to share international developments and best practices in the green roof sector.
Since 2014, the Association has been organizing an annual Green Roof of the Year competition featuring the best national examples of green roofs. It organizes educational seminars and events for both expert community and the public. The most significant outcome of the Association’s work has been the publication of the Czech green roof standards in 2016.
Green Roof Buildup – Standards for the Design, Installation and Maintenance
The publication Green Roof Buildup – Standards for the Design, Installation and Maintenance is a comprehensive document of best practices for the planning, execution and upkeep of green roofs. It is intended primarily for designers, contractors and investors of green roofs but it also provides valuable information to other stakeholders in the construction industry, policy-makers and other concerned parties. Inspired by similar European guidelines, notably the Swiss SIA 312, German FLL and the British GRO Code, it is the first-ever such document in the Czech Republic. The standards embrace quality benchmarks set by the aforementioned international guidelines and acknowledge domestic specifics to present solid foundations for the development of green roofs in the Czech Republic. A large 16-member expert working group tasked with their development consisted of practitioners, suppliers of materials and civil engineering experts from the whole country and ensured a professional and independent outcome.
The publication first coins the terminology of green roofs, states their functions and effects and then defines green roof types according to various criteria. The following chapter briefly describes requirements on roof construction underneath the green roof buildup and the chapter also includes conditions and requirements for the installation of green roofs on existing roofs.
The Standards then proceed to list the respective functional layers of green roof buildup, putting emphasis on the vegetation layer. They feature requirements for the growing medium and also list a selection of plants recommended for local conditions.
In the final part, the publication addresses the issue of temporary and permanent stability of larger woody plants on intensive green roofs and the Standards conclude with recommended conditions of the receipt of finished green roofs by customers, maintenance requirements and warranty conditions.
Despite the fact that the functional and esthetic potential of green roofs has long been underappreciated, they now begin to receive due acknowledgement. Municipalities will continue to seek answers to problems with adaptation to climate change and green roofs offer a complex solution. Moreover, with the newly launched subsidy program, low-energy construction has received a stimulus to firmly plant green roofs in sustainable architecture.
In publishing the Czech green roof standards, the Czech Green Roof Association offered independent expertise regarding green roofs for the subsidy program as well as for any other institution or entity. The Czech green roof market is now standing on sound foundations and it is certain to continue its growth in the coming years.
 Detailed technical requirements under section A (existing houses) and section B (newbuilds) [in Czech]: http://www.novazelenausporam.cz/zadatele-o-dotaci/rodinne-domy/3-vyzva-rodinne-domy/oblasti-podpory-3-vyzva/
 Detailed technical requirements under section B: http://www.novazelenausporam.cz/zadatele-o-dotaci/bytove-domy/3-vyzva-pro-bytove-domy/
 The publication is a result of unpaid work of professionals from the industry. It has been made possible under a grant project Green Roofs – Hope for the Future II. (Zelené střechy – naděje pro budoucnost II.) supported by the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic. The Standards are in Czech and can be downloaded at the Association’s website (www.zelenestrechy.info).
Czech Green Roof Association, 2015. Unpublished survey on green roofs in the Czech Republic, Brno: Czech Green Roof Association (Sekce Zelené střechy).
EFB, 2015. EFB White Paper, Vienna: European Federation of Green Roof and Wall Associations.
Ministry of the Environment, 2014. Annual Report of The Green Investment Scheme Programme 2014, Prague: State Environmental Fund of the Czech Republic.
Ministry of the Environment, 2015. Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change in the Czech Republic, Prague: Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic.