Building to Address Climate Change: The Biosolar Roof Installation at the Guardian Building

Written by Catie Wheeler

Building to Address Climate Change: The Biosolar Roof Installation at the Guardian Building

Having been in the construction industry for over 30 years, Greiner has worked on almost every kind of project there is, from hospitality and healthcare renovations to full-scale financial and industrial builds. So when the historic Guardian Building in Lowertown St. Paul approached us to provide our expert adaptive reuse services, we didn’t think much of it.

However, in addition to the 8,000+ square foot, $3.7 million overhaul of the 3rd and 4th floors to accommodate a new tenant, there was something else in the scope that was truly a first for Greiner. We were asked to lead the installation of a biosolar rooftop.

What is a biosolar roof?

Green roofs and solar paneled rooftops are often thought of as separate—even competing—environmental solutions. However, the practice of combining the two technologies has become increasingly popular all over the world. The collaboration, commonly referred to as biosolar roofs, is helping to create more efficient cities and delivering widespread social, economic, and environmental advantages.

What are the benefits of a green roof?

A green roof is one that either partially or fully integrates vegetation into the design. Depending on the region and climate of the building, a wide variety of different plant life can be incorporated. There are a number of benefits of ditching traditional un-vegetated gravel roofs in favor of greener ones.

  • Reduced heating and cooling costs—The plants act as a natural insulator, which helps reduce internal temperature fluctuations.
  • Less stormwater runoff—As the plants soak up the rain, they decrease the risk of overflowed sewer systems and potential flooding.
  • A longer lasting roof—Most commercial roofs need to be replaced every 15-20 years due to the effects of extreme weather conditions, but that lifespan gets vastly increased with a sheltering layer of protective plants.
  • Tax breaks—Many municipalities are now providing tax benefits for property managers who construct or retrofit their buildings with environmentally friendly vegetative roofs.
  • Cleaner air—The plants absorbs pollutants and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, while simultaneously increasing oxygen levels.
  • More plant and animal habitats—In areas with a growing number of green roofs, there is an increase in bird, insect, and other wildlife populations, as well as plant pollinations.
  • Aesthetic advantages—Green roofs are visually pleasing and create a calm, colorful, and peaceful oasis in an otherwise drab and busy cityscape.

What are the benefits of solar energy?

In essence, solar panels utilize transparent glass and photovoltaic cells to convert the raw thermal energy of the sun into electricity. Solar power is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy, and there are a whole host of benefits of installing solar panels on commercial rooftops.

  • Reduced electricity costs—Depending on the number of panels and the company’s electrical needs, solar rooftops are able to partially or completely power their respective buildings.
  • Increased profit—Many solar powered buildings produce more energy than they need and are able to sell any additional electricity back to the grid, easily making back their initial investments in the process.
  • Zero emissions—Solar power doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases or water pollutants, making it one of the cleanest forms of renewable energy on the market.

How do the two work together?

Building to Address Climate Change: The Biosolar Roof Installation at the Guardian Building

By bringing together the water-storing, habitat producing benefits of green roofs with the energy-generating capabilities of solar panels, biosolar roofs are laying down the building blocks for the future health of urban environments the world over.

Studies have shown that green roofs actually increase the amount of solar energy gained from rooftop panels. On long, sunny days, photovoltaic panels can actually become too hot and begin to decrease in efficiency. The nearby vegetation helps keep the rooftop micro-climate closer to the ideal temperature for maximum solar energy production.

The specific design of the biosolar roofs, however, is incredibly important for success. If the solar element takes precedence and the panels are placed too close together, it will only stifle the growth of the plants or produce undesirable weeds. It’s paramount that a healthy balance between the two systems is achieved.

When positioned correctly, the solar panels effectively create three distinct micro-habitats, greatly increasing the biodiversity potential. Many plants thrive in the more open, sunny spaces, while others grow best under the cool shade of the solar panels. Still a third group prefers the wetter soil found at the base of the panels where the rain runoff collects the most.

The Guardian Building renovation

Greiner was well aware of this mutually beneficial relationship when they were tasked with leading the biosolar roof installation on the Guardian Building. As the first truly integrated, commercial biosolar rooftop in Minnesota, the hope is that its energy independence and environmental impact will inspire other local businesses and property managers to follow suit.

Greiner’s work to increase the efficiencies of the Guardian has set them on their path toward achieving LEED Gold certification status. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system created by the United States Green Building Council that gauges a company’s efforts towards sustainability.

With a successful biosolar roof in place, the Guardian Building was recently honored as a recipient of a Minnesota Climate Adaptation Award. Presented by the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP), this award recognizes and celebrates achievements in leadership and practice that aid in the development, advancement, and implementation of climate adaptation strategies.

Greiner is incredibly proud to partner with companies that share our vision of the future and care as much about the environment as we do.

The bright future of biosolar roofs

There is no denying the rising popularity of the green movement, as more and more companies are discovering the environmental and financial benefits of installing a biosolar roof. With the struggle for real estate becoming an increasingly dire concern in many metro areas, rooftop spaces have become one of the last vestiges that can be used to meet the energy needs of residents while also providing vital habitats for flora and fauna.

If you’re contemplating replacing your building’s roof, we hope you think of the future and consider switching from a conventional rooftop to a more sustainable option. When it comes to installing forward-thinking and environmentally friendly biosolar roofs, you can trust the experts at Greiner Construction. Contact us today to make the most of your rooftop.

Greiner Construction—Building Strength from the Inside Out

In 2019, with a vision to share our company‘s “gold standard” to a regional client-base, Greiner expanded into the thriving city of Des Moines, Iowa. As our company evolves and continues to expand into new markets, the executive leadership team upholds Wolfgang’s original vision for the firm—one that is focused on providing authentic customer service and unrivaled quality.