Do green roofs really provide significant energy saving in a Mediterranean climate? Critical evaluation based on different case studies

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Do green roofs really provide significant energy saving in a Mediterranean climate? Critical evaluation based on different case studies

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Do green roofs really provide significant energy saving in a Mediterranean climate? Critical evaluation based on different case studies


Green  roofs  represent a growing  technology that is spreading increasingly and rapidly  throughout the  building  sector. The latest national and  international regulations are promoting their application for refurbishments and  new buildings  to increase the  energy  effi- ciency of the  building stock. In recent years, vegetative coverings  have been studied to demon- strate their multiple benefits, such as the  reduction of the  urban  heat island phenomenon and the  increase in the  albedo of cities. On the  contrary, this study aims to verify the  actual benefit of applying  a green roof  on a sloped  cover  compared with installing a highly insulated tiled roof. The EnergyPlus  tool  has been used  to perform dynamic  analyses, which  has allowed to understand the behavior of two different stratigraphies in accordance with  weather condi- tions, rain,  and  irrigation profiles. Results  have  shown  that the installation of a green roof cannot always be considered the  best  solution for reducing building energy  consumption, espe- cially if compared with  a classic  highly insulated clay tile  roof.  In terms of summer air condi-tioning, the  maximum  saving is 0.72 kWh/m2. The presence of water in the  soil has also been proven  a crucial  factor.

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  1. Introduction

In recent years, new  construction techniques have  been designed  and   implemented  due   to   the   urgent need to improve   the   international building  stock  and  reduce the production of  CO2  in  the   atmosphere. Green  roofs,   also known  as eco-roofs, are  among  these techniques.

Several  countries, following the  guidelines issued  by the European Parliament via  the  EPBD (European Parliament, 2010)  and  its  recent  amendment  (European Parliament, 2018),  encourage the   efficiency of  housing  to  reach the ambitious levels of nearly  zero-energy buildings or even  net zero-energy buildings. They  adopt a massive  policy  aimed at  refurbishing existing    buildings   and   renovating  new buildings  with  green roofs,  without making  any  wide  and relevant implementation (Versini et al., 2020).

In Italy, the  Action Plan  for  the  environmental sustain- ability  of  consumption aims  to  reduce the  environmental impact of new buildings  and  increase the  number of green contracts. Accordingly, the  Ministerial  Decree (DM) 24/12/ 2015  (Ministeroe  della   Tutela  del   TerritorioMare,  ۲۰۱۶) defined the  Minimum Environmental Criteria (CAM in Ital- ian) for the  assignment of design services and works for new constructions; the  last  update, DM  ۱۱/۱۰/۲۰۱۷ (Ministero dell’Ambiente  e  della   Tutela  del  Territorio  e  del  Mare, 2017),   specified that  the   use   of  green  roofs   must   be preferred for roofing.

Concerning environmental benefits, several studies have demonstrated the  benefits that green roofs produce on the ecosystem. In  large   cities, one  of  the   greatest  environ- mental problems is the  continuous increase in temperature due  to  the   urban   heat island  (UHI) phenomenon,  which places the   most   vulnerable groups  of  the   population  in danger and  amplifies   the  pollution problems. The  use  of vegetation above  building  rooftops is the  most useful technology to  increase the  albedo of cities  (Santamouris, 2014; Suter  et al., 2017).  Bevilacqua et  al.  (۲۰۱۷)  have shown  that in a  southern Mediterranean climate, a  green roof can maintain the  surface temperature that is between 57% and  ۶۳% lower  than  that of a traditional roof  in June owing to  the  phenomenon of evapotranspiration. Its func- tion  as an  air  filter  has  also  been demonstrated, with  the resulting reduction in pollution (Baik et al., 2012).  Versini et al.  (۲۰۱۶)  have   shown  that the   implementation of  a green roof on 100% of a building’s  roof results in a decrease between 30% and 60% in water peak discharge, reducing the risk  of  sewage  overflow; a  similar   result has  also  been confirmed  by  Piro  et al.   (۲۰۱۸),  who  have   detected  a retained volume  of  ۵۷٫۵%.  Madre  et al.  (۲۰۱۴)  have  also demonstrated the  importance of green roofs for wild urban flora,  protecting the  biodiversity of cities.

The  wide  optimism and  the  spread of  this  technology, supported by various environmental reasons, some of which were  previously  mentioned, have, however, overlooked the real  benefit in reducing building energy  demand; depending on climatic conditions, a green roof  could  be  irrelevant or even   detrimental (Susca,   ۲۰۱۹).  Case  study  results have confirmed that buildings built in accordance with new strict energy  regulations, with  high levels  of insulation, achieve moderate benefits from the  use of a green roof rather than a classic well-insulated pitched roof (Gargari  et al., 2016a); investigating  every   parameter  of   the    green  roof   and analyzing  every   detail  are   important.  Therefore,  every aspect, such  as the  materials used, stratigraphies, sedum type,  and, specially,  the   building   location  and   climatic conditions, must  be considered.

From a life  cycle  approach (LCA) assessment combining the  different factors, as  listed previously, with  the  mod- erate to high maintenance requirements of green roofs,  the impact of a green roof  does  not  always  differ  significantly from that of a traditional roof when it is built using recycled materials (Gargari  et al., 2016b).

Various approaches and  many studies have  been carried out  on the  thermal performance of green roofs in different locations, with the  different aims to validate the  results of simulations with  physical  models  (A´vila-Herna´ndez  et al.,

۲۰۲۰; Niachou  et al., 2001),  to apply  direct measurements to  study  the  different parameters associated with  energy behavior  by  using  scale   models   (Jiang   and   Tang,   ۲۰۱۷; Collins et al., 2017; Coutts  et al., 2013; Lisi et al., 2018; Tan et al., 2017)  or  real  size  mookups  installed on  a  rooftop (Bevilacqua et  al.,  ۲۰۲۰; Tang  and  Zheng,  ۲۰۱۹; Porcaro et al., 2019; D’Orazio et al., 2012; Mutani  and  Marchetti,

۲۰۱۵;  Korol  and  Shushunova,  ۲۰۱۶; Tang  and  Qu,  ۲۰۱۶; Silva  et al., 2016),  or  to  refine   and  understand the   in- fluences of the  parameters of vegetative roofs,  such as leaf area index  (LAI), soil  height, and  suitable plant species (Peri  et al., 2016; He et al., 2017; Eksi et al., 2017; Zhao et al., 2013).

All building  regulations share  the  widespread optimism about the  benefits provided by using  green roofs,  almost forcing  their application; each  case  should  be  thoroughly analyzed individually   to  realize at least an  LCA analysis (Antonio  et al., 2015; Saiz et al., 2006).

The purpose of this  study  is to  perform hourly  dynamic energy  simulations during  a few  significant weeks  over  the summer and winter seasons of building use.  An edifice, built with  a green roof  or with  a classic  clay tile  roof,  has been studied using the  high-resolution building energy  simulation program EnergyPlus  (EP),  considering all  the   parameters influencing  the   real   behavior  of  the   building.  Previous studies have  mainly  involved   the   energy   aspects of  two technical solutions, without considering environmental as- pects, such as the  reduction of the  UHI phenomenon. In this

study, the  edifice  has  been placed and  analyzed in three different Italian  cities, with  three distinctive climatic and meteorological characteristics (solar radiation, rain profile, wind  speed, humidity, etc.).  Furthermore, different irri- gation  profiles  have  been simulated.

This  study  may  be  valuable in  enriching the  scientific discussion   on  the   use  of  this  particular technology, with quantitative  evaluations. The  quantitative  examples pro- vided  in this  paper can  be a valid indication for those who have to make choices  in the  early stages of design, opting or not  to use green roofs in Mediterranean locations.

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