Green Roofs, Cool Cities

Christine Thuring is a collaborative plant ecologist who is passionate about biodiversity, healthy communities and decarbonization. She has worked with green roofs since 1999 in many forms, including installation, maintenance, advocacy, education and research. Christine holds an MSc from the Penn State Centre for Green Roof Research (2005) and a PhD from the Department of Landscape at University of Sheffield (2016). She teaches the green roof and living wall courses at the British Columbia Institute of Technology “Centre for Architectural Ecology”. Since 2018, Christine has been coordinating the Green Roof info Think-Tank (GRiTT) in Vancouver.


This project aims to raise the profile and application of vegetated roofs as climate solutions. Green roofs are multi-functional technologies with numerous benefits to society, environment and economy. The built environment generates nearly 50% of annual global CO2 emissions, of which building materials and construction are responsible for 20%. Green roofs significantly increase building thermal performance, enhance the efficiency of rooftop solar panels, and extend the service life of the waterproofing, yet many municipalities focus solely on stormwater management. In the climate of coastal BC, extensive green roofs increase building thermal performance throughout the year, regardless of depth (3” or 6”). A BCIT study calculated that green roofs reduce overall annual daily energy demand by 66%. Practically, this reduces the need for air conditioning/ building emissions, which also lowers the urban heat island. By protecting the roof membrane, green roofs reduce waste and lower demand for raw bitumen. Widespread green roof implementation will transform the ecology and liveability of urban settlements, while supporting resilience, mitigation and adaptation to climate change. In addition to these benefits, green roofs simultaneously improve human well-being; create amenity space; improve air quality; generate green jobs; and provide habitat for wildlife.

The idea emerged from two ongoing projects.

1) Since 2018 I’ve been coordinating the Green Roof Info Think-Tank (GRiTT), a network of businesses, non-profit organizations, researchers and community members dedicated to green roof implementation in Vancouver and region. It’s been a pleasure to witness working groups materialize as needed (e.g., opinion editorial; policy development; field trips). This work has also revealed the extent of cultural barriers, raising concerns that the full spectrum of green roof benefits will not be realized without enabled leadership.

2) I’ve been collaborating on the development of an interactive heat mapping tool that allows users to:

  • highlight urban hot spots in a town/ city;
  • measure existing and potential green roof coverage;
  • adopt climate leadership through green roof advocacy. The project arose by requiring three post-secondary instructors (Urban Ecosystems, Astrophysics, Human Resources/ Leadership) to create “renewable assignments” relating to Climate Action as part of the 2022 “United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Open Pedagogy Fellowship.” Once the first student cohorts have trialled the system, the legacy (renewable) item will be an open-source tool that anyone can use to generate compelling data and make changes in their own communities.



I am a nature-lover who has always been motivated by the goals of ecological and social justice. Inspired by traditional indigenous stewardship of land, water and life, I subscribe to the principle of living and working for the benefit of seventh generations into the future. I try to walk the talk by living a low impact lifestyle, and doing work that is meaningful, rewarding and healthy. I actively support front line resistance to fossil fuel colonialism, and am grateful for the opportunities to balance personal and professional development in this context.

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