Denver Green Building Ordinance

Denver Green Building Ordinance: 6 Compliance Options for Existing Buildings over 25,000 Sq Ft

Denver made history late 2018 when the Green Roof Initiative passed, making it the second city in the country to mandate green roofs. With San Francisco being the first, but only requiring new construction to be built with a green roof, not affecting existing large buildings. Initially Denver’s Green Roof required new construction or roof replacement of existing buildings over 25,000 sq ft. to devote a portion of the roof to vegetative green roofs. Roofing contractor Kelly Stitzer of CIG Construction explains the unintended consequence of this ordinance “87% of existing buildings in Denver cannot withstand the weight capacity of a vegetative roof system. The ordinance will undoubtedly drive up the cost of construction, potentially driving up Denver’s already inflated real estate prices.”

The original initiative was prescriptive in nature when it took effect January 1, 2018. Even Mayor Hancock stated the ordinance “went too far”. New construction and roof replacements for large buildings came to a screeching halt while the city scrambled to build a workable plan to implement the initiative approved by 54% of voters in fall of 2018.

A task force was assembled to revise the ordinance. Jamaca Berman, Senior Commercial Territory Manager for GAF, America’s largest roofing manufacturer, was part of the city-convened 24-member task force. According to Jamaca “the revised ordinance will provide flexibility and options”. The latest draft provides 6 compliance options for existing building owners who are trying to budget for a capital expenditure of roof replacement. The infographic below provides the 6 options for existing buildings over 25,000 sq ft applying for a roof replacement permit or building additions between 25,000 – 49,999 sf ft.

[Update: Denver Green Building Ordinance was finalized June 13, 2019. Below are the compliance options for existing buildings over 25,000 sq ft.]

Confused about compliance options check out our Green Building Ordinance Compliance Option tool below! 

Green Building Ordinance Compliance Tool


These compliance options only apply to roof permits for existing buildings 25,000 sq ft or more or additions between 25,000-49,999 sq ft. For new buildings 25,000 sq ft or more and additions 50,000 sq ft and up, read more about the compliance options here.

Alternatively, according to Kelly Stitzer of CIG Construction there are other budget-friendly options available such as roof coatings. “Roof coatings or fluid applied roofing is a reliable option for existing buildings. With up to 20-year warranties available, roof coatings can be a long-term solution for roofs near the end of its useful life.” Because a roof permit does not need to be pulled for a roof coating it circumnavigates the Green Building Ordinance altogether.

Denver Green Building Ordinance Summary:

The green buildings ordinance applies to the following:

  • New buildings 25,000 square feet or larger
  • Roof permits for existing buildings 25,000 square feet or larger
  • Additions of 25,000 square feet or larger

The ordinance does NOT apply to parking structures, temporary buildings, air-supported structures, greenhouses, single-family homes, duplexes, or dwelling units constructed in a group of three or more attached units, where each unit extends from foundation to roof and is not more than 3 stories above grade plane.

Partial exemptions for certain residential buildings:

Residential buildings 25,000 square feet or larger that meet the following criteria must meet the ordinance’s “cool roof” requirement but are exempt from having to choose a compliance option:

  • It is an EXISTING residential building 5 stories or less OR less than 62.5 feet in height.
  • It is a NEW residential building 5 stories or less AND less than 62.5 feet in height.

Hail Damage Roof Replacement Exemption Until November 2, 2019:

A building that must replace its roof due to hail damage in the first year after the effective date of this ordinance when the building owner can demonstrate a gap in insurance coverage. Such gap exists
where the building owner has insurance coverage that includes the cost of meeting any new code requirements, but had a cost limit on that coverage that is insufficient to meet the additional costs of this ordinance, and the insurance policy is not yet due for renewal.

Roof replacement due to hail damage will be exempt from the Green Building Ordinance only until November 2, 2019. Buildings owners in Denver should have their roof inspected for hail damage, roof replacement due to hail may be covered by insurance.

We can help building owners in making informed decisions about the best options for their buildings to comply with the Denver Green Buildings Ordinance or explore alternative options, including roof coatings, extending the life of the current roofing system. Schedule an appointment today.



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