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How Can You Take Advantage Of Your Roof's Prime Real Estate?

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If you own a large commercial building that houses a manufacturing facility, retail store, or other establishment, you may constantly be searching for ways to maximize your business's production capacity and profits while minimizing your fixed carrying costs. One major untapped resource during this process can be your roof -- and there are a variety of improvements you can make to help your commercial roof carry its figurative weight. Read on to learn more about two ways you can use your roof to help take advantage of its surrounding natural resources while helping your business save (or even make) money.

"Green" roofs

With the severe West Coast drought over the last few years, agriculture in this part of the country has needed to adapt to survive. When combining this water scarcity with nearly constant sun, "green" roofs and rooftop greenhouses have boomed in popularity as a way to help provide shade and insulation to buildings while improving the surrounding air quality or even raising healthy vegetables for an employee cafeteria.

However, you need not be in a drought zone to benefit from the many advantages provided by a green roof. If your building tends to have high heating and cooling bills, using plants to absorb the sun's rays in summer and insulate the roof during winter can cut your energy bills significantly. These plants also help shield your roof from damaging UV rays that can help fade and weaken shingles or otherwise shorten its lifespan.

Constructing a green roof can be as simple or complex as you wish to make it. If your roof is relatively flat, you should be able to install an irrigation system that will help keep the roots of your plants moist and allow for proper drainage. You'll then be able to plant rows of herbs, vegetables, or even small fruit trees that should thrive in full or nearly-full sunlight. Depending upon the ease of access to your roof, you may even wish to install a few park benches among the garden rows so that employees or customers can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. If your roof is more angled, you may choose to instead plant hydroponic lettuces and herbs that need no dirt, but just water and sunlight to thrive. 

Solar panels

For businesses with a heavy southern exposure, the installation of solar panels and batteries can harvest the energy needed to help power your business. Solar panels utilize many solar cells to absorb the sun's energy and convert it to electricity, and can store this electricity for short- or long-term purposes in an attached solar battery. This power storage option should help you enjoy a steady supply of solar energy, even on overcast or rainy days. 

Depending upon the prime space of your roof and your business's normal energy usage,  you may be able to collect only enough solar power to defray a portion of your energy bills -- but in other cases, you could entirely power your building through solar energy, or even store enough energy to sell or lease this power to your utility company. A contractor should be able to give you a good idea of how much energy you can expect to collect and how this will compare to the energy your business currently uses. 

As a bonus, your business will generally be able to deduct up to 30 percent of the cost of these solar panels on its federal income tax return. This dollar-for-dollar credit will help defray some of the costs incurred in the purchase and installation of your solar panels, helping these panels pay for themselves even more quickly.