Chatfield Green Roofing: Growing Opportunities

By: Tami Scott

Bob Parker can attest to the old adage that perseverance really does pay off.

As the founder of Skaneateles Falls-based J&B Installations, which specializes in commercial roofing, Parker established another company 25 years later. The subsidiary, Chatfield Farms, was launched in 2006, about a year after J&B Installations worked on a green roofing project at SUNY Cortland. That operation involved using XeroFlor, a pre-vegetative roofing system that at the time was grown in Canada and nowhere else in North America. The product piqued Parker’s interest, and he consequently offered to be a grower at his farm in Elbridge if an opportunity became available.

“I kind of kept bugging him and bugging him,” said Parker, referring to the XeroFlor representative based in North Carolina. “And finally I met with him about a year later and became a grower for XeroFlor because they had a lot of projects coming up in the states.”

Originally developed about 45 years ago in Germany, XeroFlor has since gained substantial recognition throughout Europe, North America and Asia. And in the 10-plus years that Chatfield Farms has become a grower, its participated in numerous high profile projects, the Jacob Javits Convention Center among them.

“The Javits Center is our biggest roof grown out of the Elbridge field,” said Parker, who has good reason to feel a particular pride for this accomplishment. “We had almost a half million square feet of green roofing on the ground.” The Jacob Javits Convention Center roof size is 294,000 square feet, the largest green roof in New York City and the second largest in the nation. Only Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan beats it with a XeroFlor green roof installation of 10.4 acres, the equivalent of eight football fields. That was installed in 2003.

Benefits of Green Roofing

The benefits of green roofing are immense. For instance, green roofing significantly reduces stormwater runoff and improves water quality. Traditionally the roofing system is smooth, which causes water to run to the drain as fast as it hits the flat surface. Green roofing slows down the rate of water heading to the drains and subsequently wastewater treatment plants, and consequently reduces the need to build more plants.

“The green roof allows the water to stay on the roof [surface] up to an inch per rainfall event. Excess runs to the drains so most of the time you’re trapping the rainwater,” Parker said. “The water left on the roof is used for the sedum plants, with the remainder evaporating back into the air.” At the Javits Center, the roof, which was completed in 2014, prevents almost 7 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually.

Green roofing enhances building performance and conserves energy. According to a May 2013 archive published by, Dr. Franco Montalto, a professor at Drexel’s College of Engineering and the lead researcher of a Javits Center study, was quoted as describing the intimate link between water and energy through the process of evapotranspiration. 

“Incident solar radiation changes liquid water, originally deposited on the roof by precipitation, into water vapor which then leaves the roof surface,” he said. “The energy consumed by this process keeps the roof and building cooler than it otherwise would be, since without the green roof this energy would simply heat up the roof surface. At the same time, if the air in the vicinity of the air conditioner intake pipes is cooler, these units have to work less to cool the —already cooler—building.”

 A black surface retains heat much longer than a green roof, Parker said, illustrating that a black roof in the middle of summer could reach a temperature as high as 150 to 170 degrees. In contrast, if you were to stand atop a green roof, the temperature would be similar to that of going to a park and laying on the grass.

Since the green roof at the Jacob Javits Center was installed, the temperature on the roof has decreased by 6 degrees Fahrenheit and the yearly energy consumption has decreased by just over a quarter, which in 2016 translated to a savings of $3 million.

Another benefit is an increase in urban biodiversity by providing a habitat for wildlife. According to its comprehensive 2017 Sustainability Report, the Javits Center roof has become a habitat for more than 20 bird species, including gulls, European starlings, barn swallows, rock pigeons, American kestrels and osprey. Five different species of bats now utilize the roof, as well as honey bees (300,000 have utilized roof hives) and arthropods.

Other advantages, just as significant, include a reduction of noise in the building and improvements to air pollution and air quality, “because it’s chewing up the carbon dioxide in the air,” Parker said. The longevity of the roofing system is also increased two- to three-fold because the sun’s UV rays are not hitting the surface of the roof, which prolongs the life of the system underneath.

 Additionally, those contemplating a green roofing system will find there are funding and grants available in many cities. One of the more recent cities to implement green mandates and tax incentives is Denver.  “Denver just created a new green zone, where if you’re inside the city you have to try and use green initiatives,” Parker said. “They’re giving a lot of tax incentives in Denver. We’re hoping that spreads across the country.”

Benefits of XeroFlor

XeroFlor, which has been installed in 38 states so far, is a lightweight, low maintenance and easy-to-install pre-vegetated mat system. Like Chatfield Farms, there are local growers across the country to supply the different regional climates for healthy, sustainable green roofing. Because the system is grown in the field, the plants are already mature and ready for installation. The cost, both monetary and time, associated with the types of systems that begin from scratch—through a plug or planting seeds or cuttings on a roof—are eliminated.

“When they roll out, [the mats are] just like sod on your lawn, ready to go. Servicing is simple: fertilize it in the spring, once a year, and do routine maintenance to take out any type of small weeds until it establishes completely,” Parker said. “The cost difference is about half the cost of a tray system.”

The XeroFlor mats are also non-biodegradable, which is special to the market, Parker said, because they can be picked up and reused 10, 20, even 30 years down the road. This feature makes them more sustainable than other systems that would need to be dug up in order to repair/ replace the roof, or install a roof top unit.

Project Highlights

Chatfield Farms initial involvement with XeroFlor as a grower in Onondaga County, town of Elbridge, evolved into becoming a licensed seller and supplier for the entire northeast, mid atlantic and central regions of the U.S.

 Aside from the Jacob Javits Convention Center, other sizeable and nationally recognized projects that Chatfield Farms has provided XeroFlor mats on include the Duke Medical Center located in Durham, N.C. (roof size just under 6,000 square feet), Columbia University in NYC (roof size 13,080 square feet), CBS in NYS (roof size 8,900 square feet), NYC’s School for Visual Arts Dormitory (roof size 3,080 square feet), Zeckendorf Towers in NYC (roof size 14,000 square feet), the Empire State Building (roof size 6,900 square feet) and Capital One Headquarters located, in McLean, Va., which has a roof size of 15,000 square feet.

Moving Forward: Products and Presence

“There’s been a lot of new products introduced into the industry,” Parker said. “You can build a green roof a hundred different ways and 95 of them will fail.” Parker projects that over the next few years, the industry will experience a “shakeout” of the multiple systems now being presented, but said he believes XeroFlor will hold its ground due to its nearly five decades of history and resilience. “They’ve been through the ups and downs of what’s good and what’s bad. There are certain manufacturers out there that try and make their systems as complicated to install as possible, making it a more difficult and expensive route to go.”

The increase in demand for green roofing, Parker said. can be attributed to better understanding of the concept, applications and benefits, as well as the tax incentives and grants that some cities are awarding to companies seeking eco-friendly building solutions.

As new ideas develop and blueprints hit the desks of decision-makers, green roofing could potentially become the dominant system in the industry. Roofs on older buildings can also be converted through lightweight systems. XeroFlor offers such systems with weights ranging from 8 to 25 pounds per square foot, Parker said. “We need very little soil. The Jacob Javits Center has a total of one inch of soil underneath the mat. The Ford Motor Company has no soil underneath, it’s just the mat,” he said. “The mats come with their own soil in them.”

Parker’s background in roofing extends more than 35 years, having established J&B Installations in 1981. His take on the green movement is one gained from first-hand knowledge combined with substantiated results. His response to the benefits of going green also touches on the basic facts that already evident to the general population.   

“It’s friendly to the environment. You’re taking the heat island effect out. You’re creating an environment for birds and [other wildlife]. You’re talking major municipalities like Philadelphia, NYC, Boston, Washington D.C. —they’re all pavement and concrete,” Parker said. “You’re bringing some green back into the environment. Every city could use more green.”

For more information on Chatfield Farms, call 315-466-2162 or visit