These days, it's common for businesses to "go green."
In fact, environmental action on the corporate level has become a somewhat trendy approach to the critical issue of global warming.
National Novelty Brush Co. is no exception. But the Lancaster firm has gone far beyond standard recycling and energy-saving efforts - the company has literally gone green.
At least its rooftop has.
This week, crews from the Somerville, Mass. firm APEX Greenroofs are completing the city's first green roof, a contained green space on top of a man-made structure.
Because the green roof acts as an insulator, it cuts global warming emissions by reducing the use of air conditioning and heat.
It also will improve air quality and reduce storm-water runoff, while creating a wildlife habitat for butterflies, birds, bees and other insects.
"Those are all the reasons I did it," Rick Seavey, National Novelty Brush president and CEO, said Tuesday. "I'm an environmental guy and a biologist by training. … I had been reading about green roofs for years, and I felt like this was a great opportunity for us."
The 17,000-square-foot green roof is atop the firm's newly expanded plant at 505 N. Fulton St. The building's original roof was reinforced to withstand the weight of the green roof.
APEX co-founders Charles Sinkler and Dustin Brackney, along with three employees, spent the last week constructing the green roof by layering channeled foam, soil medium and sedums - succulents that require no irrigation and little maintenance.
The plantings are covered with coconut fiber - a thin, gauze-like material that is highly absorbent and biodegradable - which holds moisture and serves as a wind blanket, Brackney said. The plants will grow to about 6 to 8 inches in the next few months.
Seavey said he expects the green roof to result in a 25 percent decrease in energy costs for the company.
"Not only will it keep our building cooler, it will actually cool the entire neighborhood because we won't be drawing so much heat," Seavey said.
Sinkler said black roofs can reach almost 180 degrees. A green roof will see temperatures around 85 degrees, he said.
Though Seavey said the energy-saving benefits are key, he said storm-water runoff is probably where the firm will see the largest difference.
"It will be especially noticeable during those big, dampening downpours that this area is prone to," he said. "When it rains, it will hold the water like a sponge and then release it gradually."
Brackney said the green roof will absorb 70 percent of yearly rainfall.
During heavy rainfalls, storm-water runoff can tax sewer systems, which then overflow into area watersheds.
Sinkler said 75 percent of pollution in rivers and streams can be traced to storm-water runoff.
Seavey was hesitant to put a dollar amount on the green roof project but acknowledged the cost was "significant."
Cost for the type of green roof that was installed at National Novelty Brush is between $9 and $13 per square foot, Sinkler said.
"It's twice the cost of a traditional roof, but it lasts three times as long," he said.
Seavey received some help with the cost in the form of a grant from Gov. Ed Rendell's Energy Harvest program.
National Novelty Brush Co. shared nearly $500,000 in state funds with five other local businesses.
As part of the initiative, green roofs are planned at the Bare Building at 39 E. Chestnut St., Box Company Flats at 225 E. Grant St., Penn Stone at 190 W. Ross St., Two Dudes Painting at 750 Poplar St. and the new YMCA at 265 Harrisburg Ave.
"It's kind of neat to be the first one," Seavey said. "We feel like the poster child for green roofs."