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Source: IakovKalinin/istock

New Law In France Requires Commercial Buildings To Focus On Sustainability

By Maria Cook

France is a nation that values the environment. This has been made clear by a host of eco-friendly laws the nation has passed since the 1990s. According to the European Environment Agency, France even managed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 13% from reduce its use of harmful pesticides, and increase its number of protected forests and marine environments from 1990 to 2012. In their most recent efforts to focus on sustainability, France signed its newest eco-friendly policy into law, on Thursday. Now, all new, commercial buildings built in France must have their roofs partially covered in either plants or solar panels. 

The law aims to reduce energy waste throughout the country. Solar panels harness the sun's UV and infrared rays to create electrical power, and though their ability to power an entire building depends on the building's size, location, and the size of the panels themselves, any amount of energy produced would help offset the building's overall energy costs. On a large scale, such energy conservation could help to lower energy costs throughout French cities, even for those not working in the commercial buildings themselves. 

Plants are a less obvious but still an effective way to conserve energy. In cities around the world, green rooftops are being used to combat the urban phenomenon known as "heat island effect." According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cities can be be between 1.8 and 5.4 degrees hotter than rural areas, even under identical weather conditions. This is due to cities' abundant use of heat-absorbing materials, such as asphalt and cement. Heat island effect can be bad news for city-dwellers, driving up their air conditioning costs and increasing air pollution. Not to mention that for some, including the sick, the very young, and the elderly, heat can cause illness or even death.