I found an old article from the August 7, 2014 edition of Landscape Architecture Magazine, and it provided some insight to the status and welfare to urban green rooftops that were installed in the latter half of the past decade. “Roof to Table” is the name of the article, and it focused on the conversion of a handful of older green roof concepts into productive gardens that now provide food and herbs. The biggest problem and concern about these original series of rooftop gardens is that they typically used landscaping that requires a demanding amount of maintenance and expense. Because of that, the green roofs weren’t successful and gardens were dying, being taken over by other vegetation, or supporting weed infestation. The concept of green roofs is still a trendy idea, and only select metro areas even have them. Much is still to be learned, and as more is learned, I suspect we’ll see more green roofs, both new and retro-fit designs.
The story refers to the Chicago project known as McCormick Place, New York’s Staten Island Ferry Terminal, and Toronto’s Ryerson University rooftop learning lab, and it points out that in all projects for a variety of reasons related to maintenance of the gardens are converting their green roofs to be food producing. A lot has been learned from the original green roof installs at these sights, and the information collected is useful to help identify ideal models for green rooftop design. Logistics need to be worked out in these systems, such as how do you protect the building from the damage agricultural use causes?
It’s fascinating to see this as a growing trend. There is a proposed Downtown Tucson development project called City Park that will begin construction this winter. It is supposed to feature a rooftop garden concept, possibly tied to a restaurant. Also, when I worked for the Student Unions, I was part of a committee that proposed the installation of a rooftop herb garden to serve the Unions restaurants. It is still in use today, providing low yields of oregano, parsley, dill, rosemary, basil, and other herbs. The design is using horse watering troughs filled with soil.
Photo Credit: www.nps.gov (Green roof atop Chicago City Hall)