Green Roofs

One of the cooler trends we’ve seen lately are green roofs in big cities. Alright, green roofs – that is a roof that is image of: a green roofmostly or completely covered in vegetation – have been around forever, especially in European countries. Recently though, larger, metropolitan areas closer to home have been looking at green roofs as a way to deal with certain issues, like hunger and climate change. While the practice of green roofs has been (pleasantly) on the rise lately, there is one project in particular that is worth keeping an eye on. Rye’s Home Grown is a project that has been in the works at Ryerson University since 2010, focusing on a series of experimental gardens intended to raise awareness about food security issues.

The original intention of Rye’s Home Grown in 2010 was to place moveable planters in the middle of Gould Street, which runs through the heart of Ryerson’s campus. Due to construction concerns, this idea was eventually scrapped in favour of some unused spots around the campus. Eventually the project grew, and a larger space was required. By 2013, the project expanded to utilize the green roof that Ryerson’s engineering building had been using to save energy costs since 2004.

Why is This Important

Since adding this project, dedicated to creating a closed-loop food supply system (a farming practice that recycles all nutrients and organic matter material back to the soil that it grew in) to Ryerson’s active green roof, the students and faculty working on the project have converted ~10,000sqft. Of the rooftop into fruit and vegetable gardens. This produce is then sold at Ryerson’s weekly farmer’s market, as well as to campus food services. The profits from the produce sales are then put back into the project in order to keep up and expand the ever-growing garden. With a total current enrollment of 36,374 hungry mouths to feed, there would be a necessity for a lot of otherwise-sourced vegetables without the help of this burgeoning botanical buffet.

The benefits of a green roof are pretty clear. Even before Rye’s Home Grown was added to the University’s green roof, the campus was already using it to reduce the building’s energy costs. Since using the green roof space to grow vegetation for their meal programs, they’ve also been cutting down on costs necessary to bring in outside food. Now extrapolate that to the rest of Toronto – and other metropolitan cities for that matter. There is so much underutilized space on the tops of office buildings, and apartments that could be harnessed for the production of native Ontario vegetation.

image of: green roofsVegetation production isn’t the only benefit of a green roof. We mentioned that the Ryerson engineering building has been using their green roof as a way to cut down on energy costs for fourteen years now. That’s huge! Green roofs work to reduce the heat flux through the roof, and as a result, buildings require less energy to be cooled. A 2006 University of Michigan study gleaned from claims that while a green roof installed on a 21,000 square foot surface would cost roughly $129,000 more than a conventional roof, but would save around $200,000 over its lifetime. Close to two-thirds of these savings are attributed to reduced energy requirements! Additionally, green roofs are a great way to improve storm-water management. This is another major benefit, since massive water runoff in areas with impervious roofs can lead to flooding and water damage. Not only are green roofs a great leap forward in solving problems like the energy crisis, and hunger, but a green roof with the right plants can also be a destination for hungry bees and other pollinators – a monumental benefit in an age where the population of bees is dangerously low.

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Green Roofs in Metropolitan Areas