A Roof Garden Its Much More Than That — New York Times

A Roof Garden Its Much More Than That - New York Times

Transactions

Peter Thompson for The New York Times

In Chicago, where Agusto Garcia waters plants on the roof of a McDonald’s, green roofs are already common.

Above Tony Soprano’s head will be New York City’s largest green roof, a thin layer of plants covering 35,000 square feet in a design that aims to reduce air pollution, control heating and cooling costs, and absorb storm water runoff.

Proponents of the project, which has been two years in the making, are hoping to use data collected from it to convince commercial property owners and developers that not only are green roofs good for the environment, they can benefit the bottom line.

The highly visible location near the large Silvercup Studios’ sign will be its own best advertisement. A matrix of 1,500 planters will have 20 different species of plants intended to show off their red, yellow and green colors, visible from the Queensboro Bridge when in full bloom.

Not to be confused with a roof garden, however, a green roof is less of an aesthetic amenity than it is a workhorse. The carefully selected plants and soil — engineered to weigh only a fifth as much as typical dirt — help clean the air and absorb rain that would otherwise become storm-water runoff. And when many of them are clustered together, green roofs can reduce the urban heat island effect (densely populated cities tend to be hotter than surrounding areas because of the heat-trapping properties of tall buildings, asphalt and concrete).

Less well established are the benefits of green roofs to property owners and developers. It is known that they can reduce a building’s heating and cooling costs, and extend the life of the roof, but the question is, Do the long-term benefits justify the initial cost?

"We are looking to demonstrate to the government, the public and most of all private business that green technologies are an economic benefit," said Stuart Suna, co-owner of Silvercup Studios. "What exactly that benefit is will be determined by this green-roof demonstration project."

The Silvercup project originated with a study undertaken by Diana Balmori of Balmori Associates, a landscape design firm.

Ms. Balmori’s interest in the submarket of green-roof design led to a comprehensive assessment of New York City’s flat-roof buildings. What she discovered is that Long Island City has 667 acres of empty flat-roof surfaces suitable for vegetation, an area more than three-quarters the size of Central Park. Given the available flat roofs, the air pollution generated from the area’s heavy industry and traffic, and a nearby power plant that produces 25 percent of the city’s electricity, Long Island City turned out to be the perfect green-roof laboratory.

Ms. Balmori took her idea to build a demonstration green roof to the Long Island City Business Development Corporation, the neighborhood’s business improvement district; Mr. Suna is a member of the group. They secured a grant from Clean Air Communities, an organization devoted to reducing air pollution and energy consumption in the city’s low-income neighborhoods.

The $500,000 grant is paying for the green-roof design by Balmori Associates, and the installation by Greener by Design, a landscaping company based in New York that specializes in green roofs. Ms. Balmori estimates the outlay will be about $10 a square foot, not including the structural engineering costs paid for by Silvercup Studios, or the yearlong study to be undertaken by the Earth Pledge Foundation, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization based in New York.

Leslie Hoffman, executive director of Earth Pledge, said that once the green roof was established, her organization would measure energy savings as a result of reduced temperature fluctuations in and around the building. The study will also measure the amount of storm-water retention, which alleviates pressure on the city’s overtaxed wastewater system.

A study conducted in Chicago, for instance, demonstrated that a green roof absorbed nearly half the water that was captured elsewhere in a conventional roof rain barrel during a downpour.

Transactions

Peter Thompson for The New York Times

In Chicago, where Agusto Garcia waters plants on the roof of a McDonald’s, green roofs are already common.

Above Tony Soprano’s head will be New York City’s largest green roof, a thin layer of plants covering 35,000 square feet in a design that aims to reduce air pollution, control heating and cooling costs, and absorb storm water runoff.

Proponents of the project, which has been two years in the making, are hoping to use data collected from it to convince commercial property owners and developers that not only are green roofs good for the environment, they can benefit the bottom line.

A Roof Garden Its Much More Than That - New York Times

The highly visible location near the large Silvercup Studios’ sign will be its own best advertisement. A matrix of 1,500 planters will have 20 different species of plants intended to show off their red, yellow and green colors, visible from the Queensboro Bridge when in full bloom.

Not to be confused with a roof garden, however, a green roof is less of an aesthetic amenity than it is a workhorse. The carefully selected plants and soil — engineered to weigh only a fifth as much as typical dirt — help clean the air and absorb rain that would otherwise become storm-water runoff. And when many of them are clustered together, green roofs can reduce the urban heat island effect (densely populated cities tend to be hotter than surrounding areas because of the heat-trapping properties of tall buildings, asphalt and concrete).

Less well established are the benefits of green roofs to property owners and developers. It is known that they can reduce a building’s heating and cooling costs, and extend the life of the roof, but the question is, Do the long-term benefits justify the initial cost?

"We are looking to demonstrate to the government, the public and most of all private business that green technologies are an economic benefit," said Stuart Suna, co-owner of Silvercup Studios. "What exactly that benefit is will be determined by this green-roof demonstration project."

The Silvercup project originated with a study undertaken by Diana Balmori of Balmori Associates, a landscape design firm.

Ms. Balmori’s interest in the submarket of green-roof design led to a comprehensive assessment of New York City’s flat-roof buildings. What she discovered is that Long Island City has 667 acres of empty flat-roof surfaces suitable for vegetation, an area more than three-quarters the size of Central Park. Given the available flat roofs, the air pollution generated from the area’s heavy industry and traffic, and a nearby power plant that produces 25 percent of the city’s electricity, Long Island City turned out to be the perfect green-roof laboratory.

Ms. Balmori took her idea to build a demonstration green roof to the Long Island City Business Development Corporation, the neighborhood’s business improvement district; Mr. Suna is a member of the group. They secured a grant from Clean Air Communities, an organization devoted to reducing air pollution and energy consumption in the city’s low-income neighborhoods.

The $500,000 grant is paying for the green-roof design by Balmori Associates, and the installation by Greener by Design, a landscaping company based in New York that specializes in green roofs. Ms. Balmori estimates the outlay will be about $10 a square foot, not including the structural engineering costs paid for by Silvercup Studios, or the yearlong study to be undertaken by the Earth Pledge Foundation, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization based in New York.

Leslie Hoffman, executive director of Earth Pledge, said that once the green roof was established, her organization would measure energy savings as a result of reduced temperature fluctuations in and around the building. The study will also measure the amount of storm-water retention, which alleviates pressure on the city’s overtaxed wastewater system.

A study conducted in Chicago, for instance, demonstrated that a green roof absorbed nearly half the water that was captured elsewhere in a conventional roof rain barrel during a downpour.


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