Sustainable Catalyst Partners LLC Green Roofs in Indianapolis — Sustainable Catalyst Partners LLC

Sustainable Catalyst Partners LLC Green Roofs in Indianapolis - Sustainable Catalyst Partners LLC

Green Roofs in Indianapolis

How many green roofs are in Indianapolis? Have you ever stood on top of a green roof in Indianapolis? I would bet you’d be surprised by the answer to BOTH of those questions. I recently had the opportunity to be on top of two of my favorite green roofs in Indianapolis and it got me thinking. I wondered if many of the people who pass by these buildings on the street every day even know what’s going on up here.

First of all, in order to answer either of those questions, it helps to understand what I mean when I say “green roof.” Generally, a green roof is a roof that uses living vegetation to absorb storm water and insulate the building for energy efficiency. But that’s only the beginning of what a green roof can do. Let’s take a look at some examples in Indianapolis that are doing a lot more than just the basic stuff.

Touring the green roof atop The Nature Conservancys Headquarters with my SPEA students.

The first of my recent green roof field trips was to the Efroymson Conservation Center’s green roof. I took my SPEA students on a field trip to visit the LEED Platinum building built by The Nature Conservancy of Indiana. This particular project has special meaning to me because I followed its design and construction while I was working in the City of Indianapolis’ Office of Sustainability. I even created a documentary to educate the public about its use of green design to save money. Constructed in 2009, it was one of the first LiveRoof system installations in Indianapolis. The modular tray system uses a variety of sedum plants to absorb and filter storm water. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s dedication to education, it also serves another important function: to teach people what a green roof looks like and how it is designed, constructed, and maintained. They give tours of their entire building and if you’ve never explored a green building or been on a green roof, THIS is the one to see!

Speaking of being on a green roof, if you’ve enjoyed some of Indy’s finest public spaces, chances are you have been on a green roof without even knowing it. Did you know that the Indianapolis Museum of Art has a green roof? You probably parked under it or walked across it to tour the beautiful grounds of the museum. The underground parking garage has a lush lawn area and trees planted on top of it, creating a beautiful vista from the Sutphin Fountain.

Have you ever enjoyed a beautiful spring day on Capitol Commons. just south of the Simon Building at Maryland & Capitol streets? Or taken your lunch outside in the courtyard of the One America building. You were on top of another underground parking garage crowned by a green roof. Sneaky, I know. These green roofs provide beautiful green space in an urban environment for people, while also providing a less-ugly solution for parking their cars.

Molly Meyer and Don Able discuss the benefits of installing a bee hive on the new WFYI green roof.

Sustainable Catalyst Partners LLC Green Roofs in Indianapolis - Sustainable Catalyst Partners LLC

A few other green roofs have popped up around Indianapolis in the past few years. The most recent addition to Indy’s green roof portfolio is the WFYI building on north Meridian. Molly Meyer, a friend and Indianapolis native, is the owner of Rooftop Green Works. the Chicago-based company that installed the roof earlier this spring. She invited me to attend the WFYI Open House to see the established green roof. This green roof was unlike any other I had ever stepped foot on before. Instead of trays of drought-tolerant sedum, it contained several inches of growing media for a wide variety of plants and vegetables – yes, vegetables! Molly pointed out buckwheat, Mexican sunflowers, collards, cosmos, and radishes. The diversity of species, textures, and plant heights was beautiful – and thriving quite well. Don Able, a local architect and member of the Central Indiana Beekeeper’s Association toured the roof with me and was also impressed by the variety of plants. He suggested to Molly that WFYI ought to consider putting a few bee hives on the roof to provide habitat for pollinators, which are critical for the survival of these types of plants and in drastic decline across the US, according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Besides, bees also produce a sweet reward: local honey!

A view of the many plant species on the urban rooftop.

In addition to providing habitat for pollinators, this green roof provides another important benefit: noise insulation. According to Molly’s interview with Indiana Living Green magazine. when it rained prior to the green roof installation, WFYI’s microphones would pick up the sound of raindrops hitting the roof. You don’t have to know much about broadcast media to know that probably wasn’t ideal. The WFYI green roof not only insulates for sound and manages storm water, it reduces the building’s energy consumption and extends the life of the roof membrane.

In the Indiana Living Green magazine article mentioned above, Molly estimates there are about 20 green roofs in Indianapolis. Gathering the entire list would take awhile, and the list continues to grow.

Here’s a quick list of green roofs that have been constructed in Indy over the past several years:

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