Friday, February 20, 2015

Turning Vacant Lots into Rooftop Gardens-- Savannah, Ryan, and Michaela

In recent years, Chicago has started designing and implementing rooftop gardening.  Not only are rooftop gardens aesthetically pleasing; but they save energy, keep buildings cooler, and can help preserve the life of the roof.  Rooftop gardening replaces the dark tar roofing, which lowers temperatures and reduces air pollution. 

Essential Layers of a Rooftop Garden
  • Plants
  • Growing Media
  • Filter Mat
  • Drainage layer
  • Insulation
  • Root barrier
  • Waterproof membrane
  • Roof deck

Instead of the plants merely sitting on top of the roof, some gardens become the roof. These “green roof systems” provide drainage and nutrients, and can be intensive or extensive. The extensive gardens are lightweight and low maintenance, while the intensive gardens closely resemble ones seen on the ground. Planning and preparation for a rooftop garden is an extensive process that needs to be carefully done, and there are several factors to consider, such as: the condition of the roof and how much it can hold, how you are going to access the garden, how much the garden will weigh, how much the garden will cost, how to irrigate your garden, how to be sure water is properly drained, and how it will be designed. 

Estimated costs of installing a green roof start at $10 per square foot for simpler extensive roofing, and $25 per square foot for intensive roofs. Annual maintenance costs for either type of roof may range from $0.75–$1.50 per square foot. Depending on the size of the garden, the amount of people needed to build the rooftop garden varies as well as the time commitment. You should be able to dedicate at least 1 hour a day to the rooftop garden to ensure it has enough water and to prune the plants. While the initial costs of green roofs are higher than those of conventional materials, building owners can help offset the difference through reduced energy and stormwater management costs, and potentially have a longer lifespan of green roofs compared with conventional roofing materials.

Green-roofs are rapidly becoming popular and Chicago already has 359 rooftop gardens established. The Urban Heat Island Effect is the temperature between a city and the area around it because of the asphalt and dark surfaces that emit heat, and the rooftop gardens help battle this effect. They lower the temperatures by replacing dark roofs and they add more oxygen to the atmosphere.

Stacey Kimmons and Audra Lewicki harvest lettuce at the Chicago Botanic Garden's 20,000-square-foot vegetable garden atop McCormick Place West in Chicago.

                                                       Rooftop gardens in Milwaukee

Wittenberg students and the students from the community can turn abandoned buildings into something useful and beautiful. Some abandoned buildings cannot be torn down easily because of cost, time, and the labor involved. Instead of choosing a an empty lot, we could use the building on the lot as a storage place for the garden materials, turn it into an indoor garden, or find a way to  make it functional for the community. We could use everything on the lot by making use of the storage the building provides, as well as making a rooftop garden. This project could have several parts for the students to be involved in. Along with the garden, the students could help paint the building and make it a fun, safe place for them to go.

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