Designing with Green Roofs: Maximizing Sustainability and Stormwater Management

New urban roof top gardens lower energy costs and increase environmental benefits
This course is no longer active
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Advertorial course provided by American Hydrotech, Inc.
Celeste Allen Novak, AIA, LEED AP

Learning Objectives:

  1. Identify the components of a green roof.
  2. Describe how green roofs help with stormwater management.
  3. Analyze green roofs as part of your environmental strategy.



Ten stories above the Lake Michigan campus, atop Loyola University's newest learning lab in Chicago, is a rooftop prairie garden, planted on eight-inch soil beds. This urban oasis of tranquility provides a place where birds nest, amid a green outdoor environment. The Michael R. and Marilyn Quinlan Life Sciences Education and Research Center, designed by architects, SCB - Solomon Cordwell Buenz, provides stormwater detention, improves water quality, reduces the heat island effect of the city, and increases the life of the roof. Renee Euler, ASLA, landscape architect and designer of this green roof says, "It's a great view. It's a unique place for a prairie to be living and it has the potential to spread the seeds of native plants across Chicago."

These secret gardens, hidden from general view, and some very public green roofs, are a growing new trend in sustainable design and stormwater management. Green roofs maximize the buildable area of a project site and provide new places for people to go outdoors in an urban environment. Owners receive value from architects and design professionals who understand how to design, plant, specify, and construct green roofs.

Roofs are designed to keep rain and snow out of and away from a building, and support mechanical equipment. Roofs keep buildings dry and prevent heat loss. Traditional flat roofs are often unsightly, add little to building aesthetics, and represent a landscape of potential opportunities for designers. They add to the hard surfaces of the urban landscape or building site, and require stormwater mitigation.

A green roof or garden roof is a high-performance, environmental statement. Green roofs include many of the same components as conventional roofs, including insulation, waterproofing membrane, ballast, and flashing, but also contain components to provide moisture retention/drainage as well as a growing media to support the plants. building performance standards.

900 N. Kingsbury (Domain Lofts at eport) Chicago, Illinois
Architect: Pappageorge Haymes Limited

Images of the installation of this green roof on the top on an existing roof deck between two interior bays. The roof was retrofitted by the architects and provided with insulation and a seamless membrane. The garden and walking paths create a secret garden for residents who live above busy Chicago streets.


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Originally published in Architectural Record.