Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What’s the Deal with Green Roofs?

The growing popularity of green roofs had us wondering what it really means to "go green".  We recently met with Toronto-based landscape architect Scott Torrance to find out exactly what the buzz is all about.

We were asked to meet at the Native Child & Family Services of Toronto building in College Park. Admittedly, we were at first unsure of what this could possibly have to do with condos! Well, we quickly realized why Scott had brought us here. This building was the perfect example of the intense level of consideration that must be taken in planning any green space, and the seamless integration of beauty and utility that happens when it’s done right.

As Scott walked us through each of the design features, his passion for the project shone through. It’s clear that the design and landscaping throughout the Native Child & Family Services building was carefully thought out, with strong consideration for cultural, functional and environmental issues. A deliberate effort was made to incorporate specific design features that harmonized these ideas for the building’s patrons, and of course more technical issues such as load support, durability against wind, waterproofing and privacy against the adjacent condo building.

We were introduced to many multi-functional features, each of which integrated customs and rituals that are traditional to the First Nations community. Some highlights include:
  • Attractive planters featuring Three Sisters Gardens – a special arrangement of corn, squash and beans – found throughout the building. This unique method of planting provides all the nutrients needed for a balanced vegetarian diet;
  • Three different gardens featuring traditional herbs and plants found on the green roof: Prairie Garden (native wildflowers and grasses), Sacred Medicines Garden (cedar, sage, tobacco and sweetgrass) and Sumac Grove;
  • Rubberized flooring on the rooftop, ideal for users of all ages including seniors and children;
  • Communal, multi-functional seating created out of salvaged hardwood logs that can easily be moved or re-configured;
  • A gas fire pit and sweat lodge;
  • A Native birch tree to provide shade.

So what is the deal with green roofs? As evident in the one we visited, not only are they a practical and economical way to help protect a building against the elements in an increasingly environmentally-conscious society, but they can also provide additional living spaces that are both beautiful and functional.

The Native Child & Family Services of Toronto building was designed by Levitt Goodman Architects Inc

.Scott Torrance and his Toronto-based team create beautiful landscape designs for public and private spaces, both large and small. For more information on Scott Torrance or to contact him directly, please visit http://www.scotttorrance.ca/.

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