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Daily Plant Masthead

Volume XXIV, Number 4997
Wednesday, Jul 22, 2009

New York Gets A Little Bit Greener

Photo by John Robilotti

If you haven’t been to the 5-Boro Technical Services building on Randall’s Island lately, you have missed out on a flurry of new activity. While the 5-Boro building already houses one of the largest green roof installations in New York City, Technical Services refuses to rest on its laurels. Over the last three weeks, two new green roof systems and one green wall system have been installed, adding over 1,600 square feet of green space and giving the building an impressive total of 16 different systems. The 5-Boro building is one of the few places in the nation, perhaps the world, where so many different types of Green Roofs can be viewed side-by-side.

The smaller of the two recently installed systems features a wildflower seed mix native to the northeast. Another original characteristic of this system is Technical Services’ use of its own custom blended lightweight growing medium, according to Senior Project Manager John Robilotti. He says that “this was the first green roof system that we had grown from seed. All of the other systems to date utilized plant material that was grown from cuttings or plugs.” Engineering Intern Ruksi Anandani, who was assigned the project under Robilotti’s supervision, explained that Technical Services “wanted to see if there are advantages to planting with seed, other than the obvious cost savings.”

Looking for a green roof system that provides all the flexibility of your own design while eliminating the grueling task of assembly, Robilotti selected a pre-grown system known as GreenGridTM. This system is grown at ground level in a nursery before it is shipped in modular containers to the roof site. Each container is a self-sufficient green roof; containing plants, growing medium, drainage system, and root barrier. Each container was placed on the roof in a pattern alongside salvaged safety surfacing tile painted a tranquil green. The safety surface tiles create “an attractive design element, a means to service the plants, and a cost reduction,” according to Robilotti, who went on to thank another intern, Donna Chen, who aided in the layout of this system.

The Green Wall system is also modular. It was planted with three hardy varieties of sedum at the Van Cortland Park Green House over the winter before being installed on an exterior rooftop stairwell wall at 5-Boro early this June. Although modest in size at only 33 square feet, it has the distinction of being the first green wall system undertaken by the New York City Parks Department.

These new green roof systems will contribute to reducing our heating and cooling costs, helping to mitigate the heat island effect and reducing air pollutants. They will also capture storm water so that during large rainstorms it is less likely that untreated sewage must be dumped into New York City’s waterways. As part of PlaNYC, these green roofs have, according to Robilotti, “transformed an otherwise inhospitable rooftop into a green oasis.”

So next time you find yourself on Randall’s Island, take some time to explore 5-Boro’s wide array of green roofs, a garden in the sky.

Written by Peter Glaser


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Nelson Mandela
(1918 - )

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