SUSTAINABILITY FOCUS: Green Roofs in New York City

We must use the technology available to us to transition to a more sustainable way of living, and this evolution is just beginning to take place. Here on the UEP blog, we want to focus on different examples of how clean technology can promote green, sustainable living, much like our zinc-manganese dioxide batteries.

A few years ago, a UN report came out which found that 70% of all global carbon emissions are from urban environments. In recent years, cities across the United States have responded with climate action plans to help spark a sustainable transformation. One major feature of this shift is the installation of green roofs on buildings, which are useful for waste diversion, stormwater management, energy efficiency, roof durability, noise reduction, and moderating the Urban Heat Island Effect.

This week, we explore different green roofs which have been installed throughout New York City.


JAVITS CENTER

The Javits Center is New York City's main convention center, hosting over 150 events bringing in more than 2 million visitors and nearly 40,000 companies every year.

Recently the Center has become better known for its green roof, which was completed in October 2014. Spanning 297,000 square feet, the roof is the second largest on a single building in the United States. The system prevents an estimated 6.8 million gallons of storm-water run-off annually and features beehives, birdhouses, and 14 different varieties of Sedum plants. 

Since installing the green roof, heating and cooling costs have dropped 25%. During bird migration season, the Convention Center turns off it's lights to accommodate the diverse roof habitat, and college students also frequently use the space to study weather patterns.


BARCLAYS CENTER

The Barclays Center is New York City's newest major stadium, bringing Hockey and Basketball back to Brooklyn. Originally, a green roof was included in the plan, but with many other features, was scrapped after the 2008 recession.

This year, the 135,000 square foot roof was finally added to provide extra sound proofing for games and events, as well as a better drainage system for the sewers. Unfortunately, the roof is off-limits to the public, and some argue that the 130,000 steel superstructure which was needed before installing the roof far outweighs the environmental benefits of planting sedum above the arena.

Check out this video of the making of the Barclays Center Green Roof:


FIVE BOROUGH PARK

The central hub for the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation, the Five Borough Administrative Building, is located on Randall's Island. In 2007, as part of Mayor Bloomberg's initial climate action plan, PlaNYC, the city began installing an interconnected system of green roofs on their complex. To date, the Department's Technical Service division, together with the Green Apple Corps, have installed 24 systems spanning 29,000 square feet.

The roof eliminates an estimated 424,000 gallons of storm-water annually. The two main types of plants used are sedum and native perennials, and each system varies by types and depths of growing medium, as well as plant selection. There are also other non-traditional systems here including a green wall, container systems, and a walkable atrium system, as well as planters on top of parapet walls. 

These systems have transformed the Five Borough Administration Building into both a working green roof laboratory and a prime example of urban sustainability.


STATEN ISLAND FERRY TERMINAL

The Staten Island Ferry is a major artery for quick transportation between Staten Island and Lower Manhattan. The service has been in operation since 1905, and carries over 22 million passengers every year.

In 2004, the Borough President's office of Staten Island constructed one of New York City's first green roofs on top of the water filtration building located at the ferry. Known as the Living Roof, the 13,000 square foot project quickly became outdated, with rapid soil depletion and widespread weed growth mitigating the roof's drainage capabilities.

In 2013, the entire Living Roof was cleared of weeds and debris and 1,200 square foot of garlic was planted. The new plan also allowed for over 7,000 sq ft of the rooftop space to be used for planting edibles, which through non-profits are then fed to hungry New Yorkers. Since the renovation, the Living Roof at the Staten Island Ferry has become a showcase for urban rooftop agriculture.


US POSTAL SERVICE - MORGAN PROCESSING CENTER

In 2007, The U.S. Postal Service installed a green roof on the Morgan Processing & Distribution Center, a historic 2.2 million square foot facility located in Midtown Manhattan. At 109,000 sq ft, the green roof is the largest in New York City, and includes 14 Brazilian wood benches made from sustainable lumber, both native and non-native vegetation, and a FSC sustainable wood art wall.

The roof is expected to last fifty years, which is twice as long as a conventional roof and will also help decontaminate the storm water runoff which flows into the water system, reducing total runoff by 75% in the summer and 35% in the winter. When the project was finished, the USPS stated that it would help reduce energy usage 30% by 2015.

The Postal Service is currently pursuing LEED certification for the roof, and has won more than 70 major environmental awards, including 40 White House Closing the Circle awards for environmental stewardship, and the 2009 Climate Change Champion of the Year Award for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.