by carol stocker
existing buildingexisting building existing building
look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a
plane! No, it’s a farm!
Talk about innovation on the Boston
waterfront, pioneering growers want to
turn 55,000 square feet of the immense
roof atop the eight-story Boston Design
Center (BDC) into Boston’s first, and one
of the world’s largest, urban rooftop farms.
Rooftop farms, not to be confused with
green roofs or rooftop gardens (see
glossary below), are something new. They
are designed to grow edibles, usually herbs
and greens, on otherwise unused urban
rooftops for chefs and locavores who abhor
the carbon footprint left by produce
air-freighted from South America.
But there are other benefits. The farm
should save the design center big bucks in
air conditioning and heating costs and
extend the life of the roof by insulating it
from rain, summer sun, and winter wind. If
rooftop farms (and green roofs) catch on,
they could help the environment, buffering
urban summer heat and decreasing storm
runoff and flooding associated with global
warming. (Toronto, Tokyo, and Basel,
Switzerland, mandate plantings for suitable
roofs, and New York City and Chicago offer tax subsidies for roof farms.) Much green roof
technology comes from Germany, where buildings with rooftop gardens were slower to
catch fire during World War II bombings, and were sometimes the only structures left
standing amid wartime ruins.
Boston start-up Higher Ground Farm ( higher-ground-farm.com), which leased the BDC
space, is trying to raise $630,000 for the project. Recover Green Roofs (recovergreenroofs.
com), a design-and-building firm in Somerville, Massachusetts, has drawn up plans (below)
to layer modern roofing membrane, root barrier material, insulation, water storage, and
growing medium to create the farm beds (left).
“We’re excited.” says BDC manager Julie Rogowski. “Our tenants are excited. We’re
planning to sell vegetables from the roof in our lobby.”
high hopes for farming
boston design center ooftop farm area reserved channel
glossary • Rooftop Garden Any garden on top of a building, usually recreational.
Rooftop Farm Produce commercially grown on large flat roofs for both profit and
environmental benefits. Green Roof A layer of tough ground cover planted on a building to
reduce its carbon footprint. Brown Roof A failed green roof, rooftop garden, or farm.
glass scrim-reinforced polyester mat