New Rooftop farm to be the biggest in the world

Brightfarms, a hydroponic greenhouse company, just announced that it plans to build the world’s largest rooftop farm in Brooklyn. The 100,000 sq ft farm will grow enough food to feed 5,000 locals and create 25 new full-time jobs. The initiative is part of Bloomberg’s waterfront revitalization initiatives that aim to revitalize Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront. The rooftop farm will be able to grow up to 1 million pounds of produce a year, and prevent 1.8 million gallons of stormwater from overwhelming local waterways. For more information, check out the article in Inhabitat here.

New Green Infrastructure Report released to Ontario Government

On March 26th the Green Infrastructure Ontario (GIO) and Ecojustice released Health, Prosperity and Sustainability: The Case for Green Infrastructure in Ontario to Queen’s Park. The report outlines the benefits of adopting a cohesive green infrastructure policy, as New York City and the State of Illinois have done. In particular, the report estimates millions could be saved in traditional infrastructure costs, in addition to savings in health care from improved health and well-being, improved productivity, and climate adaptability. The report also estimates significant job creation and improved property values from the adoption of a cohesive green infrastructure provincial policy. Concrete suggestions on ways forward, as well as the necessary political and policy changes to achieve an integrated green infrastructure policy, are some of the key strengths of the report. You can find out more about the GIO coalition here, and download the report for free here.

Green City initiatives increasingly common; showcased in World Health Day

On April 7th the the World Health Organizations’ World Health Day will focus on urbanization and health. The campaign encourages cities to “open public spaces to health,” such as clean up or urban park activities. Leading examples from cities across the world will be featured in their “1000 cities- 1000 lives” campaign, and cities can sign up on the World Health Organization website.

Many U.S. cities are already embarking on campaigns to make their cities greener, from vegetated roofs to bike sharing campaigns and composting. Montreal, Paris, and Washington, DC are some of the most recent cities to implement a bike-sharing program.

Many cities are also implementing composting, with one of the newest converts being San FranciscoToronto has also had enormous success with its green bin program.

For those interested in getting an overview of green city initiatives, they can check out Planet Green’s “Green City Guide.”

For more information check out an excellent website: Finding Dulcinea.

NYC leads on innovative urban greenspace with the Highline

Design of Highline
Design of Highline

New York City has garnered international attention with its recent opening of the Highline park, which is a new public greenspace on an abandoned elevated rail line. The ‘park’ has a long history and is a testament to community organization and new, innovative visions for urban revitatalization and urban greening. The park has used a naturalized aesthetic to replicate the abandoned character of the line and encourage native habitat. For more information and pictures, click here.

View along the Highline
View along the Highline

Vision for Chicago’s Future ambitious and green: Burnham anniversary plans

Millennium Park (City of Chicago)
One example of Chicago's attitude to urban revitalization: Millennium Park (City of Chicago)

The 100th anniversary of Chicago’s famous Burnham plan is re-kindling debate on the direction and vision of Chicago’s future, and true to the original spirit of the plan, the visions are bold and ambitious.  The Burnham plan, named after the Chicago architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, is one of the most famous city plans in the western world, and one which cemented Chicago’s reputation for boldness and civic greenspaces.  Central to these discussions is a vision of a regional Chicago that is greener, cleaner, and integrates public transportation with regional goals.  But are these visions realistic or cohesive? Chicago’s Blair Kamin discusses some of these new discussions and exhibitions in his Chicago Tribune article, January 10th, 2009.

Seattle considers greener townhouse and landscaping standards

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Proposed legislation in Seattle aims to make mulitfamily housing more environmentally sensitive in both its built form and landscaping.  Among the highlights of the proposal are better townhouse design, protection of single-family neighbourhoods, green construction and landscaping, and affordable housing. Of particular interest for the green roof industry is the proposed modification to current landscaping requirements, which would increase landscaping by 15-20%, often include green roofs and vegetated walls, and require LEED Silver or Built Green Four Star construction standards for projects where additional development capacity is allowed. For the full story, click here.

New rating system for sustainable landscaping proposed

A new initiative, called Sustainable Sites, has been developed by the United States Botanic Garden, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This proposed model addresses the lack of guidelines for sustainable landscaping in building design, and is meant to be a rating system similar to the current top green building guidelines, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).  The report, which is open for comments until January 20th, is hoped to be incorporated into LEED

Prairie grass,
Prairie grass,

2011. To see the full article, click here.

To go directly to the Sustainable Sites Initiative site, click here.

Chicago’s Green Renaissance

Mayor Daley’s leadership puts Chicago on the map for urban greening initiatives

Chicago has become nationally known for its leadership in the environment…. It improves public health; it beautifies the city; it enhances the quality of life; it saves money; and it leaves a legacy for future generations.
Mayor Daley, (City of Chicago: Department of the Environment 2006)

Chicago has been getting greener thanks in large part to the leadership from Mayor Richard M. Daley. Traditionally known more for its architecture, gritty industrial roots and gangster history, Chicago has been showing a greener side to both visitors and locals alike. In addition to having one of the largest public-access waterfronts in North America, Chicago has recently been adding seasonal planters to main boulevards, planting millions of trees, greening schoolyards, increasing parkspace, and greening rooftops.

Chicago Cultural Centre green roof overlooking Millennium Park
Chicago Cultural Centre green roof overlooking Millennium Park

Originally intended to beautify the city, the City is realizing that greening the city provides multiple benefits that go beyond aesthetics. Green initiatives are now a cornerstone of Daley’s administration, and have won him both international leadership awards and recognition. Daley was initially criticized for spending money on planting trees when some of Chicago’s poorest and most segregated neighbourhoods face significant challenges in violence and unemployment. In light of both the multiple benefits these urban greening projects provide and the international recognition they garner, however, even some of Daley’s critics admit that these greening initiatives have proven to be a powerful symbol of change and revitalization.

Green = Investment and Revitalization

Adding greenspace to the city has proven to be a smart approach to signify investment and pride in neighbourhoods in Chicago. Developers hunting for the next up-and-coming neighbourhood keep a close eye on investment by the City in the form of planters along boulevards, upgraded parks, and street beautification. With the largest number of TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) districts in the U.S., City Hall has also been able to mandate green roofs, increased greenspace and green building features on schools and new developments that receive money from the city. Landscape ordinances mandate that parking garages be covered with vines or vegetation, while laneways are being greened through the City’s Green Alley Program. Bringing this all together is the City’s new Green Urban Design Guidelines (GUD) (2007) that form the first comprehensive, interdepartmental greening plan. The GUD lays out urban greening criteria based on hydrology, neighbourhood, air quality and other factors that influence the required level of greening for a particular devleopment. Chicago has also been selected to pilot one of a handful of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Neighbourhood Design (LEED ND) projects in the U.S. which aims to blend green building and smart growth objectives. With these initiatives urban nature is beginning to be equated with revitalization, care, and investment, turning a midwest city into a symbol of progress, innovation, and health.

Along Michigan Avenue
Along Michigan Avenue

Green Roofs

“We do this not because it’s fashionable, but because it makes sense. It improves public health; it beautifies the city; it enhances the quality of life; it saves money; and it leaves a legacy for future generations.”

Mayor Richard Daley

Perhaps the most famous of Daley’s greening initiatives are Chicago’s green roofs. Leading the way with an award-winning green roof on their City Hall, Daley’s tough green roof incentives and requirements have made Chicago the North American leader for green roof implementation for four years running (Green Roofs for Healthy Cities). Known for their ability to reduce stormwater runoff and reduce the urban heat island effect, green roofs have also proven to be perhaps the most symbolic of all Daley’s initiatives. Other cities wishing to implement green initiatives have admired Daley’s use of green roofs as a symbolic figurehead for his other greening initiatives, and is perhaps a good lesson in public perception. Green roofs are sexy and innovative, and easily capture the public imagination. The most famous green roof in Chicago may not even be recognized as one- Millennium Park.

The multi-million dollar green roof/park that covers sections of the railway that had previously cut off part of the lakefront from downtown has boosted tourism and become a centerpiece of the Loop. Combined with favourable incentives to bring housing downtown, the loop has for the first time been seen as a popular place to live and the residents are moving in. Though green roofs have also been criticized as merely symbolic, they are but one of a number of features that can make a building green* and have paved the way for further greening initiatives such as the current LEED-Gold standard for all new City buildings and LEED certified for all renovations for City buildings.

View from green roof of the Chicago Center for Green Technology, first LEED Platinum building
View from green roof of the Chicago Center for Green Technology, achieved LEED Platinum

Still dependent on coal and suffering from raging sprawl outside the city like many other North American cities, along with a still-lagging recycling program, Chicago still has a long way to go before being considered truly “green.” With the increasing awareness and acceptance of Daley’s green agenda by Chicagoans and the international community alike, however, Chicago may be a good lesson for other cities wishing to move green initiatives forward- don’t forget the vegetation in green.


Chicago’s Green Roof and Green Building Policies

Chicago’s Green Roof Policies

Chicago’s Environmental Initiatives