Birds already appreciating the green roof Downtown
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Last year, the roof of the Metro Development Center on Fifth Street was a construction zone as 160 tons of gravel, planting medium, plants, and trees here hoisted up seven floors. Now the plants have had time to settle and will soon cover the building in a lush green carpet. Over 10,000 plants and four trees make up the new green roof and the the project is already experiencing success. One of the benefits of such a system is increased natural habitat and we saw several birds (like the one above) already making the roof home.

While the plantings may look a little thin now, Cecil Goins, who oversaw the installation, says by fall and especially next spring, the it will be difficult to spot the planting medium. Many of the drought resistant plants feature an array of red and green hues, so the roof will be a colorful sight to see. Irrigation hoses have been installed for dry weather, but the plants will get most of their water naturally. It’s estimated that 70 to 75 percent of rainwater that falls on the roof will be held and absorbed by the plants, reducing the strains on the sewer system during storms. (Read more about the benefits of a green roof from our last visit.)

We stopped by the construction site last year to learn about Louisville’s efforts to go green, and today Goins explained the city would like to see similar projects on other government buildings. In April, the Louisville Zoo announced that it, too, would be installing a substantial green roof with federal money. Goins says an extensive structural analysis of a building is the first step toward installing a green roof. Even though the Metro Development Center is a sturdy structure and former parking garage, engineering the roof to fit the building is key (and 160 tons is heavy). For example, trees were installed over concrete columns to better distribute the weight.

While there are no plans currently to add another green roof to a government building, Goins said there will eventually be more. He mentioned that the concrete Hall of Justice may be a good candidate and Chris Poynter of the Mayor’s office says the proposed bike-transit-center could have a green roof as well. It’s all about funding and each project is budget driven. The Metro Development Center was originally to have 12 trees shading its roof, but cost reduced the number to four.

The installation of the green roof went smoothly with no unexpected problems. Poynter notes the only disappointing aspect of the roof is that it can’t be opened to the public. The roof does not have an elevator or handicapped access. The city may allow individual tours for developers or builders who are interested in incorporating such a system into their own buildings, but no protocol has been established. The design was handled by Luckett & Farley of Third Street and the Hitchcock Group of Chicago.

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Branden Klayko

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