Green roofs: looking beyond shelter to bees, bocce &beauty
WASHINGTON — Green roofs provide potential for recreational,aesthetic and ecofriendly space, and as the appeal of sustainableroofing grows, Washington area residents continue to find colorfulalternatives to just being green.
At a glance from the sidewalk, it appears Jeff Miller lives in atypical Georgetown row home. but a quick climb up a ladder throughthe skylight in his bathroom reveals another dimension to hishouse, where about 240,000 honeybees buzz atop the roof.
Miller bought his first beehive several years ago to providepollinators for his garden, he said, and later founded D.C.Honeybees to propagate more bees in the city.
It’s this type of innovation that puts a personal spin oneco-friendly city living, said Kat Harrold, assistant green roofdesigner at Green Roof Service in Bel Air, Md.
“In terms of the overall quality of life in an urban area, it’sone of the best things you can do,” Harrold said. “If you canbasically turn your roof into your backyard, whether it be forgardening for just hanging out, I think that would be a tremendousresource.”
And if a roof can be converted to a backyard, why not use it forthe Italian lawn game bocce?
Last month, the D.C. Bocce League’s Columbia Heights Divisionkicked off its fall season on a grassy plot atop the Highland Parkapartment complex. that was the league’s first time playing eightstories above the city.
“We needed to run a fall league somewhere, and it’s hard to findspace on Saturday,” said John Groth, the league’s co-founder andmarketing director for the Highland Park building’s contractor,Donatelli Development.
Harrold said zoning regulations and weight capacities are themain restrictions on rooftop use.
“It’s not as heavy as a lot of people think it is, but thebottom line is (its) structure has to be sound for you to addanything to it or even just hang out on it,” Harrold said.
Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission employees are notspending time on the roofs of their Laurel, Md., office building,but workers on the upper floors have cubicles with a view. The twolower roofs, totaling 8,600 square feet, portray mirror images ofred and gray zigzags — an abstraction of a riverbed, according toHeidi Lippman, the roof’s designer.
From 12 stories up, it’s hard to tell the work of art, “RiverRun,” is composed of locally quarried gravel, but the design is aroofing option that helps cool the building and requires much lessupkeep than the plants that commonly cover newer green roofs.
“This is a way of introducing color without the issue ofintroducing maintenance, like water,” said Lippman, a public worksand studio artist who created two other rooftop designs in theWashington suburbs.
Employees at Artery Plaza in Bethesda, Md., enjoy a similar viewof “Aerialscape 1,” which covers 9,600 square feet of roofspace.
Lippman said she hopes her pieces inspire other sustainableinnovations.
“I hope it helps people think about what they can do with theirenvironment that is ingenious and simple and beautiful,” shesaid.
As development booms, using rooftops for more than just shinglespace is an increasingly popular trend, and some city residentscreate miniature green roofs without even realizing it.
“While they may not necessarily know what a green roof is, itkind of just starts out as a series of potted plants on theirroofs,” Harrold said.
Groth said the grass atop Highland Park and its twin turf lawnon the roof of Kenyon Heights condominiums across the street werenever intended as bocce courts, but the buildings have become knownfor the sport, providing a marketing tool for the developer drawingin potential residents.
“We didn’t call them anything before,” Groth said. “We justcalled it a ‘turf lawn’ or ‘grass lawn,’ and now we refer to themin all our projects as ‘bocce green lawns.”’
Lauren Pinch, manager of D.C. Bocce’s Columbia Heights Division,said it’s only natural for city dwellers to keep moving up insearch of new hangouts.
“Roofs in the city are kind of social space,” she said.
Although green space in cities doesn’t come as naturally, theinterest in variations on sustainable roofs has blossomed.
Initially, Miller said he was unaware of Washington’s sizeablebee-loving community, and he aimed to place five hives throughoutthe district. He sold 65 last year, he said, and about 35 of themare within city lines — eight of which happily buzz on Miller’sroof.
“They kinda sold themselves,” Miller said. “In D.C. there’s akeen awareness of sustainability.”