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Green Roofs are Growing Food and Biodiversity

Green Roofs are Growing Food and Biodiversity
in Cities like Toronto, Washington, and Montreal
By Wendy Priesnitz

Since our first article about green roofs, published in 1995, the idea has caught on and a whole industry has developed. And its North American industry association (which has added green walls to its field of interest) has also grown. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) says that the industry grew by double-digits in 2016 according to its 2016 Annual Green Roof Industry Survey.

The Canadian city of Toronto, Ontario had the most square footage of green roofing installed in 2016, with Chicago, Washington D.C., and Seattle following. “It’s no small feat that Toronto has been recognized as the leading city for green roof installation in North America,” says Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner for the City of Toronto. “Our Green Roof Bylaw, in effect since 2010, has resulted in a new roof-scape for Toronto, cooling the city, helping to mitigate water run off, while also adding beauty and biodiversity.”

According to the 2016 survey, corporate members recorded 889 projects in 40 US states and six Canadian provinces, installing 4,061,024 square feet of green roofing.

Although the green roof market continues to grow, there is still an enormous potential for new green roofs to be installed on tens of billions of square feet across North America. Strong policy support in cities like Washington, D.C. and Toronto is driving the growth.

In Montreal, Quebec, the largest organic supermarket green roof garden (25,000 square feet) in Canada has just been unveiled. It’s also the first in the country to sell its produce in the store. The project was developed by IGA supermarket owners Famille Duchemin on their new LEED certified store.

Ultimately, over 30 different varieties of organic produce certified by Ecocert Canada will be grown on the supermarket’s roof, including lettuce, peppers, herbs, and tomatoes. In addition to the vegetable garden, the roof is also home to eight Alvéole bee hives, set to produce roughly 600 jars of honey to sell.

A local newspaper reported that the store’s co-owner Richard Duchemin says they decided to treat a requirement by the Montreal borough of St-Laurent to install a green roof as an opportunity, instead of a constraint. Montreal has been working on a policy for green roofs on its larger buildings for a number of years, with some developers fearing the requirements were too difficult to meet.

The green roof at the IGA supermarket plays a role in the LEED certification, reducing energy consumption by providing an extra layer of insulation. In addition, the garden is irrigated with water collected from the store’s dehumidification system, which would otherwise have been discarded, and the roof has become a habitat for birds and insects.

Wendy Priesnitz is Natural Life Magazine's editor.



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