Buildup To Greenbuild: The Green Roofs of Toronto


All images credit Lloyd Alter unless otherwise noted.
Greenbuild, the huge green building conference put on by the US Green Building Council, is coming to my home town, Toronto, next month. As many as 30,000 American builders, designers, manufacturers and media will descend on the city (if they got their passports in time). TreeHugger is going to be your go-to place to find the best in Toronto's green building, places to go, things to see and people to meet. These are interesting times in Toronto; no doubt the city was pitched to the USGBC on the basis of its green credentials. But since then the civic government has changed to one that is anti-green, anti-bike, anti-urban and anti just about anything that was previously pro. I could spend the next month whining about this, but will keep it to a minimum, will try to keep it positive, and concentrate instead on some of the wonderful things that have been accomplished here. First up: green roofs.
Photo credit Susanne Jespersen

Toronto's first important green roof was built on top of the Mountain Equipment Coop store on King Street in Toronto, over a decade ago. Back then, nobody quite knew what a big amenity green roofs were going to be, and this one is accessible only by a maintenance ladder.

More: Green Roof on MEC Building

It shouldn't be a surprise that green roofs are big in Toronto; Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the industry promotion organization with the mission " to increase the awareness of the economic, social and environmental benefits of green roofs and green walls" was founded here in 1999 and is still run from Toronto. That's GRHC President Stephen Peck explaining how to build a green roof to me and others in 2005; see Green Roofs: A primer.

Soon, people began to realize what a great amenity an accessible green roof can be. Margie Zeidler put a gorgeous one on top of the Robertson Building, a fascinating business incubator that is worth a visit. More at Margie Zeidler: Building Green Incubators.

Some of Toronto's green roofs are accessible but private, like the one at ESRI Canada; all of the perimeter offices get to look at it and you don't. It is interesting also because it is on leased space, so it was prefabricated in trays. This enabled it to be installed in a weekend, and when the ESRI leaves, so does the green roof. I interview Scott Torrance on the roof at Prefab, Portable Green Roof Installed In Toronto

A very unusual green roof is on top of the Royal Ontario Museum; You sit in the fancy restaurant designed by Daniel Libeskind and look out on an incredibly thin and light green roof that covers the older wing of the museum. The roof couldn't take much load, so "Lisa Rapoport of Plant Architect came up with a clever solution: she installed a sliver of a green roof, only three pounds per square foot. It is a three inch slice of eye candy." This picture was taken when it was just being installed; it has grown up since then. More on the roof at Sliver of a Green Roof at the ROM by Plant Architects

Perhaps Toronto's smallest green roof is on the top of this garden shed, built by Colin Viebrock of Green Garage. It is a cute little thing that demonstrates how popular green roofs have become. More at Triple Treat: Prefab Garden Shed With a Green Roof

They don't just lie there and look pretty either; at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, they put the roof to work, growing vegetables herbs and raising bees for the restaurants downstairs. More at Sky-High Hotel Herbs and Vegetables and Amazing Panoramic View of Rooftop Farm In Toronto Newest Green Roof Accessory: Bees

In 2009. the City passed legislation to make green roofs mandatory in Toronto. Stephen Peck, who fought for the legislation said:

Toronto's by-law provides a new opportunity to strengthen the emerging practice of integrated green building design," said, Steven W. Peck, President of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, which supported the by-law against pressure from developers opposed to the policy. "The by-law breaks new ground on how to structure a mandatory green roof requirement and the construction standard also contains important best practices that may prove to be a model for other cities," he added.

Developers and builders opposed the law, so we will have to see how long it takes for the Ford Brothers to undo it.

But the mother of all green roofs in Toronto, the gem of the collection, is the installation on the podium of Toronto City Hall. Architectural critic Lisa Rochon raved It "is so impressive in its landscape detail and magnetism that it warrants the drop command: Drop everything and go directly to it." Designed by PLANT architects, Shore Tilbee and built by Flynn Canada, It is just a stunner and completely accessible to anyone. A must-see. More at Spectacular Green Roof Installed At Toronto City Hall and Green Roof Revisited at Toronto City Hall.

This is only a partial list of the green roofs of Toronto, the ones I have visited. If there are others you love, put them into comments below.

Roofs support lots of different activities in Toronto; Blog TO has prepared a list of the Best Rooftop Bars in Toronto. It is two years old, so check first.


View Lloyd Alter's Picks For Greenbuild 2011 in a larger map

Tags: greenbuild | Green Building | Green Roofs | Toronto

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