BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASSOCIATE ASLA
In downtown Chicago, the city’s convention center, McCormick Place, dominates the landscape with 27 acres of rooftop. The facility’s West Building has more than three acres of thin, or extensive, green roof, which was installed in 2007 to meet city requirements. In recent years, a lack of maintenance has caused the roof’s Sedum species to decline, which gave employees of SAVOR, the in-house food service provider at McCormick Place, an idea that these highly visible vegetated planes could be used for a more productive purpose. The result is the McCormick Place Rooftop Farm.
Green roof infrastructure has matured to the point that the intended use for some older roofs may no longer be relevant. In Chicago, New York, and Toronto, there are projects to turn some of these roofs into fields of food. In the past decade, cities with progressive stormwater management policies have incentivized or even required green roofs on new construction, creating a veneer of vegetation across many urban skylines. But as with any landscape, the project matures and the needs of the users change.