Greening cities from the top down

One thing about cities in Midwestern US – they can be ugly.  Skyscrapers look nice in a skyline, but they block sunlight and take forever to walk around their drab exteriors.  Not to mention in some places like Chicago, there aren’t nearby parks to eat lunch at easily because those spaces are taken up by monolithic city buildings.  That was my impression when I spent time downtown four years ago for a job interview.

Now, though, the drones have a more psychologically friendly place to have lunch – in the garden on top of their building.  Chicago’s now planted 2.3 million square feet of rooftop gardens.  Other notables are Washington, DC, New York City and Phoenix.  And it’s not just for people’s sanity.  These gardens mitigate the heat radiated by the roof in summer, and retain heat in winter.  In addition, they help control runoff from storms, decrease costs for heating and cooling, and provide a haven for wildlife.  The downside?  The initial cost which, even though it can be offset through lower utility expenses, raises the price tag, something that would make any developer flinch.  Fortunately, a new article in BioScience(subscription required) states that improvements in cost-benefit analyses might allay those concerns.

For those of you that are curious, the photos is of the under-construction California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.  An illustration of the finished building and more info on it can be seen here.

(image via kqedquest)