Monday, August 20, 2007

Top idea!

Rooftop garden rooted
Nursing home plants cheer up highrise residents, extend life of roof

The Hamilton Spectator
GRIMSBY (Aug 20, 2007)

It's going to cost more than a half a million dollars -- but what a garden it will be when it's done.

Shalom Manor and Shalom Gardens, a linked Dutch-Christian nursing home and assisted-living facility, is going green, with a rooftop revamp.

The facility has decided to transform its bland grey asphalt roof into a lush, year-round scenic piece of nature, with more than 3,000 square metres of garden.

Board chair Joanne van Dijk said the project has practical as well as aesthetic and therapeutic value.

"If you're room-bound, then somehow it's much nicer to look at the gardens than look at the roof," she explained.

The practical side comes in when it comes to saving on heating and air-conditioning costs, by absorbing water that would have otherwise been drained off into the sewer, and extending the life of the roof.

"The roof usually (lasts) 20 years, but now we're hoping it's 40 years," van Dijk said.

Before planting, several layers of protection have to be placed on top of the roof. The plants, which include sedums, tall grass and herbs, are then planted on top.

The garden will be visible to about 50 per cent of the 180 units at the facilities.

Van Dijk said the idea was floated last fall and was received with the board's unanimous approval when it was voted on.

"We're doing it for our parents (generation) ... but maybe we're doing it for ourselves.

"Maybe 20 years from now we'll be here and maybe we'd rather look at a green roof," she said.

The first phase of the project started last week, with plants being installed on 240 square metres of the roof, at a cost of about $42,000.

The next phase, which will cover 2,985 square metres of roof, will cost about $500,000 and is due to get under way next year.

The board paid for the first phase, but is hoping to get the money for the second phase through grants and fundraising.

A small patch of older roof won't be done until that portion of the roof itself is eventually replaced in a few years.

Although not everyone will be able to enjoy the view when it's done, residents at the facility are receptive to the project, despite the high cost.

"It's good for the environment, so it's important," said Catharine Zwier, 70, who has a unit that does not face the rooftop garden.

"I think it's going to pay for itself."

Tena Batterink, who lives with her husband Leo in an apartment overlooking the roof, said the plants are a welcome addition to the landscape.

"It makes the place a lot nicer."

Greening rooftops is becoming more common, as energy costs and environmental consciousness both rise.

The city of Waterloo went green on the rooftop of its city centre as part of a test project approved in 2005, and the new Durham Consolidated Courthouse, scheduled to have started construction in June, will also be greening part of its roof.

[Photo: Rooftop garden at 401 Richmond in Toronto ON - part of the extensive rooftop garden there includes a deck with large planters, the part shown here is a passive area with low growing vegetation - the City of Toronto has a good site on Green Roofs here]

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