ATLANTA, GA. Let’s start close to home – Greenroofs.com
is based in Alpharetta, about 45 minutes north of Hartsfield International
Airport on a good day. Alpharetta is a great family oriented, tree
filled suburb, and a byproduct of the great urban sprawl era when planners
thought farther away was somehow better. Greenspace is highly valued
and protected, and although development continues to increase, no one here
is particularly worried about the urban heat island effect.
Downtown Atlanta & the
color thermal photo courtesy NASA, May 1997
‘Hotlanta,’ on the other hand, has been dealing with the higher city
temperature phenomenon for over a decade. Temperatures in downtown
Atlanta are often 10° F warmer than the surrounding outlying areas.
The added heat contributes to Atlanta’s air quality problem, and the
10-degree rise doubles the amount of ozone.
Atlanta has been in noncompliance with low levels of air quality, and a
concerted heat island mitigation effort is being undertaken from agencies
such as the U.S. EPA, DOE, Atlanta area universities and others.
recently received an extension to continue their 1996 Project ATLANTA
(Atlanta Land-use Analysis: Temperature and Air-quality) study.
Atlanta has several organizations devoted to improving our environment and
educating the public.
Southface Energy Institute promotes sustainable homes, work places
and communities through education, research, advocacy and technical
assistance. They host a quarterly Cool Communities meeting where we
have two NASA research scientists onboard who report periodically on studies
and progress in cooling down Atlanta.
is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “help
improve Georgia's air and water quality and to promote healthy and livable
communities by advocating urban heat island mitigation using sustainable
cost-effective strategies for development, construction and existing
Atlanta has numerous professional design firms interested in greenroofs as
well as other forms of organic architecture and sustainable design – this
Conference represented multidisciplinary firms from architecture,
landscape architecture and environmental engineering fields, and also had a
few greenroof companies as trade show exhibitors.
Courtesy Benjamin Taube
Atlanta’s mayor, Shirley Franklin, has been very supportive of ecological
design efforts citywide, and Ben Taube, Environmental Manager for the City
of Atlanta, has been leading the charge to establish a greenroof test pilot
Approximately 3200 square feet will be greened off the 5th
floor cafeteria at City Hall and will be monitored for ambient temperatures,
energy usage, stormwater retention and quality, and plant survivability.
Current Project will be publicly
accessible, and is planned to jump start a series of greenroofs programs and
Buckhead residential tower; Atlanta office plaza; Turner Entertainment
Groups campus; photos courtesy Rob Ryan.
City Hall won’t be the only green building in the Atlanta
area – in fact, we have a number of lush intensive roof gardens and terraces
on office developments, corporate headquarters, over parking garages, and
other buildings such as the Georgia World Congress Center. The three
representative projects above were designed by Hughes, Good, O’Leary & Ryan.
Whitehead Biomedical Research Building
became the first building in the entire Southeast to attain
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™)
certification through the U.S. Green Building Council last September.
A second Emory building is also slated for LEED™
certification, and test greenroof plots are also currently in the works
there and at the University of Georgia.
As far as more extensive greenroofs are concerned,
Zoo Atlanta’s Action Resource Center
has a 16,000 square foot “living roof,” designed in 1997 by Lord, Aeck &
Sargent. The native plant roof is more intensive in nature in that it
has an average of 18” of soil mix, but it not accessible to the public.
Saul Nurseries is the largest provider of greenroof plants in the Southeast,
and recently erected a test greenroof of their own, where they will be
testing sedum varieties and other succulents.
310 HauStudio Artist Studio, Gallery & Residence
April 2003 with blooming Dianthus and Sedum kamtschaticum -
September 29, 2002; Photos by Linda S. Velazquez
My first greenroof project is located in downtown Atlanta, in
the historic Castleberry Hill district,
completed in 2001. Here is a thriving neighborhood of true mixed use,
with everything from refurbished luxury lofts to funky eateries and
commercial establishments to the Atlanta Homeless Mission.
is an artist’s gallery, studio and residence and also houses Squires
Oriental Medical Arts. The 670 square foot semi-extensive “Asian-eclectic
urban greenroof” was designed for Butler to enjoy a greenspace atop
the former warehouse and two-story loft home. Butler is a precious 9
pound Yorkie who is getting on in years and needed easy access to the
outdoors from the deck. Five inch undulating mounds of sedums,
dianthus, creeping phlox, and dwarf varieties of woody ornamentals and
evergreens are set within stepping stones and expanded slate “gravel”
walkways. Area residents love the flowering greenroof with visiting
birds and butterflies, and now many others are considering sky gardens above
their barren Atlanta lofts, too.
Perhaps Atlanta won’t be too hot for very long.