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Recommended Readings: “The Farm on the Roof” by Anastasia Cole Plakias

April 27, 2016 at 6:09 pm

The Farm on the Roof

I just finished The Farm on the Roof: What Brooklyn Grange Taught Us About Entrepreneurship, Community, and Growing a Sustainable Business, Avery, April 5, 2016, by Anastasia Cole Plakias, vice president and founding partner of Brooklyn Grange.  Driven by their visionary and tenacious spirit, we’ve followed the young company from the start because of Ben Flanner, president and head farmer, whom we had followed from his prior work at Eagle Street Farm – and, in fact, supported their Brooklyn Grange Kickstarter campaign in a very small way back in 2010.  So we are always happy to hear about their happenings and I eagerly read about how Brooklyn Grange got its start and has evolved into a shining beacon for sustainable urban rooftop farming.

The Farm on the Roof

The Brooklyn Grange Flagship Farm in Long Island City, Queens, NY.

Currently spanning two rooftops, Brooklyn Grange grows an abundance of crops atop a total of 2.5 acres, producing over 50,000 lbs of organically-grown vegetables each year.  They also operate an apiary, keeping bees in over 30 naturally-managed honey bee hives, on roofs dispersed throughout New York City.  As a result of their tenacity, Brooklyn Grange is the U.S.’s leading soil-based rooftop farming and intensive greenroofing business, and the farms bear the fruits of their labor – in this case with their wholesale, retail, and CSA members literally eating the fruits of their labor!

The Farm on the Roof

Celebrating with neighbors and colleagues at a Flagship Farm event.

Pleasantly surprised by the structure of the book, I am also very impressed not only by the team’s successes, but with their whole-hearted respect and commitment to each other and the communities in which they grow at their Flagship Farm in Queens, New York and the Brooklyn Navy Yard rooftop farm.

“In 2009, a hopeful group of individuals found each other and their purpose. From backgrounds as varied as finance, hospitality, and writing, the founders of Brooklyn Grange set out to grow food on the rooftops and unused spaces of NYC. What they found was a world rich in opportunity, challenges and hard-won lessons. The Farm on the Roof tells the story of how their unique approach to entrepreneurship allowed them to turn a previously untested concept—an ecologically and financially sustainable rooftop farm—into an operating, money-making enterprise.” ~ from their publisher, Avery

Presented in an a non-lineal format, the gritty narrative draws in readers immediately with stories of the nascent ideals, inspirations and aspirations, cautions, and many struggles of the start-up from the kindred spirits of the founding members, Anastasia Cole Plakias, Gwen Schantz, and Ben Flanner, who started the business in 2009 with help from two of the owners of Roberta’s, and now operate the farms with partner Chase Emmons, who joined the team in 2011.

The Farm on the Roof

The Brooklyn Navy Yard Farm

Starting with “The Crossroads of Complicity and Conviction: Why We Left Steady Jobs to Take a Chance on a Dream” and ending with “It Takes a Village: The Partnerships That Make Us Whole,” The Farm on the Roof flows beautifully and organically – almost like a well-written novel.  Readers glean insight into each founding partner’s background, their desire to be able to work at a job they loved where they felt they could achieve measurable progress; at the end, you get a sense of knowing a good bit about their personas and commitment to each other.  In this way The Farm on the Roof offers an intimate, behind-the scenes look at the principals and the farms on a daily basis as well as the greater perspective of where they came from individually and how they would like to continue to grow as a well-knit team.

Although Anastasia does go in depth regarding vegetable crops, soil issues, farming conditions of a roof in the sky, etc., this is not so much a How-To on rooftop agriculture as it is on creating a small, sustainably-principled and run business.  This is truly a book for anyone considering starting a small business, offering insight into making sure the partners have similar ideals and goals; sharing numerous lessons learned from strategic dealings with public and private stakeholders; giving advice on the importance of record keeping and number-crunching as well as selling techniques to wary roof landlords; fostering community-focused products and programs; creating multiple revenue streams such as their events, lectures, and educational programs; and when time and money are of the essence, simply pushing through the hard times, or “just monster it” as they say.

The Farm on the Roof

Yoga atop the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Anastasia says her name may be on the book, but all of her family of Brooklyn Grange crew members contributed greatly to their story, and examples and specifics abound.  I certainly recommend The Farm on the Roof to anyone considering entering the hard-working field of urban rooftop agriculture and really to everyone considering getting into our greenroofing market with any type of a small brick and mortar business – tons of great insights, and lots of do’s and don’ts here in this inspirational book!

Here are some early words of praise:

“Brooklyn Grange represents the best of passion and purity. Every page of this book oozes the sweet nectar of creativity, community, and commercial wisdom. That the story reads like a fast-paced novel simply confirms the power of visionary sustainable businesses.” ~ Joel Salatin, Author, Farmer, and Owner of Polyface Farm

“This book answers the big, tormenting question: how can a small, organic, local farm become financially independent? It’s a blue print for the term “Sustainable Agriculture,” which requires not only that we don’t pollute Mother Earth, but that we find ways to make farming work financially in order to perpetuate and sustain it.” ~ Isabella Rossellini, Actress, Filmmaker, Author, and Conservationist

Aramis and I had the great pleasure to attend a private dinner function at the awesome Brooklyn Navy Yard rooftop farm last October at the 2015 Cities Alive Green Roof & Wall Conference, sponsored by rooflite®, whose intensive ag growing media they use at both farms.  We enjoyed a lovely dinner among colleagues and the stars and the folks at Brooklyn Grange.  If you have the opportunity to visit either of the farms, you should! Just check on availability first at their website.

The Farm on the Roof

A view of the Flagship Farm; photo courtesy of rooflite®.

And I have featured Brooklyn Grange a couple of times over the years in Haven Kiers’ and my annual Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design, most recently last year in the #9 category “Beekeeping on the Roof: Biodiversity with Pollinators.”  In 2013 Ben Flanner participated in our second biennial Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit in the collaborative video “Skyrise Ag: 5 Ways to Local Food Production” with Helen Cameron, Mohamed Hage, George Irwin, Ben Flanner and Alan Joaquin.  You can watch the video here.

More info:

Visit BROOKLYN GRANGE ROOFTOP FARMS.

Read The Farm on the Roof Penguin Random House Press Release.

Buy The Farm on the Roof on Amazon.com or visit Brooklyn Grange for a list of other sellers here.  And if you’re in the neighborhood on May 15th, you can attend a book reading at KGB Bar as part of a guest-curated series on food-related readings!  For more info, contact Brooklyn Grange at info@brooklyngrangefarm.com or leave them a message at 347.670.3660.

The Farm on the Roof

An evening at the Brooklyn Navy Yard rooftop farm.

Kudos, Anastasia, on a great job telling the Brooklyn Grange story!

By Linda S. Velazquez
Greenroofs.com Publisher

Project of the Week for April 25, 2016: 8 House (Tallet)

April 25, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Project of the Week 8 House Tallet

Greenroofs.com Project of the Week: 4/25/16

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8 House (Tallet)
Copenhagen, Denmark
18,300 sf. Greenroofs & 1,076 sf Planted Terraces

Project of the Week Description & Details

8 House is a 61,000 square meter bowtie-shaped mixed-use building of three different types of residential housing and 10,000 square meters of retail and offices which comprise Denmark’s largest private development ever undertaken. Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), 8 House sits on the outer edge of Copenhagen as the southernmost outpost of Ørestad. 8 House stacks all ingredients of a lively urban neighborhood into horizontal layers of typologies connected by a continuous promenade and cycling path up to the 10th floor, creating a three-dimensional urban neighborhood where suburban life merges with the energy of a big city.

With spectacular views towards the Copenhagen Canal and over Kalvebod Fælled’s protected, open spaces, 8 House not only offers residences to people in all of life’s stages as well as office spaces to the city’s business and trade – it also serves as a house that allows people to bike all the way from the ground floor to the top, moving alongside townhouses with gardens winding through an urban perimeter block. Two 32 degree-sloping green roofs are strategically placed to reduce the urban heat island effect as well as provide the visual identity to the project and tying it back to the adjacent farmlands towards the south. Using pre-vegetated mats from Veg Tech AS, the build-up is about 4 cm, which includes an installed irrigation system. In addition, 100 individual semi-intensive, 1-square meter gardens with planters from ZinCo were planted on the terraces, installed by MALMOS. Originally, the entire roof was designed as a continuous green roof, yet due to the economic climate only the lower portions were greened. The shape of the building allows for daylighting and natural ventilation for all units. In addition, rainwater is collected and repurposed through a stormwater management system. 8 House is unique not only because it reduces the urban heat island effect with its cool courtyards, planted trees at entrances, container plantings on the balconies, and 18,300-square foot green roofs, but the living roofs visually connect back to its pre-construction site on the prairie fields, creating a true sense of spirit of place.

Project of the Week 8 House Tallet

Year: 2010
Owner: St. Frederikslund Holding
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Building Type: Multi-Use
Type: Extensive & Semi-Intensive
System: Single Source Provider
Size: 19,376 sq. ft.
Slope: 62.5%
Access: Inaccessible (Extensive) and Accessible (Semi-Intensive), Private

Project of the Week 8 House Tallet

Project of the Week 8 House Tallet

Designers/Manufacturers of Record:

Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Contractor: Hopfner Partners
Civil Engineer: Moe & Brødsgaard
Roofing Contractor: Uldum Tag ApS
Roof Decks: Skandek Tagelementfabrik A/S
Pre-vegetated Mat Greenroof System: Veg Tech A/S
Partner-In-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Thomas Christoffersen, Bjarke Ingels Group
Project Leader: Ole Elkjaer-Larsen, Henrick Poulsen, Bjarke Ingels Group
Project Manager: Finn Norkjaer, Henrik Lund, Bjarke Ingels Group
Planter Installation in Townhouse Gardens: Per Malmos, MALMOS
Semi-intensive Planters: ZinCo GmbH

Project of the Week 8 House Tallet

Project of the Week 8 House Tallet

View the PROJECT PROFILE to see ALL of the Photos and Additional Information about this particular project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Project of the Week 8 House Tallet

NOTES: Don’t miss our contributing editor Steven Cantor‘s new article, “Copenhagen Green Tour” where you can see more photos of 8 House!  To see more photos, read my last Sky Gardens Blog post about 8 House here.

Project of the Week Video Feature

Watch the 8 House (Tallet) Project of the Week Video below or see it on our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/h91QRV1suBM

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Love the Earth, Plant a Roof (or Wall)!

By Linda S. Velazquez
Greenroofs.com Publisher

Vote Now in the Greenroofs.com “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall” 2016 Photo Contest!

April 22, 2016 at 3:52 pm

 “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Photo Contest

Happy Earth Day!

As of noon eastern time zone, voting is now open in our “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Earth Month Photo Contest for 2016! #lovetheearthcontest

We have a total of 8 entries, so for those of you who submitted, start telling people to vote for you/your project!

Remember, one vote per entry on Facebook.  Share it on social media with #lovetheearthcontest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!  Voting will continue through the end of April, Earth Month, at 11:59 pm eastern time zone.

Here are the entries, 6 greenroofs and 2 greenwalls, from when they were entered, starting with the earliest:

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Residential Greenwall, Canada.

 

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Aleutian Spray Fisheries, Seattle, Washington, USA.

 

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Courtyard Marriott, Washington DC/Foggy Bottom, USA.

 

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Living Roofs, Otternes, Norway.

 

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Multnomah Building Green Roof, Portland, Oregon, USA.

 

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Bristol-Myers Squibb, Devens, Massachusetts, USA.

 

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Federal Building, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

 

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

Pinkberry Greenwalls, Alpharetta, Georgia, USA.

“Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Photo ContestAll of them are beautiful and special in their own way and deserve to be highlighted!

Visit our special “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Earth Month Photo Contest for 2016 page on Facebook to read a little more about each project and to vote.

Decided purely by the most number of votes on Facebook,
the winner will be announced on May 1, 2016 and receive a whopping $100 Amazon.com Gift Card – just a small token of our esteem – but you’ll get some publicity, too!

The mission of the “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Earth Month Photo Contest is to create interest in all kinds, styles, and sizes of beautiful living architecture and highlight some outstanding designs.  It’s designed to be quick and simple, and is basically a popularity contest among our international readership, so promote, promote, promote.

Visit our Facebook page to see who’s winning!  Not your favorite?  Get others to vote for yours! Use #lovetheearthcontest on social media.

Click here to see the Official Rules.

Although it’s not necessary to see the photos or vote, if you’re not already a fan of Greenroofs.com, we invite you to Like Us and stay connected.

Learn what Earth Day Network has been doing across the world to encourage action and celebrate Earth Day 2016:

Vote Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall Contest

 

Once again, Happy Earth Day, and thank you to the millions of you out there who honor our planet every day with your sustainable actions, policies, projects, and ideals!

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall,

~ Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA, LEEP AP, GRP
Greenroofs.com Publisher

Project of the Week for April 18, 2016: Private West Village, NY Penthouse Terrace

April 18, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Project of the Week Private West Village NY Penthouse Terrace

Greenroofs.com Project of the Week: 4/18/16

Private West Village, NY Penthouse Terrace
New York, NY, USA
144 sf. Greenwall

Project of the Week Description & Details

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Occupying the 18th floor of an Art Deco building in a landmark district in New York’s Greenwich Village, this 2,500 square foot terrace wraps the four sides of a penthouse apartment whose living space it nearly doubles. As an integral part of the clients’ living space, the terrace brings the domestic program outside into distinct ‘rooms.’ With a simple palette of steel, reclaimed teak, and stone, the terrace creates an integrated environment that bridges between the two distinct scales of the domestic single-story penthouse and the massive, building-scale presence of the parapet elements built to be seen from 18 stories below. With Tinmouth Chang Architects as Project Lead, the project embraces the technical challenges of rooftop construction by integrating them into its design language, inventing a floating ground plane, which acts as ballast to cantilever the stainless steel railing, achieving stability without anchoring to building surfaces. The railing itself becomes a garden element, supporting planting, lighting, and surfaces which give depth to the parapet edge.

The existing 15-foot-high, 15-foot-wide ugly tan brick wall was the 1928 building’s chimney and since it couldn’t be removed, the design team transformed the eyesore into the centerpiece of their terrace garden with vertical plantings and a modular slate waterfall enclosing the far end of the garden. During the 26-month remodeling project, landscape architect Linda Pollak of Marpillero Pollak Architects, in collaboration with John Tinmouth and David Seiter of Future Green Studio, designed a greenwall from Green Living Technologies. In all, 600 plants of ornamental grasses and trailing species in shades of green, silver and purple were embedded into the 24 panels which were bracketed to the chimney. The greenwall panels were pre-grown three months before installation and the plants are watered by a drip irrigation system. The Private West Village, New York Penthouse Terrace forms a complex and layered middle ground which mediates views to the city beyond.

Project of the Week Private West Village NY Penthouse Terrace

Year: 2011
Owner: Private
Location: New York, NY, USA
Building Type: Multi-Family Residential
Type: Living Wall, Test/Research
System: Custom
Size: 144 sq.ft.
Slope: 100%
Access: Accessible, Private

Project of the Week Private West Village NY Penthouse Terrace

Project of the Week Private West Village NY Penthouse Terrace

Designers/Manufacturers of Record:

Project Lead, Penthouse Architect: John Tinmouth, Tinmouth Chang Architects
Terrace Architect and Green Wall Design: Linda Pollak, Marpillero Pollak Architects
Greenwall Planting Design: David Seiter, Future Green Studio
Greenwall System: Green Living Technologies International (GLTi)
Construction: Taocon Construction Management
Structural Engineer: Silman
Planting Specification, Supply & Installation: Semperflorens, Inc.
Stone and Porcelain Cladding: Stone Source
Lighting Design: PHT Lighting Design
Fabrication and Installation of Millwork Elements: Material Process Systems

Project of the Week Private West Village NY Penthouse Terrace

View the PROJECT PROFILE to see ALL of the Photos and Additional Information about this particular project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Project of the Week Private West Village NY Penthouse Terrace

Project of the Week Video Feature

Watch the Private West Village, NY Penthouse Terrace Project of the Week Video below or see it on our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube:

Did we miss your contribution? Please let us know to add you to the profile.

Would you like one of your projects to be featured on Greenroofs.com? We have to have a profile first! Submit Your Project Profile.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof (or Wall)!

~ Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA, LEEP AP, GRP
Greenroofs.com Publisher