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 4, 2016: International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)

April 4, 2016 at 9:00 am

Project of the Week International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)

Greenroofs.com Project of the Week: 4/04/16

International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) – Instituto Internacional de Dasonomía Tropical
San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA
12,600 sf. Greenroofs

Project of the Week Description & Details

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Created in 1939, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry is a research and technology transfer institute located in Puerto Rico, part of the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. The IITF serves as a focal point for bringing external research and educational resources to bear on issues affecting tropical forests and grasslands and recently underwent a long restoration of its headquarters complex. With stormwater and urban heat island mitigation as goals, the new LEED-Gold Institute has 50,000 square feet of modern, state-of-the-art facilities that include a green, pervious parking lot; rainwater harvesting; retention ponds; and a green roof research station.

Architect Jeannette Rullán from RMA Architects, green roof consultant David L. Aponte from PRGD, and USDA engineer Juan Vissepó designed the green roofs as an experimental intervention that would further the understanding in hydrological, thermal, and ecological behavior and benefits in a sub-tropical scenario. Test green roofs were installed on four buildings and sub-divisioning resulted in 7 green roofs and 1 cool roof. A total of 22 species were used – around 16,000 plugs, with some seeds. Materials used include: Firestone 90 mil EPDM membrane; ZinCo green roof material; and Rooflite extensive growing media. Four cisterns collect 6,800 gallons of harvested stormwater, used for general cleaning and irrigation, including the green roofs when necessary. The monitoring scheme compiles the green roofs’ effectiveness regarding balances of energy, water, and nutrients with two Campbell weather stations to monitor air temperature, humidity, wind speed, impact energy, and rain. Sensors were placed on the ground surface, inside the volume of the soil, and the roof surface – on both cool and green roofs, for a total of 80 sensors. During the hottest times of the day, the green roof temperature is about 10° F cooler than ambient temperature. The differences in temperature between the green roof and ambient temperature mean less burden on the internal control of the temperature of the building and therefore result in energy savings on this iconic, historic building site.

Project of the Week International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)

Year: 2012
Owner: USDA Forest Service
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA
Building Type: Municipal/Government
Type: Semi-Intensive, Test/Research
System: Custom
Size: 12,600 sq.ft.
Grade: 1%
Access: Accessible, Private

Project of the Week International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)

Project of the Week International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)

Designers/Manufacturers of Record:

Restoration Lead: Juan Vissepó, Engineer, IITF
Restoration Architect: Jeannette Rullán, RMA Architects
Green Roof Specialist: David L Aponte, President, PRGD Inc.
Greenroof System: Nick Smith, ZinCo USA
Waterproofing: Firestone Waterproofing Products
Growing Media: Peter Philippi, rooflite
Collection and Analysis of Green Roofs: David Aponte Dones
Original Architect: William Ellis (W. Ellis) Groben, US Forestry Service

Project of the Week International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)

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 International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF)

Project of the Week Video Feature

Watch the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) Project of the Week Video below or see it on our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube:

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

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

Project of the Week for February 8, 2016: Cira Green at Cira Centre South

February 8, 2016 at 12:04 pm

By Linda S. Velazquez
Greenroofs.com Publisher

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Cira Green at Cira Centre South
Philadelphia, PA, USA
52,000 sf. Blue-Green Roof

Project of the Week Cira Green

Photo ©Albert Vecerka/Esto

Project Description & Details

Located in the University City District of Philadelphia, Cira Green at Cira Centre South is the city’s first elevated park and part of developer Brandywine’s 2.7 million square foot mixed-use Cira Centre South neighborhood. Tucked between the Evo Tower and the FMC Towers, Cira Green is a 52,000 square foot oasis perched 11-stories atop a parking garage, offering much needed open public green space with amazing views of the Philadelphia skyline and the Schuylkill Riverfront. Designed by Roofmeadow, Cira Green has a unique water storage system beneath its sloping lawn, swaying meadows, and the pavers on the roof: Cira Green is also Philadelphia’s first blue-green roof, which can route stormwater to the green roof areas.

Project of the Week Cira Green

Cira’s innovative blue-green roof design provides a higher level of stormwater performance than conventional green roofs. Thin detention cisterns, dubbed “pancake cisterns” by Roofmeadow, placed below the paving, capture rainfall and release it gradually to the adjacent planted areas via a system of Sutro weirs. The combined blue-green design both regulates flow rate and treats runoff prior to discharge from the roof. Moreover, integrating the park programming with stormwater management strategies avoided the cost of building additional at-grade measures to collect and treat runoff associated with the paved areas on Cira Green. Rooflite® growing media was engineered specifically for the different types of green roofs included in this project including large lawn areas, a meadow, and planters with trees and colorful perennials and vines. VersiCell drainage underneath was provided by Tournesol Siteworks. By artfully integrating an unobtrusive stormwater management strategy into this extensively paved, high-traffic park, Brandywine and the design team created a new standard for city living which leverages the roof plane for unparalleled amenity spaces that also aggressively manage stormwater.

See 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 Cira Green

Photo ©Albert Vecerka/Esto

Project of the Week Cira Green

Year: 2015
Owner:
Brandywine Realty Trust
Location:
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Building Type:
Multi-Use
Type:
Intensive
System:
Custom
Size:
52,000 sq.ft.
Slope:
2%-20%
Access:
Accessible, Open to Public

Project of the Week Cira Green

Designers/Manufacturers of Record:

Architect: Erdy McHenry Architecture, LLC
Owner/Developer: Brandywine Realty Trust
Landscape Architecture, Blue-Green Roof Design & Stewardship: Roofmeadow
General Contractor: Hunter Roberts Construction Group
Civil Engineer: Pennoni Associates
Structural Engineer: Tim Haahs and Associates
Waterproofing: EDA Contractors, Inc.
Growing Media: rooflite®
Drainage: VersiCell
Drainage Supplier: Tournesol Siteworks
Construction and Maintenance: Sean’s Landscaping
MEP Consultant: AKF Engineers
Photography: 2 Photos ©Albert Vecerka/Esto; Roofmeadow; rooflite; Brandywine Realty Trust

Project of the Week Cira Green

Project of the Week Video Feature

Watch the Cira Green at Cira Centre South Project of the Week Video below or see it on our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/d-a2Vt3p-0I

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? 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

Video & Project of the Week for September 28, 2015: Carnegie Hall Weill Roof Terrace

September 30, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Greenroofs.com Project of the Week: 9/28/15

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Carnegie Hall Weill Roof Terrace
New York, NY, USA
10,000 sf. Greenroof

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Project Description & Details

Commissioned by Andrew Carnegie and designed by New York City architect William Burnet Tuthill, this national historic landmark and vital cultural center was completed in 1891. Carnegie Hall’s mission is to present extraordinary music and musicians to the world stage with its remarkable architectural design and incredible legacy. Led by Iu & Bibliowicz Architects, the renowned music venue recently embarked on the Studio Towers Renovation Project to create new educational and green spaces. Among these renovations is the Weill Roof Terrace on the 9th floor adjacent to the new Resnick Education Wing, offering concertgoers, performers, teachers and staff a green place to gather and support the Hall’s many programs.

With OLIN Partnership leading the 10,000 sf green roof project from design to specification to installation, dedication and teamwork between Sponzilli Landscape Group, rooflite, and everyone involved proved to be a key factor in transforming this historic building. OLIN’s design provides a spacious activity area surrounded by lawn and seating areas. Through the glass railing guests are offered a birds-eye view of the busy Manhattan streets below. The design also features shallow planter areas with perennials which surround the skylights, and deep planters using the ZinCo USA system containing 21 tall trees which work as a buffer between the upper floors of the building and the green roof. The rooflite team custom tailored a growth medium to support a diverse plant palette including maple trees up to 35 feet tall. The legendary 124-year old Carnegie Hall achieved LEED Silver certification as well as compliance with the NYC Green Buildings Law. The addition of the Weill Terrace at Carnegie Hall has truly created a unique and dynamic urban landscape which has become the perfect gathering place to enjoy the sights and sounds of this fabulous city.

Find more photos and additional information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

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Year: 2013
Owner: The City of New York, managed by The Carnegie Hall Corporation
Location: New York, NY, USA
Building Type: Commercial
Type: Extensive & Intensive
System: Custom
Size: 10,000 sq. ft.
Slope: 1%
Access: Accessible, Open to Public

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Designers/Manufacturers of Record:

Original Architect: William Burnet Tuthill
Studio Towers Renovation Project Architect: Natan Bibliowicz, Iu & Bibliowicz Architects
Landscape Architect: OLIN Partnership
Green Roof Contractor: Daniel Sponzilli, Landscape Director, Sponzilli Landscape Group
Growing Media: rooflite® Certified Green Roof Media
Soil Blender: Laurel Valley Soils
Green Roof System: Various green roof system build ups, Semi-intensive, Applications with Turf & with Perennials, Deep System Applications with tall Trees
Technology Partner: Siemens
General Contractor: Tishman Construction
Intensive Beds/ Lawn/ Courtyard System: ZinCo USA

CarnegieHall3

Project of the Week Video Feature

Watch the Carnegie Hall Weill Roof 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? We have to have a profile first!

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

~ Linda V.