Rainwater is essential for life. It helps plants and food crops flourish, and it keeps grasslands green and lush. But too much of it, especially in the city, can lead to flooding, causing sewers to overflow and carry pollutants and contaminants to nearby streams and waterways. To combat the problem in urban areas of the country, a growing number of cities across the U.S. are initiating programs like rooftop gardens.
“It took advantage of a resource above the city that you see all over where you have these flat roofs that aren’t doing anything and really made it into something that was about urban agriculture,” said Architect David Bell of Bell Architects.
Green Roofs Absorb Rainwater and Grow Food
To help with that initiative in the nation’s capital, a team at the University of the District of Columbia has created a rooftop garden on campus with a wide variety of vegetation to help absorb excess rainwater and grow food at the same time.
Architect David Bell, who designed five “green roofs” on the campus, says he’s excited about the project because “it meant doing something more than just dealing with storm water management.”
Rainwater is distributed through an irrigation system and collected in cisterns for the rooftop garden. It is also used in other parts of the campus.
The result is a picturesque sea of green vegetation and patches of brightly colored plants and flowers that attract pollinating insects and other wild creatures.
“In an urban environment, you don’t have that many spaces to choose from, and so rooftops are just unutilized space,” said Caitlin Arlotta, a graduate student in the University of the District of Columbia’s Urban Agriculture program. “So it’s a really good way to not have to restructure your city necessarily and be able to incorporate green roofs.”