PARKING COMPLEX AGRICULTURE Craig Johnson // ISD Fall 2012 MCAD Sustainable Design Masters ProgramPhoto // Craig Johnson
Old Idea—History > 1I Have An Idea > 2Why Now? > 3Profits: Lot Owners > 4Options > 6The Environment > 7Benefits: Public > 8How To > 9Recommendations > 10Conclusion > 11 CONTENTS≤
The use of rooftop agriculture is by no means new. From the days of the Ur Dynasty with its terraced rooftop gardens in Mesopotamia, to the Greenland Norse and Irish Celts who both used sod to insulate and protect their roofs, rooftop agriculture has been a strategic choice in building for centuries. Today, the idea of rooftop agriculture is alive again with popularity. Understood as one solution to a global excess of pollutants and other chemicals carried in rain, rooftop agriculture can be a champion against habitat and biodiversity loss and an urban heat island effect. For these reasons and more, installing a green or living rooftop has never made more sense. While this idea applied to a typical building has benefits that outweigh initial costs, IT’S AN OLD IDEA, BUT NOT A TIRED ONE. problems of structural integrity, access, maintenance, and city approval can arise. All these issues can be overcome. However, when looking at a city from the air, it seems there is often one opportunity left out.Traditionnal buildings with green roofs at Norðragøta on Eysturoy, Faroe IslandsPhoto // Erik Christensen
Now, take what we know about rooftop agriculture—the benefits and enhancements—and let us apply this knowledge to top-level parking ramp platforms. Why? Have you ever looked down on a city and taken in all the wasted rooftop space? Well, much of that space is not only building rooftops, but also parking ramps. The top of a multilevel parking ramp is traditionally the most underused, and therefore, the least valuable of the parking spaces. Parking ramps have often been built in changing cities where parking needs for stadiums or activities aren’t always long lasting. Original ramps must share demand with newer ramps emerging in the area, resulting in excess space when demand fluctuates. This not only leaves open parking spaces, but it also lowers the price of all parking. Add the fact that citiesI HAVE AN IDEA. A NEW TWIST ON ROOFTOP AGRICULTURE. across the world are growing in their numbers, with 75% of inhabitants of developed nations living in urban areas. In fact, research indicated that by 2007, half of the world’s population would be living in urban areas.1 Roads are not likely to be added to the urban landscape. Rather, future road space must be reallocated, devoting it to alternative forms of more efficient transportation, such as light rail. This is likely to reduce automotive traffic further. Picture a boom in parking to the point of excess years ago in cities all over, and now a diminished need for parking in the foreseen future. It’s a dark picture for parking ramp owners. It also leaves a city with a surplus of empty top-level parking spaces looking for a new, better use.
The space is easy to use. The public will benefit. The city will grow. WHY NOW? The ramp owners will be loved.Brooklyn Grange (New York City)Photo // BROMLEY CALDARI ARCHITECTS PC, Top 5 Of The Greatest Urban Rooftop Farms, by Joop De Boer, Nov 8, 2012
It’s not unreasonable that the top level of a parking ramp has the least desirable of parking spaces. The open platform at the top level takes the most time to drive to, involves longer times to return to the street level by stairs or elevator, and all the while, it exposes vehicles to the elements of pounding rain, hail, harsh sun, and snow accumulation. All these negative reasons that the top level is so unpopular are the very reasons that it’s perfect for parking complex agriculture. Ramp owners can use this to their advantage. They can take the weakest, lowest-returning spaces in the parking ramp and transform that area into one with more productive and positive earning potential. Starting a parking complex agriculture site, offers increased property value through: LOT OWNERS WILL BENEFIT. A LOT. extending the life of the top-level structure; opening a parking ramp to take advantage of local and national tax incentives, grants, and other funding; and earning LEED points for a rooftop garden (NPDc13 classification).5 Better yet, parking complex agriculture pulls people to a parking ramp, bringing increased traffic and visibility.Photo Source // Google Maps
One can choose from a variety of options to capitalize on a return of investment. Option 1: The parking complex agriculture top level may be broken into individual plots and leased to customers or offered as a package with annual parking permits. As a benefit to parking lot owners, it encourages parking lot use and word-of-mouth marketing. Option 2: Lease the top level as a parking complex agriculture site to a nearby restaurant or business that has a café. Businesses like Microsoft have developed rooftop agriculture to provide fresh and ultra-local produce for workers.2 Option 3: Design and transform the top levelOPTIONS. PROFITS. into a green community space that can be rented for private parties or other events. A community garden or green space will add familiarity to the location and make it a great “lunch break” destination to stretch the legs and enjoy a bite to eat. Any of these options will turn underused property into a functioning commitment to the public and the environment, and give people a connection to the natural world in an urban setting while increasing value and returns on underused space.
Not only can this idea of developing urban parking complex agriculture become a great benefit to the owner of the parking ramp property, but it also benefits the people who use it, the public, and the environment, and therefore should be embraced by all. Let’s discuss the environment. Storm water runoff—water that would once mix with gas, oil, and other automotive chemicals on the parking ramp concrete—is reduced. Rain, which from the sky is often contaminated with soot, sulfur, mercury, and other pollutants, can now be absorbed and filtered by parking complex agriculture. Vegetation creates habitats, adding biodiversity into the ecosystem THE ENVIRONMENT DESERVES IT. by attracting birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects. Green leafy plants develop a cooling effect while reflecting the suns radiation, working against the urban heat island effect. The vegetation also cleans the air, absorbing carbon dioxide and other gases while adding oxygen into the atmosphere. This same vegetation can also provide a barrier to absorb and lower sound levels.Photo // Craig Johnson
Aesthetically beautiful green spaces spreading across the city are a great improvement to the look of any urban area. These spaces encourage the community to emerge from within the steel and concrete structures and wander about. Access to green space in the city is viewed as a public benefit. Humans desire to be surrounded by nature (biophilia), and added green space is a mental bonus to all in the urban surroundings. Parking ramp agriculture offers that needed connection to nature, adding community involvement, a social gathering space, a place to grow vegetables for food, or possibly a convenient location to read a book on a break from the office. Public gatherings and events can use the space for social or educational PUBLIC GAINS. PEOPLE BENEFIT. purposes—possibly unlocking knowledge for students or individuals who would like to know more about agriculture. On an individual level, people can benefit from parking ramp agriculture by gaining a location to grow their own food and provide a source for inexpensive nutrition, or just through having a resource to grow plants that give back to the community.Photo // HenryLeongHimWoh
Parking garage gardens can be as small as one parking ramp in acity or a program to develop the top levels of all the parking rampsin an urban area. In dense neighborhoods where it’s difficult tofind space for a community garden, this may be the most viableeconomic solution.Not all rooftop agriculture is created equally. Cost can vary from$4 per square foot on the low end to $10 per square foot or beyonddepending on the location and resources.3 Size of the parkinggarage garden depends on budget and space, but in Seattle a30,000 square foot community garden was just completed, soreally consider the scale of what you can handle when you begin.The cost of that parking garage garden ran just 10% more than acommunity garden of the same size on terra firma. 3An experienced landscape architect can be extremely helpful, anda structural engineer is a must. Weight per square foot for aparking garage can vary, be sure that the weight of your plannedparking garage garden matches with the pounds per square footof your garden beds. Hiring a structural engineer is necessary to HOW ARE PARKING GARAGE GARDENS CREATED?be sure that all your weight loads imposed on the structure matchup to the design of the parking garage garden.There are many green roof methods that can be drawn from todevelop a design and technology for implementation. Some ofthese designs can be as complex as hydroponic systems,agriculture or rooftop container gardens.4 Depending on whichsystem you decide on you’ll need to have some basic elementssuch as soil (top soil or potting soil—weight differs between thetwo, so the difference can help to lighten your square foot weightload if needed), drainage and a retention layer, insulation possibly,a root barrier, waterproofing and of course plants.5 Photo // OHNY 2007 (Rockefeller Rooftop Garden) By Rian Castillo [CC license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0]
First: Establish the Goal. Is the parking ramp agriculture site for public use, to grow plants, or to grow produce? Are there economic goals that need to be met? What are the resources and timeframe? Define the needs and goals you’re trying to reach or meet. Second: Who Do You Involve? Make a list of community garden groups, city departments, and past rooftop and/or parking complex agriculture examples to draw from and ask questions of. This list can’t be too big, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to ask for references to other experts who might help guide you to your goals. Will those involved be partners or consultants? If you’re not the owner of a parking ramp consider what location will fit the need, or if the site is chosen, what design will fit the space. Third: Who Will Own the Project? Define responsibilities. Who will own this project during development and who will see it through? Who will be responsible for managing it after it’s up and running? What will be involved inNOW, HOW DO WE BEGIN? the way of continued revenue and resources? Where will thisSTRATEGIC RECOMMENDATIONS. parking ramp agriculture site exist, what hours will it have, and who will it serve? Getting materials, plants, and soil to the location couldn’t be easier. Parking complex agriculture is practically ready to go! Parking ramps are built for heavy weight loads and may better meet the need structurally for the rooftop garden than many buildings’ roofs. Don’t wait! Do it.
IT’S AN OPEN CANVAS.Photo Source // Google Maps
No matter the reason for developing a parking garage garden, the benefits are easy to understand. With popularity of rooftop gardens growing in cities across the planet, focusing on this overlooked resource can be expected to attract attention, and will be seen as a positive improvement for the urban landscape. The idea of using the parking garage can be an inexpensive and attractive alternative to underutilized open concrete spaces. Through combined efforts of lot owners, city leaders, and the community, these sites can be a turned into a productive resource. The design can be small and modeled for individual lease, or substantial enough to provide local food harvested by nearby restaurants. The limits are onlyCONCLUSION. dependent on the vision of the developers. With relatively low cost, the upper level of a parking garage in your community can be the new green space open to the public. The time is here. The parking garage garden holds benefits to lot owners, the community, individuals, and the environment. It offers benefits of improved water, biodiversity, cleaner air, decreased solar radiation, a local food source, a reconnection to nature, new revenue for lot owners, social activity, a place for personal reflection, an educational resource, and a way to beautify the landscape. Parking garage gardens are a product of the future not just the past.
SOURCES RESOURCES AND ASSISTANCE: 1. Arnfield, A. J. (2003), Two decades of urban climate research: a review of turbulence, exchanges of energy and water, and the urban heat island. Int. J. Climatol., 23: 1–26. doi: 10.1002/joc.859 2. John Cook [GeekWire: May 24, 2012] Rooftop urban farm may sprout at Microsoft’s Redmond campus. 3. The ATLANTIC CITIES, A 30,000–Square-Foot Community Garden…, Sarah Deweerdt, May 29, 2012 ROOF GARDEN, Wikipedia [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roof_garden] 4. THRIVE DESIGN STUDIO, Rooftop Agriculture Guide, (http://www.urbanthriving.com/rooftop-agriculture-guide] 5. MINNESOTA GREEN ROOFS COUNCIL, Green Roofs: the BIG idea [www.mngreenroofs.org] ARCHITIZER News, Article: Seattle’s Garden in a Garage, July 9, 2012 Kistler Higbee Cahoot Landscape + Art + Community [portfolio 2012], http://www.kistlerhigbeecahoot.com MINNESOTA GREEN ROOFS COUNCIL [www.mngreenroofs.org] USGBC U.S. Green Building Council (https://new.usgbc.org) IMAGE SOURCES: BROMLEY CALDARI ARCHITECTS PC, Top 5 Of The Greatest Urban Rooftop Farms, by Joop De Boer, Nov 8, 2012 HenryLeongHimWoh [CC license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0] OHNY 2007 (Rockefeller Rooftop Garden) By Rian Castillo [CC license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0] Erik Christensen [CC license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0]
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