University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Greener Roofs

Cement terrace at family-housing residence becomes rooftop oasis

U of T’s family-housing residents unveiled a thriving city garden earlier this fall on what was once a cement terrace at 30 Charles St. W. in downtown Toronto.

The “green roof” project turned the residence’s 10,000-square-foot rooftop into an oasis of drought-tolerant grasses, native wildflowers, flowering perennials, shrubs and trees. A total of 2,000 tenants, including 500 children, have access to the green space.

“This is an initiative that the university and the community can model,” says Professor David Farrar, U of T’s vice-provost (students). “The green roof garden will not only provide environmental benefits but will also contribute to community development.”

In addition to providing esthetic and functional value, the green roof will help keep the city cooler in summer and improve air quality. Paved surfaces trap and emanate heat, which contributes to smog formation (a major cause of respiratory problems). Green spaces remain at a more consistent air temperature and the vapour from plants cools the air, reducing the demand for air conditioning.

The $300,000 project was funded by the University of Toronto, Environment Canada (through Eco-Action), the City of Toronto Atmospheric Fund and TD Financial Group Friends of the Environment Foundation.

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