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Green Building | Concrete

September 13, 2004

Before and after views of a 10,000-square-foot terrace that has been transformed into a green roof.

Photos courtesy NANCY CHATER

Barren roof top springs to life

BY PATRICIA WILLIAMS

STAFF WRITER

Student family housing residents at the University of Toronto have transformed what was once a barren concrete terrace on Charles Street West into a thriving city garden.

Designed by alumnus Nancy Chater, who graduated in May with a master’s degree in landscape architecture, the third-floor space boasts 7,000 square feet of planted, drought-tolerant grasses, native wildflowers, flowering perennials, shrubs and trees.

The remaining 3,000 square feet includes seating and children’s play areas.

A total of 2,000 tenants, including 500 children, have access to this green space.

“When I was chairman of the chemistry department, I learned that the university isn’t about buildings,” said Professor David Farrar, the university’s vice-provost who is responsible for some 70,000 students.

“It’s actually about people and people need green space.”

The $300,000 tenant-led project was funded by the university, Environment Canada’s eco-action community program, the Toronto atmospheric fund and the TD Financial Group friends of the environment foundation.

Construction was overseen by the university’s project management group, with assistance from its design team.

The garden was planted May 22.

“It will really explode next summer,” said Chater, who also served as the project co-ordinator.

Green roof systems have been used in European countries for more than three decades.

At an official unveiling, Chater said replacing conventional roof materials with vegetation has two key environmental benefits—reducing stormwater runoff and improving air quality.

But there are social benefits as well, she said.

The rooftop garden is the largest such communal gathering space at the university’s student residences.

The project was initiated by tenants’ associations at 30 Charles Street West and 35 Charles Street West.

At the unveiling, there was a ceremonial planting of fall mums.

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