UDC Green Roof

UDC inaugurates 20,000 sq. ft. food-producing green roof!

The College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia has opened a 20,000 square foot green roof, which sits on top of Building 44 on the Van Ness campus. The official opening and ribbon-cutting of the site was held Thursday, July 9, 2015, with special guests Sonny Ramaswamy, director, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Tommy Wells, director, District Department of the Environment, and Ronald Mason, incoming president for the University.

While green roofs promote energy efficiency and storm water management by helping to cool buildings and reducing stormwater runoff, what makes the green roof unique is that it was constructed to produce food. The roof is the anchor of the CAUSES Urban Food Hub on UDC’s Van Ness campus. The Urban Food Hub concept consists of: food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and wastewater management. As the world’s population increases and cities, in particular, continue to grow in size, it is of utmost importance to meet the food and water security needs of urban populations. In urban areas as densely populated as Northwest Washington, rooftop food production is one method to grow food in a small space. Other Urban Food Hubs are emerging in other Wards across the District of Columbia.

“The green roof stands as a model of progress not only for the University of the District of Columbia, but also as a positive step in the fight to ensure that all District residents have access to fresh and nutritious food,” stated CAUSES Dean Sabine O’Hara.

The inaugural crops grown on the Connecticut Ave. green roof include cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, Swiss chard and Asian basil. Intensive climate-friendly vegetation grown on the roof requires little care, but will provide coverage that will help to naturally cool the building. The roof also incorporates a pollinator garden to support bee health, as honey bees play an important part in agricultural and horticultural ecosystems.

The rooftop garden consists of four large raised “T shaped” planting boxes. The perimeter is lined with 117 raised planters measuring 3 x 1 square feet that are 18 inches deep. There are also 146 boxes growing produce, and the garden contains 11 other types of pollinator-attractant plants.

Also a showcase for green infrastructure, a stormwater system will harvest rainwater and capture water runoff from the roof; and drip irrigation is embedded to provide water in the plant boxes and beds located on the roof. In addition to the outside green space, the structure includes a greenhouse and research space.

The project was supported through a grant from the District Department of the Environment (DDOE). Pollinator plants were donated by the Bayer North American Bee Care Center. CAUSES also thanks the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA), for their support of CAUSES research and community outreach work activities.