Dlandstudio Creates a Colorful Green Roof for the Visual Arts School at SUNY Purchase

by , 05/13/11
filed under: Architecture

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Landscape architecture firm and design think tank dlandstudio has proposed some of the most innovative recent sustainable infrastructure projects in New York City, including a pollution-filtering park on the Gowanus Canal and a reinventing of downtown Manhattan in the face of rising sea levels. Their latest work, set to begin construction soon, is a simple and poetic take on a green roof at the State University of New York-Purchase’s School of Visual Arts. By using a variety of blooms, the rooftop changes colors with the seasons.

dlandstudio, robert siegel architect, green roof, sedum, suny purchase, school of visual arts, green architecture, sustainable architecture

The roof, part of an exterior envelope retrofit project headed by Robert Siegel Architecture, capitalizes on different species of sedum and other low-lying perennial vegetation to create a florid canvas that changes colors according to the time of year. During each season, one species or a group of species dominates the roof landscape, as the stepped gardens cycle between a mixture of reds, yellows and greens and bring life to the mid-century concrete and brick building. Through this tasteful green intervention, dlandstudio has improved stormwater management, thermal and energy performance and durability of the roof, while enhancing the aesthetic of the school and campus with this vibrant living artwork.

The previous roof of the Visual Arts School, a generic black rooftop, overheated in the warmer months and destroyed views of the forest surrounding the building. The entire roofing system will be removed and replaced with the exception of a sloped copper roof above the studios on the east side of the building. After the roof has been stripped to the slab, insulation and waterproofing are replaced, and a protective absorptive layer is laid out to prevent damage from any loose particles. A drainage mat is rolled out next, with a filter layer above to prevent clogging.

Finally, the growing medium and plants complete the extensive green roof. The stepped rooftops of the existing structure provide an inherent hierarchy of platforms to showcase a wave of colors throughout the seasons. Predominant species include sedum album and “white form” sedum, which blend into a backdrop so that more colorful species can pop through. Brightly hued perennials and succulents like the deep-red Summer Glory and the magenta Ice Plant are strategically positioned to ensure that each section of roof has its own unique progression of hues during the course of the year.

Dlandstudio’s lush green roof was never a certainty. It was only included in the overall retrofit project after consistent lobbying and presentations that highlighted its aesthetic, thermal, and durability benefits, as well as the financial rewards of its implementation. Originally, only a small section of the roof was scheduled to be planted, but dlandstudio worked with the architect and client to increase the amount of coverage. Materials specified for the project include pre-grown modular planting panels, which carry a minimum 1-year maintenance contract, to ensure SUNY that the roof would look good from its inception and be preserved through its first year. Though the renovation project had been on hold due to funding problems, dlandstudio’s resourcefulness, understanding of client priorities and extensive green roof system specifications allowed the project to resume as quickly as possible. A contractor was recently selected, and construction on this dynamic artistic roof is slated to begin soon!

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