It’s no secret that we love urban farming and green roofs, and while there are plenty of well-known benefits to greening up roof tops, there is still a lot that is misunderstood. Seeing Green: The Value of Urban Farms has set out on a research mission to better understand the stormwater management benefits of urban rooftop farms. Using two farms in New York City — Brooklyn Grange (a rooftop) and Added Value (raised beds) — Erik Facteau and Tyler Caruso of Seeing Green plan to study all aspects of the two different farms in order to provide the first ever scientific research that will support and validate urban agriculture. The year-long research project is about to get underway to prove that urban farms, particularly those on rooftops, have way more benefits than we think.
Currently NYC offers residents a one-time green roof tax credit that covers some of the installation ($4.50 per square foot up to $100,000). This tax credit is an awesome incentive, but it comes with a caveat: roofs that require irrigation are ineligible based on the theory that using water for irrigation would cause a roof to be less effective at retaining water thus cancelling out the major benefit of installing a green roof. This ultimately means that rooftop farming is out of the question, but there is no scientific data to support this idea. Erik and Tyler believe the opposite — that by using water intensive plants which also require deeper growing beds, you may see an increase in a roof’s water holding capacity.
Dubbed Stormwater Masters, Erik and Tyler are both recent Pratt Institute graduates with Masters in Environmental System Management. They started Seeing Green as a response to the lack of research done to support NYC’s claim that irrigated roof tops are not effective in retaining stormwater. As many know, stormwater management is a major issue for NYC and most other postindustrial cities in the US. The issue arises from the combined sewer systems, meaning that waste water from buildings and stormwater from rainfall and melting snow both compete for space in the underground system. During heavy rains, or even rain showers, the competition becomes fierce and often results in untreated waste water and stormwater runoff being released directly into the waterways that surround the city. Known as Combined Sewage Overflow (CSO), the runoff increases the pollution in the water, making it more of a challenge to meet the PlaNYC goal of having our water ways be clean enough to enjoy.
Erik and Tyler have teamed up with Brooklyn Grange and Added Value, two urban farms located in Queens and Brooklyn, respectively, to measure the stormwater management potential each have to offer. The duo’s work will measure the evapotranspiration rates, essentially the amount of evaporation and plant transpiration, to see just how much water is actually being retained and removed from the city’s infrastructure.
Seeing Green “believe[s] that urban farms offer the city a way to deal with stormwater flows much like traditional green roofs.” Plus, urban farms have many more benefits such as reduced miles traveled for food production and delivery, green employment opportunities, improved air quality, and help mitigating the heat island effect, just to name a few.
Seeing Green: The Value of Urban Farms raised half the money to support their research project through Kickstarter, and the other half of their funding came from professors at Rutgers. All of their research will be made public and we can’t wait to see the results!
Images © Seeing Green