First, a barrier is rolled out to prevent roots from penetrating the roof’s surface. A felt absorption layer comes next. This captures excessive moisture from heavy rainstorms, then releases it back to the soil and plants when it’s needed during dry conditions. A protective layer is placed above that to protect the absorption layer from soil contamination. As for the soil, it’s actually a blend of organic compost materials and lightweight, porous stones. These are designed to break down and add the trace minerals vegetables need.

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Rooftop Farm

Rooftop Farm

Douglas Gayeton for Lexicon of Sustainability

Rooftop Farm

Location: Brooklyn Grange, Queens, NY

Featuring: Ben and Rob

A rooftop farm adds environmentally beneficially green space to cities, increases the local food supply, cools the building in the summer and absorbs rainwater (which reduces the burden on city sewer).

Urban agriculture closes the gap between city dwellers and their food (people can even participate in its cultivation). Brooklyn Grange chose this rooftop for its structural integrity, size and accessibility. An urban rooftop makes the perfect garden because it gets great light and strong winds (which can be a challenge). The Grange’s produce is sold directly to the community through farmstands, CSAs and local restaurants. (In its first season, 12,000 lbs of vegetables were grown here.)

Ben raised funds to build this farm via:
1. Community fundraisers
2. Kickstarter (a website)
3. Equity investments
4. Interest loans


Being in the city brings both an opportunity and a responsibility to keep as much waste as possible from going to a landfill. This is what gets hauled onto the roof:

1. Visitors and local restaurants bring food scraps
2. Each week the Western Queens Compost Initiative delivers hundreds of pounds of compostable vegetable scraps
3. Local woodworks provide wood shavings
4. A coffee roaster provides coffee chaff and grounds
5. Fish Emulsion is added for soil fertility

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