Inside Philadelphia’s Green Roof Revolution

Sourced from Billy Penn

As our city has grown higher and denser, it has also grown greener. Philadelphia has embraced the global trend of green roofs.

Rooftop plantings slow the overflow of heavy rain, which reduces pollution of waterways while also reducing air pollution and energy costs. In addition to their environmental and economic advantages, green roofs add a lot to “the urban experience,” according to Charlie Miller, principal and founder of Roofmeadow.

“We’re creating habitats for people,” Miller said. “These ‘human’ green spaces.”

Roofmeadow, headquartered on the second floor of a former Art Deco movie palace on Germantown Avenue in Mt. Airy, was the first company in Philadelphia dedicated to green roof design and construction. In the late 1990s, that meant Miller had to look elsewhere for work.

The company has greened roofs in more than 20 states, including projects at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Chicago City Hall, Millennium Tower in Boston, Music City Center in Nashville, the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, and the Department of Interior Building in Washington D.C.

Two decades later, green roofs now grow atop buildings throughout Philadelphia, too.

Not all of them are as visible as the wondrous (and possibly fictional) Hanging Gardens of Babylon — many require an elevator ride to see or experience. But others are more obvious than you might think, and the variety of landscapes and horticulture is surprisingly plentiful.

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