There are exciting things happening in the development of green roofs and recently a group of Epsteiners had a front row seat to see, learn and TASTE this idea in action. Arranged by Epstein's in-house Sustainability Committee, Epstein was invited to tour the very first commercial rooftop farm in Chicago, cleverly dubbed The Roof Crop. The Roof Crop creates a new market in real estate, by taking green roofs from simply an energy saver to a profitable tenant space.
Co-founder of The Roof Crop, Omni Ecosystems' Molly Meyer, and Agricultural Biosystems Manager, Michael Repkin took the group on a tour of the building to explain the logistics of urban roof farming and then all the way up to the roof (courtesy of scary tall ladder) to get a firsthand look at just what this movement is capable of. Everyone was surprised to find that this was no ordinary farm, which traditionally is grown in rows of single fruits and vegetables. This farm is more comparable to a prairie, with the fruits and vegetables mixed together throughout the roof. This strategy helps to keep the soil filled with all the nutrients it needs to grow its plants year to year without the need to rotate crops, as traditional framing requires.
Epstein and Omni Ecosystems / The Roof Crop are strong advocates for creating a viable, commercial urban farm infrastructure in Chicago and other cities, using food-producing green-roof applications on existing or newly-developed roof-tops to locally-grow an extensive variety of organic produce.
Together with roof-top greenhouses and indoor farming applications these crop-growing green roofs bring the freshest and best tasting produce closest to a large consumer base, saving transportation-related energy resources; they help mitigate "food deserts" in low-income urban communities; food-growing green roofs retain storm water and better insulate and protect the buildings they sit on.
As an example of its commitment, Epstein is incorporating roof-top farming in its design for Gateway Center, a new mixed-use, transit-oriented development in the Illinois Medical District that will become the commercial/retail neighborhood center for the IMD and the adjacent residential communities. A 30,000sf hydropic Greenhouse atop a parking garage as well as 12,000sf of crop-growing green roofs are included in the project master plan.