Roof Gardens Slow to Grow in Arkansas

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Jun. 1, 2009 12:00 am  

Mark Boyer, interim department head at the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, shows garden atop a UA building.

Although the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality's headquarters received the Gold Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design rating from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2007, the six-story building could have been even greener.

The ADEQ had planned to place a rooftop garden on the North Little Rock building, which cost more than $22 million. The ADEQ had hired Mesa Landscape Architects Inc. of Little Rock to design the rooftop garden, which could have lowered the temperature of the roof by 40 to 60 degrees, saving on cooling costs and extending the life of the roof.

But the ADEQ decided to scrap its plans for the rooftop garden. ADEQ officials thought they didn't have the employees for the maintenance of the garden, which would have been planted directly on the building's roof.

While other cities have seen an increase in garden roofs over the past decade, Arkansas building owners have been slow to add the feature. But that could change if more of the developers who express an interest actually follow through.

Mesa Landscape owner Mark Robertson said he designed a rooftop terrace and garden, costing about $100,000, for a downtown Little Rock project. But the project was shelved in the fall. Robertson declined to identify the project.

He also is planning to bid for the job of designing a green roof for the Little Rock Zoo's new Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe exhibit. Robertson said he hoped that the project would be open for bid soon.

Little Rock Zoo spokeswoman Susan Altrui said last week that the zoo was moving forward with the green roof.

"We are waiting on the city to refinance the 1998 bond fund," she said. "When that happens, that will give us the money we need to complete the fundraising for the penguin exhibit." Altrui said she expected that to happen in the next two months.

Altrui said the zoo wanted the green roof because it was always "looking for ways to encourage conservation and to practice what we preach."

The construction cost is projected at about $2.2 million, and the exhibit will feature eight penguins.

Robertson said green roofs had "a lot of potential" in Arkansas. A green roof "helps in a lot of different ways," Robertson said. "We need to be seeing more of them. ... Europe has been doing green roofs for decades."



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