Circular City + Living Systems Lab

April 20, 2011

Urban Rooftops as Productive Resources: Rooftop Farming versus Conventional Green Roofs

Conference paper in Considering Research: Proceedings ARCC, 2011

Figure: Green roof and rooftop farm construction types


Rooftops in our urban centers represent a vast potential of currently underused space. The transformation of these urban rooftops into an environmental, ecological resource through an increased implementation of green roof technology is becoming standard practice in many cities throughout the world. Due to the rapidly growing interest in urban agriculture, a new form of green roofs – rooftop farms – are emerging. This study compares the environmental, economic and social benefits of conventional and productive green roofs. The intent of this paper is to outline realizable benefits and establish methods for optimizing rooftop occupation in the urban environment. The basis for this paper’s argument is derived from data collected from a number of rooftop farming case studies located throughout North America, which is compared with established data on conventional green roofs. Points of comparison fall into three groups: potential environmental, economic and social benefits. In conclusion, this study argues that not only do productive green roofs meet or exceed the well-established environmental benefits of conventional green roofs, but they also provide extra social benefits that outweigh any additional structural requirements, operational necessities and associated costs. The implementation of productive green roofs should be considered and actively pursued wherever possible, due to their vital contribution to the advancement of urban agriculture, social and economic gains and potential job creation, which all strengthen our urban environments and communities.


Proksch, Gundula. 2011. “Urban Rooftops as Productive Resources: Rooftop Farming versus Conventional Green Roofs,” Considering Research: Proceedings of the Architectural Research Center Consortium Spring Research Conference, Detroit, MI, April 20-23, (Southfield, MI: Lawrence Tech University, 2011), 497-509.