How 7 acres of grass grown in Syracuse area ended up covering NYC’s Javits Center’s roof
Elbridge, NY — A small business in the Syracuse area is helping to make America’s rooftops greener.
Chatfield Green Roofing, of Skaneateles Falls, has provided nearly 1 million square feet of green roofs for buildings in the Northeast. It grows the vegetation for the roofs on its 34-acre farm in Elbridge.
The largest and most famous job was the almost 300,000 square meters of green roof on the Jacob Javits Convention Center, the largest green roof in New York City and the second largest in the country.
Green roofs, also known as living roofs, are vegetation planted over a waterproof membrane. Chatfield owner Bob Parker said they have many benefits for building owners and the environment. Among them a green roof:
- Helps extend the life of a roof membrane as the vegetation protects it from the sun’s UV rays. The membranes of green roofs last two to three times longer than those of conventional roofs.
- Reduces heating and cooling costs as vegetation acts as a natural insulator. Since the installation of the nearly seven-acre green roof on the Javits Center was completed in 2014, the building’s energy consumption has decreased by 26%, saving approximately $3 million per year.
- Reduces and delays stormwater runoff, easing the load on municipal wastewater treatment plants. The green roof of the Javits Center can absorb up to seven million liters of rainwater annually. On average, 77% of the average rainfall is retained on the green roof of the center and evaporated later.
- Provides an urban habitat for birds, bees and other wildlife. The roof of the Javits Center is now a sanctuary for 35 bird species, five bat species and thousands of honeybees. In fact, the center harvests more than 2,500 ounces of honey each year from rooftop beehives and sells it as bottled honey and a salad dressing.
- Creates a park-like environment for employees, residents and visitors. The green roof of the Javits Center has proved so popular that the center offers group tours and even a live roof camera.
The roof of the Javits Center is not always green. In the warmer months, the plants are bright green. But in the fall and winter they turn into red and orange shades.
Parker has been running a commercial roofing company, J&B Installations, for 40 years. He launched Chatfield Green Roofing in 2006.
He said he decided to enter the green roof market after a customer, SUNY Cortland, applied for a green roof from XeroFlor, a green roof company based in Canada at the time. Parker said he purchased the company’s vegetation and mats to meet the college’s request, then bugged the company for three years to form a partnership and make him the grower for the Northeast U.S. let be
“I’ve got all this land in Elbridge,” he said. “I used to rent it out for the cultivation of maize, hay and wheat. But after three years of hassle, they finally let me be their grower. Now I am a licensed grower and seller for the entire Northeast.”
Parker said he started planting green roofs in 2007. The vegetation consists of eight to twelve species of succulents, all hardy enough to survive the cold winters and hot summers of the Northeast.
It takes two to three years to grow the vegetation for a green roof. When it is ready to harvest, the vegetation is cut into 1 square meter sections and placed on flatbed trailers for transport to the construction site.
Parker said the vegetation should be installed within 24 hours of harvesting. The roof of the Javits Center required 47 truckloads, which were shipped over two years, he said.
If a roof needs to be repaired for any reason, the vegetation and the mat can be rolled up and put back down after the repair, he said.
The cost per square foot runs from $12 to $30, including installation. Costs depend on the size of the job and whether the material has to be lifted up, a more time-consuming method common in high-rise buildings.
Large green roofs cost less per square meter. The roof of the Javits Center cost $1.2 million for just the vegetation and the mats.
Parker said his company can do the installation. But installing a green roof is as simple as laying sod, so it can also be done by a general contractor. Chatfield employs four people in the summer.
The roofs require little maintenance. Parker said they should be weeded twice a year and fertilized once every two years. Roof drains, which cause excess water that the green roof cannot absorb, must be kept free.
Among his other projects are the green roofs at Binghamton City Hall (24,000 square feet); Capitol One headquarters in McLean, Virginia (15,000 square feet); Duke Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina (5,972 square feet); and Columbia University (13,080 square feet); the CBS Building (8,900 square feet), Zeckendorf Towers (14,000 square feet), and the Empire State Building (6,900 square feet) in New York City.
The green roof market in North America has grown an estimated 5% to 15% since 2013, with 763 projects in 35 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces installing 3.1 million square feet of green roofs in 2018, the latest year for which data is available. to be. available, according to Green roofs for healthy cities, the industry association for green roofs.
Chatfield has benefited from the recent trend that large cities need green infrastructure. Since 2019, for example, New York City has required that all new buildings and existing buildings undergoing certain major roof renovations must have solar panels, a green roof system, or a combination of both, covering 100 percent of each applicable roof.
US Representative Nydia Velázquez introduced legislation that would provide $500 million in federal aid over four years to plan, build and maintain green roofs in US public schools.
The bill would support the creation of nearly 29,000 direct and indirect jobs in the design, manufacture, construction and maintenance of green roofs at hundreds of school buildings across the country, according to an analysis by Green roofs for healthy cities.
The report also found that green roofs installed as a result of the legislation would retain 154 million gallons of rainwater and bring $378 million in benefits to school districts through reduced, longer roof life and rooftop food production for 50 years. .
Parker, 63, said he plans to retire from his roofing business in a few years and focus solely on his green roof business.
“That’s work, this is fun,” he said, looking out at his field of future green roofs on his farm on Chatfield Road. “I like watching it grow.”