Progression of Rooftop Agriculture

500 B.C. – Earliest history of green roofs dates to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It is one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Plants draped over all sides of the building.

1700s – Tracing back to European countries, allotments were a common type of farming. Allotments are small pieces of land for individual farming and personal consumption. The urbanization, industrialization, and changing lifestyles led people to develop these farms. (Acton)

1810s – Luke Howard was one of the first to produce studies on urban climate change. In 1833 he published the book, “The Climate of London”, which touched upon the difference between temperature in cities compared to climate in general. Artificial heat is generated in cities which contribute to higher temperatures. (Howard)

1890s – In America, similar to allotments, were community gardens. These were gardens larger in size and cultivated by the community and provided food and labor. During World War I and II these gardens were known as “victory gardens” to help provide food and support war. (Acton)

1936 – One of the first green roofs was built on Rockefeller Center. However, it’s purpose was for aesthetic pleasure and to resemble hanging gardens, not for the benefits of sustainability or cooling effects. (Green Roofs)

1969 – The term of the urban heat island effect began earlier than 1969. One of the earliest articles was published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology dating back to 1969. It talks about criticisms of already existing theories and uses a numerical energy budget model to find the causes. (Myrup)

2000s – The benefits of urban gardening and rooftop gardening are recognized and merge. Much initiative to build rooftop farms originates from lack of fresh local food and issues with industrial farming. It is encouraged as a healthy alternative which also combats health problems such as obesity.

2002 – The Earth Pledge Foundation launches their Green Roof Initiative in New York City. (Green Roofs)

Mid 2000s – Rooftop Agriculture isn’t only a sustainable method regarding food and health. Numerous studies are conducted to demonstrate the benefits of green roofs, which include cooling the urban heat island effect, energy efficiency, reducing water run-off, and so forth. Alongside, organizations such as Brooklyn Grange and initiatives by New York City are enforced to encourage rooftop agriculture.

2006 – Silvercup Studios built a 35,000 square foot rooftop farm in September of 2006. It is located in Long Island City, Queens. (Green Roofs)

2007 – PlaNYC 2030 launched by Mayor Bloomberg to tackle climate change by reducing green house gas emissions, carbon footprint, and promote sustainability. (PlaNYC 2030)

2010 – A study by Columbia University found that a green roof in Queens reduced the amount of heat absorbed during the Summer by eighty four percent. The same green roof which was built by Con Edison also found that if New York maximized it’s use of green roofs it could reduce ten to fifteen billion gallons of rain water per year. (Gaffin, Roscenwieg)

2010 – The Department of City Planning makes exceptions for greenhouses, to “allow a greenhouse to be exempt from floor area and height limits, provided that it is located on top of a building that does not contain residences or sleeping accommodations. These greenhouses must not exceed 25 feet in height, must set back six feet from the roof edge, and must include practical measures to limit water consumption.” (NYC DEP of City Planning)

2010 – Brooklyn Grange is an organization that runs one of the largest rooftop farms (over two thousand acres of rooftop agriculture) in two locations: Brooklyn and Queens.

2011 – The New York City Green Infrastructure Plan will invest 1.5 billion dollars into green buildings and green roofs to help reduce water runoff. The goal is to reduce rainfall and sewer runoff by forty percent by 2030. (NYC DEP of Environmental Protection)

2012 – Michael Arad, the architect who designed the 9/11 memorial, designed a rooftop garden for the Earth School in East Village. This started through the Fifth Street Farm Project created by parents and teachers. The rooftop garden opened on October 12. (Fifth Street Farm Project)

Works Cited:

Acton, Lesley. “Allotment Gardens: A Reflection of History, Heritage, Community and Self.” Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 21.0 (2011): n. pag. CrossRef. Web. 1 Mar. 2013.

“American Community Gardening Association.” Web. 13 Mar. 2013.

“A NYC Public School Green Roof Project.” 5th street farm project. Web. 19 Mar. 2013.

“Laura Lawson_Urban Garden Research.” Web. 12 Mar. 2013.

Gaffin, S. R., Rosenzweig, C., Eiehenbaum-Pikser, J., Khanbilvardi, R. and Susca, T., 2010. ” A Temperature and Seasonal Energy Analysis of Green, White and Black Roofs” Columbia University, Center for Climate Systems Resesarch. New York. 19 pages.

Luke Howard. “The climate of London, deduced from Meteorological observations, made at different places in the neighbourhood of the metropolis” 2 vol., London, 1818-20

Luke Howard and The Climate of London. Weather, 63: 153–157. doi: 10.1002/wea.195

Myrup, Leonard O. “A numerical model of the urban heat island.” Journal of Applied Meteorology 8 (1969): 908-918.

Rosenberg, Tina. “Green Roofs in Big Cities Bring Relief From Above.” Opinionator. 23 May 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

“NYC Green Infrastructure Plan.” NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Web. 12. Mar. 2013.

“Zone Green Text Amendment – Department of City Planning.” Web. 19 Mar. 2013.



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