Who says a garden can’t grow in a concrete jungle? A spate of new buildings across the world are being topped off with “green roofs”—spaces that incorporate environmentally friendly features such as flower beds, vegetable patches and solar panels, transforming these structures into large-scale sky gardens. Most recently, in France, the government passed a law mandating that all new commercial buildings must feature green roofs partially covered with either plants or solar panels.
The following green roofs are among the world’s most recognizable.
The LDS Conference Center (Salt Lake City, United States)
The roof of the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, overlooks the mountains of the Wasatch Range—a perfect starting point for creating a green roof that blends in seamlessly with its surrounding environment. Spanning four acres, this green roof is bordered on its north and east sides with aspen planters and conifer-forested terraces, and features a waterfall that falls two stories into a source basin.
Susan Weiler, ASLA, of Olin Partnership, the firm that designed the roof of the LDS Conference Center, explained to Landscape Architecture Magazine in 2006 that the water features proved to be challenging to incorporate into the entire design. Ultimately, the water features gave the space a “focal point for reflection, a refreshing element in a hot environment, and the aural benefit of moving water.”
“This was an extraordinary example of architects and landscape architects merging to integrate a project into the wider natural landscape,” said Weiler.
Vancouver Convention Centre (Vancouver, Canada)
The Vancouver Convention Centre’s LEED Platinum certification isn’t the facility’s only “green” feature. Sitting atop the Convention Centre is a six-acre “living” roof that boasts over 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses from the Gulf Islands. The roof is so vast that its rich landscape is trimmed just once a year—a task that requires a team of eight landscapers and takes a week to finish.
There is plenty of animal life to be found on the roof as well. Birds, insects and tiny mammals have made a home on the roof. European honeybees also live inside the roof’s four beehives, and produced 80 pounds of wildflower honey in 2014. The living roof also works as an “ecological staircase,” in which the many species and plants that inhabit the roof filter and purify rainwater for reuse.
Siam Green Sky (Bangkok, Thailand)
In 2011, the total area of public park space per person in Bangkok was just 0.70 square meters—a stark contrast to the 10 square meters per person in New York City. This is why Chulalongkorn University took the initiative to build more green space in the unlikeliest of places: the seventh floor of the Siam Square One shopping center. At over 2,000 square meters, the Siam Green Sky is the largest rooftop garden (and farm) in Bangkok. The roof is designed for farming and growing a rich diversity of plant life, serving as an urban agricultural learning center where people can learn about agricultural innovation.
ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall (Fukuoka, Japan)
Scientists have projected that the average annual temperature in Japan will increase upwards of 3.5 degrees by the end of this century. Since green roofs have been found to reduce energy use needed for cooling a building by up to 50 percent on the floor beneath the roof, those like the sprawling roof at the ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall are now beginning to pop up throughout the country.
Designed by architect Emilio Ambasz, roughly 35,000 plants representing 76 species grow along the structure’s 15 stepped terraces, transforming the office building into something that resembles a green mountain. “To the maximum extent possible, the architect wanted to give back to Fukuoka’s citizens all the land the building would subtract from the city,” writes greenroofs.com in its coverage of the ACROS Fukuoka building.
Music City Center (Nashville, United States)
Completed in 2013, the green roof on top of the Music City Center in Nashville, Tenn., is designed to mimic the rolling hills of Tennessee and boasts the largest green roof in the Southeast U.S. Designed by Greenrise Technologies, the 191,000-square-foot green roof features a 2.6 million-gallon rainwater gathering and distribution system.
It also has drought-tolerant plants, bioretention soil and a bee population that is expected to grow from 100,000 to 600,000 in the coming years that will produce an estimated 360 pounds of honey, beginning this spring. “We’ve made it a top priority to use local products in the kitchen, and this is as local as it gets,” says Max Knoepfel, executive chef of the Music City Center, in a statement.
Parkroyal on Pickering (Singapore)
For the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel, WOHA Architects designed the building as a towering sky garden. Inspired by the form and function of rock formations, WOHA covered the hotel’s balconies and terraces with over 161,000 square feet of tropical plants.
“We have achieved more than 200 percent of the site area in green replacement. So the green areas in the building are actually larger than the site itself,” said Wong Mun Summ of WOHA in a 2013 interview with Dezeen. The hotel is also covered with light, motion and rain sensors that regulate energy usage.