Landscapes of the Month: Revamping a Historic Green Roof - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Landscapes of the Month: Revamping a Historic Green Roof

Photo: Federal Hill Photography

For many years, the residents of this historic apartment complex have enjoyed access to a green roof that is situated above an underground parking structure in the heart of Baltimore. As the years passed, the site’s foundation began to crumble and needed to be repaired, which meant the old green roof would need replacing. The owner decided it was time to update the space, so he hired a landscape architect to create a design that would retain the historic look of the property while giving the green roof a modern feel.

The owner brought in Brandon Proescher and his team at Live Green Landscape Associates to help design and construct the new gardens for the space.

Photo: Federal Hill Photography

While this project was unique, it had many challenges, starting with the design phase. 

Before Live Green was involved with the project, a landscape architect had created a new design for the space. However, the owner wasn’t satisfied with the new plan, as the plant palette was very modern and lacked year-round structure. In addition, the owner felt this design wouldn’t fit with the historic nature of the building, so for almost a year, Live Green worked with the owner and landscape architect to revamp the design to give the space a modern style and retain the historic look of the property.

“The greatest challenge of the project was the redesign of the entire plant palette to meet the owner’s needs,” Proescher says.“This process involved many meetings over almost a year until the final plant selections were decided upon.”

An excessive amount of time and energy was required to gather photos, review different options, and update the drawings. Unsurprisingly, the final design looked very different from the original. The new design emphasized year-round interest and structure using flowering trees and evergreen shrubs. A unique feature of this plan included berms that would raise the elevation in certain areas to provide a natural look and peaceful setting for the residents.

Photo: Federal Hill Photography

Once the design was finished, it was time for the installation. This process only took 4-5 weeks, but the location of the green roof provided many challenges as Live Green had to coordinate deliveries and navigate equipment in limited space.

Live Green used various equipment to hoist the material onto the roof 10-15 feet above the surrounding structures. Timing became even more important when the owner further limited their access to the property, creating a short window to get materials delivered and installed. “Trucking of material had to be carefully and systematically setup due to the limited space and time,” Proescher says. “Skid loaders worked non-stop loading the hopper/feeder of the Tele-belt to swiftly move material to the roof.”

Thanks to advanced planning, the Live Green team smoothly executed the installation. 

Irrigation was vital to the design, as Live Green installed almost 500 shrubs and 1,200 perennials on the site. Drip lines were used for 75% of the space to conserve water and reduce costs, with sprinklers only being used for the center lawn.

The new green roof has several distinct sections, including Proescher’s favorite spot, the center lawn.

“The focal point that I think is the most intricate piece is the center lawn area because if you catch it at the right time of the year, there are upwards of 4,000 bulbs that are planted inside the lawn area that pop up in early spring and paint a picture early in the year,” he says.

Photo: Federal Hill Photography

Another design feature includes a courtyard with formal plantings and a life-size chess board to help residents interact with the space and escape the “city feel.” Residents can enjoy the plant life as they navigate stone dust pathways surrounded by layers of perennials and shrubs. Around the garden’s perimeter is a green wall consisting of skip laurels and various other shrubs to soften the view of the city and reinforce the garden’s tranquility.

Proescher says the most exciting part of the project was the installation process and watching the months of redesign finally come together.

 Seeing this project win a Gold Award in the 2022 Awards of Excellence was also special for his team.

“This project means a lot for Live Green and especially our commercial department,” he says. “While we are used to installing incredible award-winning commercial projects, we are not always so fortunate to be so deeply involved in the design side of a project like this. That is what makes the Baltimore City Courtyard so special to me and the Live Green Landscape Associates.”

Interested in participating in the Awards of Excellence? Be sure to enter your projects by July 10, 2023.

Matt Olson

Matt Olson is a freelancer for NALP.