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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

September 2008 Issue

A SPOT OF GREEN IN STEEL CITY
A green roof serves as a corporate roof garden.

By Linda McIntyre

A SPOT OF GREEN IN STEEL CITY

Usually the term “green roof” is used to describe a functional application, while “roof garden” signifies a usable, attractive amenity, like a park in the sky. But at the Heinz 57 Center in Pittsburgh, a property management company in search of the latter ended up installing the former. While this roof functions as a garden for the high-level executives looking out on it, it has been a learning laboratory of sorts for the contractor and the company that designed and installed the system, who completed the project early in their respective green roof careers and continue to monitor its progress.

Most green roofs are products of ecological idealism (see “Grassroots Green Roof,” Landscape Architecture, December 2007), stormwater management regulations, or, more recently, public relations. But this roof was designed with more practical considerations in mind. In the late 1990s, McKnight Development bought the historic Gimbels Department Store building in downtown Pittsburgh that had sat vacant for more than a decade after Gimbels went out of business.

In the wake of extensive renovations, the building’s premier tenant, the North American headquarters of food company H. J. Heinz, intended to locate its top executives’ offices on the 14th floor, the uppermost part of the building, which Mc­Knight had improved with the addition of a large skylight. These offices have floor-to-ceiling windows, but the views—of a plain brick parapet wall and the black tar roof covering the 30-foot-wide terrace that surrounds those offices—were not terribly appealing. One early idea for sprucing up the roof—laying on synthetic turf—was (mercifully) discarded, and McKnight and its architects, Burt Hill Kosar Rittlemann Associates (now known as Burt, Hill), decided to improve the space by adding a roof garden as a gift to the Heinz company.

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