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