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  • Lorianna Kastrop

Consider a Roof Garden for Safer Gathering Space (Part 1)

By D. Michael Kastrop, A.I.A., Principal Architect, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how architects look at office, retail, and restaurant spaces. Safe spaces require social distancing and the need for fresh air. One possible solution for this could be right above your head.

Converting your roof into a usable gathering area for employees or clients is often possible, but the process is not simple. Start with an architect and a structural engineer to determine the feasibility of a roof garden project.

Initially, the architect will analyze the existing building plans to determine:

  1. The potential roof garden location and size.

  2. Where the access staircase(s) can be located.

  3. If an elevator will be required.

  4. What ADA accessibility requirements and improvements need to be provided.

  5. Contact the local jurisdiction’s planning department to verify that the roof garden concept is allowed.

The structural engineer will need to run a preliminary analysis of the building structure to see if it can support the additional loads created by a roof garden and what structural improvements might be triggered. At that time, the architect can provide a schematic design (and 3-D images) of the proposed improvements. Next it would be wise to get a preliminary construction estimate from a qualified general contractor to establish the construction budget. Note that new roofing and flashing should be part of the estimate.

If the project looks feasible, and the budget works for you, it is time to go to the next step of obtaining permits.

Approval of the Planning and Fire departments will be required by most jurisdictions. Typically, their review will include the site plan, floor plans, roof plans, sections, exterior building elevations and samples of proposed finishes. These drawings will need to be presented to the City and may include presentations at public hearings. This preliminary approval process entails quite a bit of architectural design work and, while the outcome is not guaranteed, most of the drawings will be also be used for the required building permit drawings and would be necessary anyway.

A project concept rendering we produced in the early design stages. This roof garden project was part of a larger tenant improvement project, which can be viewed here on our website.

A photo taken during construction, as the roof deck pavers were being installed.

A photo of our project near the end of construction, ready for planters and furnishings. More photos can be found here on our website.

Our next blog will get into the next steps for creating a roof garden. We will discuss design considerations like utilizing views and protection from the wind and sun. We will also discuss the selection of materials, seating, plants, lighting, and outlets.

Thank you for reading. As always, we are Designing for your Reality.

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