Gary Comer Youth Center Green Roof
The Gary Comer Youth Center provides spaces for educational and recreational programs for kids on Chicago’s south side. It is a flexible, adaptable building with practice, performance, gym and educational spaces including computer labs and classrooms for arts and study. It is an awesome community resource. But one of the coolest things about the building is the extension of the educational program to the roof. The green roof, more specifically.
Designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, the green roof serves as an outdoor classroom. With skylights that look down into the cafeteria below, the kids are fully immersed in the agricultural process, from gardening on the roof to engaging in after-school cooking classes below.
With soil 24 inches deep, the gardens produce more than 1,000 lbs of organic produce every year which feeds 175 kids at the center every day. Excess fruits and vegetables are distributed among local restaurants and sold at a farmer’s market. Rainwater is collected from the roof and used to irrigate some of the fruits and vegetables. The rooftop garden also helps regulate temperatures inside the building, reducing energy costs and keeping it more comfortable for kids and teachers to be in the rooftop courtyard where temperatures average between 20-30°F warmer in winter and 10°F degrees cooler in summer.
As the kids engage in after-school programs, they learn through hands-on projects about the growth cycle, rainwater harvesting and runoff, heat island effect, and ecology. And they are able to do so in a safe, outdoor space.
photos © Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing