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Back to Eden: The Barclays Center Green Rooftop Creation – New York City

The roof atop the Barclays Center is going green

The Barclays Centre situated in Brooklyn has a green roof which has finally sprouted.  It was born out of one of  New York’s most controversial development  schemes, it draws big crowds to the heart of Brooklyn, and has an  architectural form and facade that people will either  really love or really hate.

“The Barclays Centre Situated in Brooklyn Has a Green Roof Which Has Finally Sprouted”

The green roof is built on a giant 130,000 square foot steel superstructure and  has evoked controversy questioning how green the roof actually is.   The structure took six months to erect and has a large carbon foot print and may exceed any environmental benefits provided by the sedum itself.   There are those in favour of the green roof who argue that it provides insects with a natural territory; obsorbs CO2; captures airborne pollutants; and releases oxygen. The up side to this structure is not only the view of the surrounding area but its flowering plants called sedum.

Brooklyn’s Barclays Center
The long-promised green roof atop Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is finally taking root.

Project History

This long-awaited project has seen its share of setbacks. Mirroring the development hurdles faced by the arena itself since first proposed in 2004, plans for the green roof have been on and off for years.  The original design by Frank Gehry included a rooftop park open only to the residents of Atlantic Yards complex.   Officially renamed Pacific Park in 2014. However, through out the recession from 2008 -2009, Forest City Ratner the developers introduced a sequence of redesigns that greatly reduced the project size and the financial blueprint.    The green roof was discarded together with other features  including  a running track/ice skating ring on the perimeter of the arena.

It’s a Joint Venture Between Greenland USA and Forest City Ratner Companies

The arena made its first step in March 2010, it was formed from a design proposal by Shop Architects and Ellerbe Becket.   The first event held was a Jay-Z concert September of that year.    New seeds for the projected was planted in 2014 with a joint undertaking between Forest City and Greenland Holding Group, a real estate developer situated in Shanghai.

Installation is expected to be completed by the fall.

Plants on Rooftop

The roof will include four different mixes of sedum, which provide year-round vegetative coverage and bloom colorful flowers in the summer months.  Sedum plants are  low maintenance and do  not  require an intricate watering  system.   In the event of a drought the roof  has four outside water valves.  Shade is expected from neighbouring towers to the stadium.   Near winter the plants will turn a muted shade.    

“We wanted a low-maintenance, weather-resistant system that would flourish,” said Chris Sharples, a from  Shop Architects.

Workers installing panels one by one. Photo credit: Chris Ryan / AN.
Workers installing panels one by one. Photo credit: Chris Ryan / AN.

Absorbing Water and Sound

According to representatives from Barclays, the plants will help absorb sound coming from inside the building. The  roof is also designed to absorb rainwater during storms, putting less stress on the city’s sewer system and hopefully reducing combined sewer overflows.

View of the green roof from above. Photo credit: Tom Kaminski / WCBS Chopper 880
View of the green roof from above. Photo credit: Tom Kaminski / WCBS Chopper 880

Not Everybody’s Sold

The roof does have its fair share of critics. The original plan included the green roof as a lush  oasis accessible to the public, however,  the new structure is completely off-limits.

Others feel that the entire installation is nothing more than thinly veiled greenwashing. Lloyd Alter at Treehugger writes:

“But the biggest issue is that it’s not being installed on the actual roof. They are building a giant 130,000 square foot steel superstructure that spans the whole existing roof with an air gap of between four and ten feet, installed by three cranes over a period of six months. They are essentially building a bridge to hold up a “flocked” pattern of sedum trays. The carbon footprint and embodied energy of so much steel far outweighs the environmental benefits of any green roof, let alone this one. The whole thing, from start to finish is a multimillion dollar environmental negative.”

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