When the Colcord Building opened a century ago, it featured a rooftop garden from which one of its tenants, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, could show off the skyline to visiting dignitaries.
Similar rooftop gardens opened at the Skirvin Hotel and other landmarks, but fell out of use with the advent of air conditioning and modern building design.
Jennifer Gooden, director of Oklahoma City's sustainability office, is hoping a renewed interest in “green roofs” will catch on locally with a symposium set for Thursday.
“Everything is new again,” Gooden said. “There was quite a bit of use of green rooftops in the 1960s and 1970s — I understand Eugene Field had one at one point.”
Advances in construction that decrease weight on roofs have spurred a renewed interest, Gooden said, with benefits including lower building energy costs, reduced impact on stormwater drainage and the lowering of temperatures in “urban heat islands.”
“Roofs get hot, and in an urban area, that contributes to a city being a couple of degrees hotter,” Gooden said. “Despite all those benefits, we're not seeing a lot adoption of green roofs in Oklahoma City.”
The symposium Thursday will include presentations on green roofs and tours of recent additions that will include an underground garage just built at the campus of Chesapeake Energy Corp. rooftop gardens at 1015 N Broadway along Automobile Alley and at the newly renovated Packard Building at 201 NW 10.
Those who have added green-roofs are among those praising their benefits and popularity.
Chris Fleming, a partner in the MidTown Renaissance development, said the newly renovated Packard Building features a 3,000-square-foot rooftop, one-third of which is covered with plants. All of the planters are custom fabricated, contain a special light weight soil to limit the load burden and plants that are drought tolerant.
The public is invited to attend a free Green Roof Symposium hosted by the City of Oklahoma City from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on July 12 at the Cox Convention Center.
Morning sessions will include presentations, panel discussions and exhibits of green roof systems. A bus tour to three different types of green roofs in Oklahoma City will take place in the afternoon.
The event is offered through the City's Planning Department and Office of Sustainability, with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009's Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. Registration is free and includes breakfast and lunch. To register, visit www.okc.gov/planning/greenroof/