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Roof at CIA's Gund Building set to transform into urban "meadow"

Installing Cleveland Institute of Artís green roof

In just a few weeks, the roof of the Cleveland Institute of Art’s (CIA) George Gund Building will be in full bloom will rows of sedum covering 3,364 square feet, or half, of the 6,800-square-foot rooftop.
 
The roof was originally designed to be a green roof system, explains CIA director of facilities and safety Joe Ferritto, but the system was cut from the budget during the 2015 completion of the building. The garden got the green light this year after a successful $19,000 fundraising campaign.
 
The garden was designed by Cleveland-based Rooftop Green, which has a patented system for planting directly on a roof. “They gave us a proposal for a basic green system and tray system,” says Ferritto. “The trays are produced out of recycled water bottles to create a cellular material that is very dense and absorbs water.”
 
The trays, which each measure about 24 inches by 18 inches, are filled with dirt and sedum seeds and then covered with a poly netting material.  
 
Five members of the maintenance team spent three days last week hauling 38 palettes – with each palette holding 40 trays of sedum -- up to the roof via the service elevator. Half of the sedum, planted toward the back of the garden, will grow to be about 14 inches tall, while the front of the garden will have 8-inch tall plants.
 
“The guys thought it was pretty interesting when we put this up,” says Ferritto. “We had a carpenter, a painter, a HVAC guy and an electrician all hauling that stuff up there. It was kind of an all-hands-on-deck experience.”
 
Ferritto is keeping the garden off limits until the sedum has bloomed in about a month. When he does open it, the roof will be accessible only to students and faculty and by appointment. In the meantime, the garden can be admired through the window wall on the building’s third floor and CIA students in the adjacent biomedical arts department have a spectacular view.
 
“Once it hits 60 degrees we should see some seed pollination, then it’s a four to five week growth time. It looks very white right now," he says, adding that the trays will soon fill with color, mostly green. "It will look like a meadow.”
 
The whole rooftop garden system provides additional points toward achieving LEED certification for the building. “I’ve heard claims that it can increase the life of a roof by 50 to 100 percent, but studies are still being done on that,” he says. “There’s increased insulation the green roof provides, and [there is] reduced UV that [can] beat up the roof system.”
 
Now that the landscaping in complete, Ferritto has his eye on the other half of the roof. He says plans for hardscaping for the remaining 3,400 square feet include pavers, furniture and a canopy. “Once we get the hardscaping piece done, there have been discussions on hosting events or making studio space there,” he says. 

The Cleveland Institute of Art is part of Fresh Water's underwriting network.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 18 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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