Hidden gardens atop city buildings have added benefits - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Hidden gardens atop city buildings have added benefits

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Vickie Yates Brown Vickie Yates Brown
The roof of the new Nucleus building in downtown Louisville. The roof of the new Nucleus building in downtown Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - On any given day, if you live or work downtown, you're sweating through temperatures that range from several on up to ten degrees higher than the surrounding area, depending on time of day. It's known as an urban heat island. All the materials that go into a city absorb and hold onto the heat. Right above our heads are more and more areas that could cool things down.

Just as proud as any gardener, Vickie Yates Brown knows the garden she oversees is going to face tests most of ours never will.

"It's going to take sun all day long, and wind," she said.

Hers sits eight stories up on top of the roof of the new Nucleus building in downtown Louisville.

"It essentially serves as like an extra layer of insulation for the building so we have energy savings," Yates Brown said.

Green roofs are increasingly topping buildings around the Metro - although they're still rare.  Where there was once mainly wasted space on the Metro Development Center and the Metro Archives Building, now grass grows.  

Brown Forman decided go green on the roof of its headquarters in 2010 after flash flooding swamped the area the year before. The company says it's reduced its storm water runoff from that building by 80 percent and gets a credit from MSD for it.

Yates Brown, who is the President and CEO of the University of Louisville Foundation's Nucleus, says that's not the only environmental benefit.

"It improves water quality, air quality because any time you've got green stuff growing, it improves the air," she said.

In addition, it helps reduce the heat island effect common in downtown areas.

Yates Brown says it will have to be maintained, which will add to the cost but, "in the long haul, we actually think we may be able to extend the life of our roof and it may end up being, probably about a wash."

Many of the city's green roofs aren't accessible to people who work in the buildings they top or the general public either because of liability or limited ways to get up there.

However, anyone who works at the Nucleus building will be able to enjoy it daily. There's also space to hold social events with seating space for up to 100 and a place for cocktails.

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