Picture this: You’re hard at work in a high-rise office building and your hectic day is taking its toll. You take a brief moment to gaze out of a window and collect your thoughts, only to be surprised by an unexpected yet beautiful sight. You find that you aren’t looking out at the usual scene of black rooftops and chimneys, but at lush, expansive green spaces atop the surrounding buildings. Green rooftops are the latest trend in sustainability, and Molly Meyer is pioneering the effort to install them throughout the Midwest.
Meyer’s company Rooftop Green Works, LLC has installed a green roof atop the WFYI building in downtown Indianapolis.
Meyer, an Indy native, established her Chicago-based company in 2009. After receiving her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Palo Alto, CA at Stanford University, Meyer spent some time in Seattle working as a carpenter before venturing out to Germany to design, build, and maintain green roofs.
“America installs only five million square feet of green rooftop annually, compared to 140 million square feet installed in Germany,” said Meyer.
This a statistic Meyer is working determinedly to alter. Armed with extensive knowledge and fervent passion, Meyer returned to the United States and launched her very own green roofing company. Although starting a business alone was daunting, Meyer admits, four years on, she now has one full-time employee and several part-time employees who help her keep up with growing demand.
“We’ve installed green roofs primarily in Chicago, but it’s very exciting to have business opportunities expand down to Indy,” said Meyer. “There are approximately 20 green roofs in Indianapolis, and WFYI’s will be the fourth largest.”
The three largest green roofs in Indianapolis can be found at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Eli Lilly, and The Nature Conservancy.
Rooftop Green Works participated in a bidding process with several other green roofing companies and was ultimately selected to build the roof at WFYI. While many green roofs are installed for aesthetic or functional farming and gardening purposes, the WFYI roof will combat a unique problem.
“When it rains, the microphones in the studio pick up the sound of the raindrops hitting the roof,” Meyer said. “We are installing this green roof as a form of natural sound reduction.”
In addition to visual appeal and food production, green roofs have many important benefits: they mitigate storm water runoff, increase usable outdoor space, decrease building energy use, decrease noise pollution, increase biodiversity, and create jobs.
While WFYI employees won’t have access to the roof, they will trade staring at a boring black rooftop for looking out at 6,000 square feet of lush meadow.
Meyer and her team installed WFYI’s roof using the Omni Ecosystems’ roof installation process, invented by Michael Repkin, Rooftop Green Works’ ecological designer. Installation of the wildflower meadow roof was completed on April 9, 2013, and the plants will grow to their full potential in roughly 6 weeks’ time.
What is Meyer’s vision for the future? “I would love to see the democratization of green roofs,” said Meyer. “As it is, green roofs are a luxury good. They are expensive.”
Meyer actively tries to mitigate some of the cost by employing thoughtful business practices, such as sourcing materials locally.
“This sustainable practice won’t be recognized widely in the U.S. until it reaches a certain level of connectivity among the general population,” Meyer says. “People have to be able relate to how a green roof can add greatly to their quality of life.”