Keep South Central Farm on Top of New Warehouse?

Many of you may have already seen the idea put forth by frequent sustainablog commenter Brian Green on a “win-win” solution to the conflict over the South Central Farm, but I thought it deserved a post, if only to get more input on its feasibility. I’ll use Brian’s words here:

If he’s building a warehouse, why not simply build up a stronger roof and have it be an earth roof where they can continue farming? Is that in some way illegal? That way you get the warehouse AND you get the farms. So what if you have to walk up a flight of stairs before you get there? Warehouse roofs are flat, cover it over with two feet of good earth and then plant away. Irrigation isn’t a problem either. Just run lines from the water supply of the building. Put in meters. Done deal. In fact, I think more warehouses ought to be built with stronger roofs for precisely this reason. Can’t they be retrofitted?

He elaborated in another comment:

It just sounds like common sense. Think of all the flat buildings you see everyday. Think of all those warehouses. Certainly there’d be issues with the additional weight, but engineers get paid for that sort of thing.

Imagine being able to turn all warehouses into gardens and parks. Could you imagine how much that would change a city? The view from above would be surreal. Imagine putting walking bridges between buildings. Imagine that the new public space is actually above ground level. Why not? It’s the best use of the space.

The water runoff probably wouldn’t occur at all if it was a garden. The plants would suck up the water greedily and the irrigation that would be used should be the ultra-efficient “drip irrigation” and therefore seriously cut down on the costs of water.

I think as people start to look at cities and want to use every square inch as efficiently as possible, they will begin to see the same things as I do.

As a big fan of green roofs, I’m really intrigued by this idea. Ultimately, the engineers would have serve as the final judges of its feasibility, but because warehouses are big, open spaces, I’d imagine this creates some flexibility. So, if you’ve got some knowledge on the physical challenges this idea creates, as well as potential solutions, please share. The other element is, of course, the economics of the situation. I think it’s obvious this would involve more cost: what incentives would we offer to warehouse owners to take a step like this? I could also see the argument made that a better, and perhaps cheaper, use of the space would be renewable energy generation with solar panels, or, in some places, windmills. That doesn’t solve the issue with the South Central Farm, but it does bring up an intriguing question implicit in Brian’s idea: why not make productive use of this space?

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