Four years ago, we planted our first green roof; today we are planting our third and our plan is to install a green roof on every one of our campus buildings as part of our long-term commitment to the environment. As someone who loves to garden, the thought of having those thousands of square feet of succulent sedum plants overhead is very appealing. But as you all know, we are not doing this for the aesthetics. FIT is a partner to New York City in its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout the city by 30 percent by 2030–and we have certainly been doing our share. But that isn’t why I am blogging about our green roofs today.
Rather, it is what I recently learned from members of FIT’s Sustainability Council about what is up on our roofs besides the plants: hummingbirds! Doves and mockingbirds….warblers and sparrows. Falcons. Imagine it! Altogether 34 species of birds–migratory and non-migratory–are taking sustenance on the Goodman building green roof, in the middle of perhaps the busiest, noisiest, tallest, most densely trafficked city in the country. The juxtaposition is awe-inspiring. And that is not all. Four species of bats–two of which are migratory and traditionally roost in trees–have been detected on the Goodman roof as well.
We are used to thinking of green roofs largely in terms of their benefit to air quality, energy savings, storm water management and even noise control. We forget, sometimes, that they are a great boon to our ecological systems, increasing, as they do, biodiversity and wildlife habitats. A recent study showed that the Goodman roof alone is now home to five times as many insect species as compared to non-green unplanted roof areas–and that, of course, is critical for the pollination of plants, soil maturation and aeration, organic debris breakdown and as a food source for those bats and beautiful delicate hummingbirds. Imagine how many more species of birds and bats will be roosting overhead as we continue to install our urban green oases–and how much we are, in our own small way, helping to sustain our planet.