Spring is springing

Hi rooftop farming fans!

Yet another few months have passed between posts. We’re now right smack dab in the middle of spring. PROOF is inching along, making progress bit by bit. By bit.

No, we’re not going to be planting rooftop farms in West Philadelphia this year as part of our proposed “2010 ten roof pilot program” (can we pretend that was a typo and we really meant 2011?) but we’re meeting, planning some test plantings (on the ground) to investigate various potting mixes and scheming about how to build next generation prototype planters.

In early May we met with the team from the Community Design Collaborative and they gave us their final report. It includes detailed sketches of proposed planter designs, great suggestions for how to build the interior of planter boxes and thorough cost estimates, all told in the form of dirty limericks. It’s a great piece of work You can see the non-limerick version here. (the photo on the front page is what I see from my roof each time I go up there to tend my “crops.” Imagine all the farms that could fill those unused rooftops!) At some point I’ll separate out the individual proposed planter designs to make them more easily viewable on the site. This is not that point.

The early summer is going to consist of planter-building and planting experimentation, as well as figuring out how we’re going to address two important issues:

1) getting Philadelphia’s zoning code to be more friendly to rooftop agriculture, and
2) encouraging L&I to redefine what constitutes legal roof access for flat roofs that have rooftop farms.

The second point is a big one. Right now Philadelphia’s building code doesn’t consider access through a roof hatch to be a legal way to get up onto the roof other than for occasional maintenance. In order to create legal access you have to have a dedicated staircase and, if coming up from the interior, a pilot/head house. That’s a huge investment of money and space, and something well beyond the means of most Philadelphia roof owners. We’re trying to figure out a way to get L&I to modify its definition of legal access for roofs that are exclusively used for agriculture. Doing so will open up hundreds of thousands of Philadelphia’s flat roofs to potential planting.

Though the CDC team and most of our efforts so far have focused on residential roofs, we’re also opening up the idea of farming on commercial roofs. When we build our prototype planters we’ll try to create ones that work both residentially and commercially.

If you have any ideas about any of the above or would just like to help PROOF by volunteering your time and/or beer, e-mail me any time at “jay@fundamentalchange.net”.

One response to “Spring is springing

  1. Hey There –
    I have been doing some rooftop “farming” of a slightly different type. Maybe someday we can join forces. Have a look –


    I will keep my eye on your blog. Good luck with everything –

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