The Barclays Center Green Roof Has Bloomed

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Rendering, Forest City Ratner Companies

It looks like the green roof on top of the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn has finally sprouted. The new structure not only provides a nice view for the neighborhood, its flowering plants, called sedum, will absorb rainwater and excess sound from the arena’s events.  There is some controversy regarding how “green” the roof actually is, since it isn’t being built on top of the actual Barclays Center roof, but rather on a 130,000 SF steel structure that was built specifically for the green roof.  A steel structure of this size, which took over 6 months to build, has a huge carbon footprint and may outweigh any environmental benefits provided by the sedum itself.  However, those in favor of the green roof argue that it provides bird, bee, and other insect habitats; captures airborne pollutants; absorbs CO2; and releases oxygen.

This long-awaited project has seen its share of setbacks. Mirroring the development hurdles faced by the arena itself since first proposed in 2004, plans for the green roof have been on and then off and then on again for years.

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Green roof as of June 30 via Atlantic Yards webcam

It was initially presented as part of the original Frank Gehry design that included a rooftop park open only to residents of the Atlantic Yards complex (officially renamed Pacific Park in 2014). But throughout the recession in 2008 and 2009, the developer Forest City Ratner introduced a series of redesigns that drastically reduced the project’s size and budget. The green roof was discarded along with other features like a running track/ice skating rink on the arena’s perimeter.

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Sedum closeup by Chris Ryan for AN

The arena broke ground in March 2010, formed ultimately from a design proposal by SHoP Architects and Ellerbe Becket (now practicing as AECOM), and it held its first event, a Jay-Z concert, that September. The white roof with the big blue logo practically called to be greened over, and new seeds for the project were planted in 2014 by a joint venture between Forest City and Greenland Holding Group, a Shanghai-based real estate developer.

The flowering plant is hardy and low maintenance. Since its leaves store rainwater, sedum doesn’t require an elaborate irrigation system. There are just four hose bibs on the roof in case of drought. Four different varieties have been placed on the roof based on how they look next to each other and shade expected from towers being built adjacent to the stadium. The plants, which from their summer green will turn a more muted shade each winter, were grown on a farm in Connecticut, shipped here in giant containers, and hoisted onto the roof by crane.

Observers expect the cranes to disappear any day now and that the entire project (which requires some additional architectural and engineering work) will wrap up in September.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Barclays Center‘s green roof, check out Architect Newspaper’s video (below) that includes an on-location conversation with Forest City’s deputy director of construction Linda Chiarelli. I’m also happy to answer any questions you have about the development rising in the Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park complex. Developers Greenland Forest City Partners currently have four residential buildings under construction on the 22-acre site.

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