Thursday, June 10, 2010

City Hall's green roof will stay closed to public

Accessibility, safety issues and maintenance costs will keep the public from enjoying City Hall's new green roof, according to a recent report to Cincinnati City Council.

The report, from Department of Public Service Director Andrew Glenn, was in response to a May 11 motion by Councilmember Laure Quinlivan asking City administration to explore the feasibility of creating access to the rooftop for City employees and individuals who tour the building.

"The newly-created green roof is a pleasant outdoor spot that could and should be enjoyed by people at City Hall," Quinlivan said in a statement accompanying the motion.

Currently, the green roof can only be reached by climbing over a radiator and through an open window.

Glenn said that, although the rooftop provides a pleasant experience, the feasibility of allowing public access is hampered by the primary purpose of the roof, the building's construction, and the additional costs of making it safe.

"The methods used to install this roof were based on limited access for maintenance of the plantings and vital mechanical systems," he said.

Boilers, chillers, water pumps, electric switchgear, fire pumps, and other major HVAC equipment lie just underneath the roof. Various exhaust and plumbing vents pierce through it.

"Each of these emits exhaust fumes, gases and often steam which then disperse into the atmosphere," Glenn said. "Since the building was constructed in 1893 this roof has been inaccessible to the public for this reason. Today, OSHA requirements for confined spaces require restricted access limits to such locations."

Other safety issues would have to be addressed as well, he said, including the installation of wheelchair ramps and other ADA-compliant infrastructure, safety glass on the first-floor windows, protection for multiple panes of stained glass, the installation of doors for ingress and egress.

Additionally, the green roof's water systems would have to be rebuilt and the roof would have to be reinforced to handle additional loads, Glenn said.

"To create access to this roof would not be cost effective for the end result when compared to the ongoing need for improvements throughout the City at various facilities," he said.

City Hall's green roof was designed and planted by Lisa Yunker of City Roots, with the wooden planters built by Urban Sites Properties.

The project was funded through energy savings, rebates from Duke Energy, and state and federal grants.

Previous reading on BC:
Cincinnati working on green roof incentive (9/11/08)
Bortz proposes green roof incentive (7/3/08)
Cincinnati names two additional green roof sites (5/20/08)