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The Great Green Roof of Gossamer!


As part of Gossamer Threads’ ongoing commitment to sustainability, we’ve partnered with our landlord DeeCorp and fellow tenant TBWA\ to create a green roof on the building of our new office.

At the time, there was not much happening up on that flat tar & gravel expanse, but that was all to change soon enough!

Five blocks from our office is the recently completed and truly amazing new Vancouver Convention Centre.

Vancouver Convention Centre at night Vancouver Convention Centre Green Roof
The new Vancouver Convention Centre and its Green Roof!

At six acres, the building features the largest green roof in Canada, and will house the international press corps during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Compared to our less ambitious greening project, we feel a little humbled!

However, we will be saving on heating and cooling costs, extending the life of the building envelope, contributing towards filtering pollutants from the air, and MOST importantly, creating an epic BBQ area for those hot summers ahead!

The project was inspired by and painstakingly researched by Laura Krohn. Laura has a Master’s degree in Environmental Education and Communication, and last year she completed her thesis on recycling in affluent communities.

I snatched Laura from her busy schedule to elaborate a little more intelligently about the project.

What inspired this idea?

Well, the existing roof was pretty dismal…

Old deck, before green roofing Old deck, before green roofing (Alt view)
Old deck: Pre-Green Roof

…and around the office there wasn’t a lot of accessible green space.

I wanted to take something that wasn’t very exciting and turn it into a place where the employees could work, relax, connect with nature and take advantage of the great views that we all associate with the Vancouver landscape.

The energy benefits to the building will be the icing on the cake!

Can you describe the process?

First we needed to conceptualize a plan, which involved quite a bit of background research. Then all the stakeholders needed to come together: the business owners, the building owners, the building managers and the green roof builders. Once everyone agreed a budget and a design, we got the okay from a structural engineer, and were able to start the implementation process.


We contacted Streamline Enterprises, a company specializing in green roof and living wall technologies. Started in 2007, this young company nevertheless featured an impressive portfolio of projects utilizing this new technology. Founder Kevin Simoes’ vision produced a wonderful result for us.

Gossamer Threads Green Roof: Cedar deck and Living Wall Gossamer Threads Green Roof: Grassy area for entertaining Gossamer Threads Green Roof: Living wall close up during installation Gossamer Threads Green Roof: Green Roof entrance
New Deck: Green Roof-erized!
Pictures courtesy of Streamline Enterprises

Since the vegetation for the roof had to first be cultivated in Streamline’s greenhouses (they had been for 4 months at this point), we went through the permitting process with the City and built the deck portion on the roof.

Our carpenter and general contractor, Johann Furrer, did a great job constructing on this. A beautiful cedar deck was now ours for BBQ’ing goodness!

Up the plants go!
Crane going up!

When the plants were finished cultivating, and the deck completed, we could now start putting everything together. It took about a week to get everything in place; they even needed to rent a crane to get the plants up on the roof, which was pretty exciting!

What do you see as the key benefits of the project?

There are several environmental benefits achieved with a green roof:

  • Reduction in storm water runoff that affects quality of local water resources.
    Eg: drinking and swimming water, and fish & wildlife habitat
  • Reduction in energy consumption
  • Reduction in the urban heat island effect and associated cooling costs
  • Beautification of the City
  • Creation of more natural green spaces
  • Opportunities for local food production

There are several non-environmental benefits achieved as well!

The staff will have a place to work, relax, and connect with each other and with nature in an urban setting.

Gossamer Threads Green Roof: Sky Shot
Sky shot from the other side
Photo Credit: Johann Furrer

Gossamer Threads has some legendary BBQs and the green roof is the ideal setting to continue these events!

Nothin but BBQs, blue skies and green grass
Nothin but BBQs, blue skies and green grass

How else does sustainability fit in at Gossamer Threads?

Gossamer already exhibits a lot of sustainable practices: most of the staff live close to work, people bike, take transit and telecommute, we do a lot more videoconferencing now instead of taking intensive business trips and we’re building a green roof and living wall, just to name a few. We also recently started worm composting in the office which has been really fun. The plan is to use the compost for plant maintenance on the green roof.

“The great thing about sustainable living is that these things really just make sense!”

It contributes to a better quality of life and people feel better. It’s good for residents and for business!

What’s next?

Laura is arranging for Gossamer Threads to have an energy audit performed by Natural Resources Canada and BC Hydro, assessing the difference pre- and post-greenroof, and obtain a full picture of the energy benefits realized by the project.

Stay tuned for a future post with the results!