Friday, May 3, 2013

Green Roof of the Vancouver Public Library

About 6 months ago I woke up and drew the blinds in my hotel room and marveled at the gorgeous view of the Central Library of the Vancouver Public Library and it’s Green Roof. I quickly snapped a picture and posted it on Instagram to freeze this moment in time and to share it with others.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Marya Gadison, Coordinator of Marketing and Communications of the Vancouver Public Library contacted me for permission to use that picture on the Vancouver Public Library site. She connected me to Shelagh Flaherty, Director, Library Experience. When I told her about my passion for gardening and interest in the Green Roof.  On a day full of press releases, public announcements and meetings, Shelagh was kind enough to give me a chunk of her time so I could learn more about their plans to find new ways to develop space where people can connect, learn, create, and contribute. 
Can you tell me a bit about the background about the Green Roof at the Central Library of the Vancouver Public Library?
The construction of the Central Library began in 1991.  DA Architects and Planners, then known as Downs/Archambault & Partners, was among the local firms that contributed to the design of the building.  While the model included a garden on the roof the city had not budgeted for this project. Those plans changed and we enlisted renowned and innovative landscaping architect, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander to design our green space.

Can you tell me a bit more about it’s purpose?
While the Library is a public place the roof top garden was not meant to be a place for people to walk around.  In fact, there isn’t even a fence around it or any walking paths.

There are several benefits to having a green roof:
  • Increase the total mass of living matter in a given unit area
  • Reduce air pollutants
  • Reduce cooling requirements for the Library roof
  • Stores and delay storm water run off

How much care goes into the Green Roof?
The Green Roof requires very little maintenance. The plants in the garden were chosen because they were self-sustaining. We have had the same plants since the Green Roof was created and they are flourishing.  (The majority of the BC native plans up on the green roof are blue and green fescue bunchgrass to represent the Fraser River and kinnikinnick, which represents the higher elevations of the land.) If you view the roof from above you’ll see that the design of the garden is made so it looks like the Fraser River.  

Arial view of the Green Roof at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library

Do you have plans to create green space at the Central Branch?
In 1991, to secure funding, we leased the top two floors the Provincial Government, which they use as offices.  This agreement ends in 2015 and our hope is to have those two floors converted into public green space.

We are lucky enough to have Cornelia back on board to design the new green space for the Central Library Library.  The residents and visitors of Vancouver can expect something that reflects Vancouver, which will be accessible and is self-sustainable.

What developments can we expect in the next coming years?
We recently released our strategic plan to expand community space. Our vision is to create a free place for everyone to discover.

The newest branch will be located on the 700 block of East Hastings.  Partnering with the YWCA, this LEEDS building will also have social housing for women and children. 

Scheduled for completion for the end of 2014, the Central Library will be unveiling a digital media space (3,000 square feet), which as been dubbed the “Inspiration Lab”.  Residence and visitors may have access to a digital recording studio, video editing software and workstations, an interactive music lab and more.

While the population in the Vancouver’s Downtown Core continues to increase the City of Vancouver actively consults with the public and planners to find ways provide public green space.  I encourage everyone to participate in the planning of these initiatives as it affects the residents and visitors of this terrific city.

Additional Notes:
Vancouver Public Library is one of the city’s longest institutions.  Established in 1887, it continues to serve the public and has nearly 350,000 active card holders across 22 locations and online at through ebooks, databases and other digital services. VPL recorded more than 6.5 million visits in 2012; patrons borrowed nearly 10 million items, including books, ebooks, CDs, DVDs and magazines.
VPL is supported by the City of Vancouver, and is dedicated to meeting the lifelong learning, reading and information needs of the residents of Vancouver.

To learn more about the Vancouver Public Library, including their development plans, please contact:


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