Green Roofs on the Move: Bus Roots (All Over the Tri-State Area)

According to Marco Castro Cosio, an NYU grad student in Interactive Telecommunications, “plants are innovative technology.”  They act like little solar panels, changing light into food.  They transform water into leaves and fruits.  They adjust to varying weather conditions.  So Marco decided to dedicate his Master’s project to plants and soon found himself learning about the world of living roofs.  He hooked up with the folks at BioBus, a traveling science lab, and installed our smallest green roof yet, just 15 square feet, on the roof of this bus.  His second mobile green roof will be installed this May on the Green Bus Project, a bus that travels around the U.S. promoting the benefits of green living.  Marco’s real goal, however, is to attract the attention of the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority), who owns 4,500 buses in New York City.  Marco reasons that if 4,500 buses, each with 340 square feet of rooftop, were planted, that would add 35 acres of green roof to New York City.  And that’s before he adorns the hundreds of bus shelters with green roofs!

After extensively researching many types of living roof systems, Marco determined that one was best for his green roofs on the move.  Planted in just 1 inch of soil covered by absorbent felt, believe it or not, sedum grows.  Sedum are those tough little plants that look like miniature succulents and are related to cactus.  They can withstand wind, cold, heat and drought, and therefore are often used on living roofs where harsh conditions often exist.  On the BioBus roof, the soil doesn’t blow away because of the felt covering, and the felt absorbs the water so the plants get their required moisture! Best of all, because of the shallow depth of the growing medium (a.k.a. the dirt), the whole installation is lightweight and does not adversely affect the miles per gallon on these buses.  Genius!

We wish Marco much luck with his goal of finding a sympathetic soul at the MTA to advocate his green roof project.   Perhaps in the coming months, when you LOOK UP at your cross town ride, you’ll see the edges of a green roof  – how appropriate for New York City where there is so much action that even plants are on the move!


6 thoughts on “Green Roofs on the Move: Bus Roots (All Over the Tri-State Area)

  1. Hi, Leslie! Thanks for referring me to your blog! I always enjoy learning new things about New York City, and you’ve written about a number of very interesting topics here.

    I also really like your writing style, and will be checking back regularly.

    As far as the current post goes, though, I think one thing your friend Marco needs to consider is what could happen if a bus with a garden on top of it is involved in an accident! It may be a lightweight garden installation, but will it shift the center of gravity of the bus so that it might tip over more easily? If that’s the case, it could be dangerous. Also, if there’s any possibility either the soil or a plant could blow off into another driver’s windshield and limit visibility, that’s another potential problem. I would guess that whoever insures the Transit Authority’s buses will take a very hard look at his idea before they give the TA the green light to actually try this experiment…Ev

  2. This is so cool. Next they will be serving food on the bus, grown right on top (though I am not sure 1 inch of soil would sustain something we would eat, rather than just sedum.
    I guess sedum is hardy in street pollution environment (especially buses.)

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