There is a long history of using the Carrot Common rooftop as a community space. From 1989 to 1996, the roof was a restaurant patio. Later green design expert Monica Kuhn led a charrette for a new roof garden design, which resulted in significant transformations. It became a green oasis, with deck areas and diverse plantings including edible plants growing in containers.
In 2008, roof leaks meant that the roof garden and patios had to be removed for a major re-roofing project. At that time, there was strong interest in the potential restitution of the roof garden, but with a focus on sustainable practices. Accordingly, the existing roof structure was resurfaced with an asphalt membrane chosen for its compatibility with green roof systems. A second design charrette, this time with landscape architecture students from the University of Guelph, and Natvik Ecological, a consulting firm specializing in green roofs, both provided preliminary concepts for a productive green roof and community space.
After two years of planning, designing and consulting with many stakeholders, the fulfilment of this dream was at hand for the Carrot Green Roof & Garden Project. The project was led by Carrot Cache, the Big Carrot’s non-profit arm and partially funded by incentives from Toronto’s Eco-Roof Incentive Program. Community consultation on how to transform the roof included an Open Space Forum with representatives from over 50 community and food groups.
Community Members and Organizations that contributed to The Carrot Green Roof
& Living Food Box
The main roof, covering approximately 10,000 sq. ft., was already accessible from an existing seminar room that is used as a community event venue. Later direct access to the rooftop was gained through a new exterior staircase. Approximately 8,000 sq. ft. of this space accommodates a variety of uses and structures. The new rooftop was planted with native plants as an “extensive” green roof and other portions included a large deck and intensive vegetable and herb gardens that doubled as a green gathering space for community use. Along with the extensive and intensive green roof plantings other rooftop projects planned included a rainwater harvesting system, a solar thermal power system, container gardens, living walls, screens, other growing systems for vertical production and at the heart of the roof, a covered but open community kitchen.
In addition to the gardens one of the main goals of the space was to deliver environmentally related educational programming and exhibits for the immediate neighbourhood as well as the wider community. This would include workshops on techniques for waste management, rainwater harvesting, soil substrate testing and vegetable growing methods. In this way, the Carrot Green Roof & Garden would become a learning hub for sharing knowledge and experience on green roofs and urban gardening and a space for experimentation.
Explorations of integrated technologies in combination with educational and demonstration activities to promote diverse approaches to ‘living green’ were encouraged by Carrot Common tenants and The Big Carrot employees. As a model of such practices, the Carrot Green Roof & Garden Project was to be a resource for multi-faceted sustainability, combining the green roof and productive roof approaches that traditionally has been seen as divergent approaches.
The project was timely, materializing as the City of Toronto was actively promoting green roofs and even requiring green roofs for new buildings with a minimum Gross Floor Area of 2,000 m2 of roofing. This demonstration and teaching community space was crucial for the surrounding community as it showed that roofs can be amenities that fulfill many agendas with edible plantings, rainwater catchment, solar collectors, skylights, extensive green roof plantings, and community gathering spaces.
In this way, this project transcends its status as a good example of creative use of a roof – it shows instead how a wasted urban space like a rooftop can seamlessly integrate production, education and congregation.