September 13, 2015
by Canadian Architect
green roof of helen schuler nature centre
The Helen Schuler Nature Centre’s primary goal is delivering diverse and dynamic nature interpretive programs, and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities recently recognized the achievement of this goal through their North American awards program for the design of green roofs. The Helen Schuler Nature Centre was chosen as the recipient for the 2015 Green Roof and Wall Award of Excellence in the Intensive Institutional category for balancing aesthetic, economic, functional and ecological values.
As part of the urban nature centre’s recent LEED Gold expansion and renovation, interpretive roof gardens created a demonstration area for delivering visitor programs about best practice in a living classroom.
“We saw the potential of the green roofs in providing endless opportunities for programming and education for our community. We imagined them as living classrooms and natural gathering spaces for our visitors. We knew they could demonstrate better ways of landscaping and inspire best practices for urban development. Every day we see new ways in which our visitors experience these spaces and learn from them. It is something that our community is very proud of,” says Coreen Putman, Helen Schuler Nature Centre Coordinator.
While experiencing the living roofs, visitors are encouraged to learn about the versatility and adaptability of native plants, local ecology, plant pollination and intensive and extensive living roof systems. Due to Lethbridge’s harsh, arid climate, it was important to the client to provide a demonstration area for alternatives to traditional, water consumptive landscaping approaches. To maximize biodiversity on the roof, the design team and client developed a species list of 65 native species of perennial forbs and grasses for the intensive living roof. The extensive living roof species list comprised 27 species of sedum and seven species of forbs and grasses. A secondary benefit of developing the rich plant list was the ability to evaluate the suitability of a multitude of untested native species on the roof in one of Alberta’s most arid environments.
“We’re honoured that the Helen Schuler Nature Centre project has been recognized in North America as a representation of excellence in green roof design,” says Douglas Olson, President and CEO, O2 Planning + Design. “We’re particularly pleased that the City of Lethbridge and O2 is being distinguished for our leadership in guiding interactive experiences that celebrate the beauty of native species. The green roof at the Nature Centre is a fine example of a development footprint that makes both an ecological as well as an aesthetic contribution to the broader regional landscape.”