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Steven Peck turns grey to green, one roof at a time

The Nathan Phillips Square roof garden was designed and created by PLANT Architect Inc. and Perkins+Will Canada. Their design won the 2011 Green Roofs for healthy cities exstensive Insttitutional award

Photos courtesy of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities

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April 30, 2013

When most of us think about going green, we think of changing our lifestyle to leave less of a carbon foot print, or we look around at our environment and think of ways to clean, and preserve our unique eco-systems. But have you ever looked up?  In 1997 Steven Peck did, and he has been leading the green roofing movement in North America ever since.

Steven has always been passionate about environmental preservation and used his work in public policy analysis to advocate for sustainable community development and the diffusion of beneficial environmental technologies. After working on the 1998-99 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation report “Green backs from green roofs: forging a new industry in Canada” he decided to devote his career to the green roofing industry.

While developers fight over coveted ground space green roofs are a natural, sensible and ecologically friendly way of incorporating green back into the stark cityscape. Although green roofs may sound like a daunting task there is a wide variety of types, and styles making it easy to find one to fit almost all budgets and homes. Most green roofing systems involve a system of plant filled trays placed on layered waterproofing material.

“There isn’t another green building technology I believe that has as much to provide, both in terms of the building owner and the general public as green roofs do.” Steven said. “They just really rock, they rock socially, and economically, and environmentally.”

Now the president of the non-profit organization Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Steven provides local homeowners and business the information and contacts they need to incorporate a green roof into their structure. He also spends time traveling the globe to promote green roofs as well as learn about new green technologies being used around the world.

Steven Peck stands atop city hall in the award winning Nathan Phillips Square roof garden.

“The more progressive cities are looking to diversify their green infrastructure as a way to augment the life expectancy of grey infrastructure and also improve the quality of life for citizens in general.”  He said “We can get better bang for our buck if we invest in green infrastructure that’s the bottom line. More jobs, multiple health benefits, environmental and economic benefits and that’s being realized by people all over the world, that’s why there is a global green movement.”

Toronto is a leader in the green roofing movement implementing North America’s first municipal green roof by-law in 2010, mandating all new structures have a certain percentage of their roof allocated to green roofing. City Hall even went green in 2009 and turned more than 20,000 sqft. of the roof into a beautiful green space.

“They [City of Toronto] just released some guidelines associated with designing green roofs for maximum biodiversity,  which is a very innovative and a new development that we can be proud of.” Steven said.

It does not end with roofs though. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities also promotes green walls or green facades. Living walls like green roofs are not only great for the environment, they are also great for pocket books as they help insulate buildings and cut down on heating and cooling costs. Going green is not just for homeowners and developers; apartment and condominium dwellers can get involved too.

“There is lots of planters that you can purchase for a balcony some people have done some great stuff with green balconies, people are growing food on their balcony and creating a little oasis of green there.” Steven said.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities will be hosting the Grey to Green conference May 21-22 at the Evergreen Brickworks. The conference aims to raise awareness about all the green possibilities around us.



Action Items:

1 Go green. Turn your roof or wall into a green space. Learn more about Green Roofs for Healthy Cities at

2. Attend the Grey to Green Conference May 21-22

3. Take part in a community clean-up day


Toronto a North American trendsetter with new biodiversity guidelines

It is hard not to smile when you see Mayor Ford painting a graffiti-covered wall or picking up garbage in a park for clean Toronto Day. It is obvious: Torontonians love celebrating Earth Day. Just in time for this year’s festivities, the city released an in-depth set of guidelines for architects and building designers to utilize when creating green roofs or eco roofs to promote biodiversity.

“We wanted to give advice to the designers and consultants of green roofs on how they could make them more biodiverse,” said Jane Welsh, acting project manager for environmental planning with the City of Toronto.

The comprehensive guidelines are not only helping to cement Toronto’s spot as the North American leader of the green roofing movement, they will also help diversify the plant and wildlife we have in the city.

“Different species and more native species will attract more insects, etc. These gardens tend to be more robust as well,” she said. “By having guidelines in place, it’s helpful to designers, who can say ‘we can do this because we know it can survive here.’ Sometimes there is a lack of knowledge about what can thrive or not.”

The city consulted with a landscaping company familiar with the cities ecosystem and implemented their recommendations into the guidelines.

To find out more about the city’s biodiverse guidelines visit: City of Toronto website.




About the Author(s)

Georgia Williams

Georgia Williams is a multimedia journalist with a passion for reporting human interest and social advocacy stories. She was born in Calgary but has called Toronto home for the past 17 years.

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