Student-grown zucchinis and more may grow one day soon on the roof of South Philadelphia High School. That’s where an urban roof farm might be constructed as part of a master green plan for the 5.5 acre site that would be installed in phases. A drive to raise $26,300 through crowd-funding site Projexity to develop the plan has been launched by the school through a collaboration with the Lower Moyamensing Civic Association (LoMo) and community members. It concludes June 9th. The school and the civic group have worked together since 2009 to develop green entities, like building two gardens and planting various trees.

South Philly High

“We sort of thought a master plan would be the next logical step to tie it altogether,” said Kim Massare, president of LoMo.

The campus, which includes an asphalt parking lot, represents an underutilized community asset that could be retrofitted with green infrastructure that could have a positive, immediate, and lasting effects on local stormwater management capabilities. It will also contribute to the school’s scientific as well as agricultural program, which provides students the chance to learn about growing vegetables and more.

“What we’re interested in at this particular site is finding innovative ways to bring green roof technology to the ground,” said Lauren Mandel, a designer from Roofmeadow, the Germantown-based national landscape architectural firm that specializes in green roofs contracted to develop the master plan.

Current rooftop view

Hopefully, sometime soon

According to Mandel, who was also a member of the winning Soak It Up! team in the industrial category, that could mean designing a system that drains storm water vertically in places where concrete cannot be moved. That drainage could be realized through a series of thin landscaping elements installed on top of the concrete that direct the water one way or another. Roof farms have been fabricated in places like San Francisco and Brooklyn’s Eagle Street Rooftop Farm. Determining cost not really possible at this time, according to Mandel, as there are still so many variables. The farm at SPHS might be as large as 20K sqft, according to Mandel. Eagle Street Rooftop Farm was fabricated at approximately $10 per sq ft, according to its website.

This rooftop farm represents an innovative opportunity to further strengthen the connection between schools and their surrounding neighborhoods. Improved green infrastructure, experts claim, leads to improved air quality. “It’s really becoming more than a school garden,” said Massare about the school. “It’s really become like a neighborhood entity.”

–Lou Mancinelli