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Demonstrating the viability of sustainable concepts and practices in urban environments through research, education, and hands-on projects.

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Getting started on a rooftop agriculture project

Because of overwhelming positive response to our Rooftop Victory Garden from articles, word-of-mouth, weblogs, etc., UHC may be unable to answer everyone’s specific questions regarding their proposed rooftop agriculture project, but the following information should help you get started.

The Rooftop Victory Garden at True Nature Foods, June 2007

UHC must also be very selective in considering projects because of its limited funding and time commitments (we all have full-time jobs!). We are able to consider assisting with only those projects that have dedicated funding, liability coverage, and are prepared for the structural evaluation of existing conditions and preparation of permit drawings by Illinois-licensed design professionals, as well as construction by an Illinois-licensed general contractor.

Chicago green roof resources

Start here for basic information specific to the Chicagoland area.

  • Chicago Green Roofs - provides basic essential information from obtaining a City of Chicago permit to selecting plants to finding installers.
  • Guide to Rooftop Gardening - a primer prepared by the Chicago Department of Environment

Funding and grants

Looking for money to do your project?
Join the club.

We’d love extra funds to be able to do a better stair so folks could more easily visit our Rooftop Victory Garden or a snazzy webcam system so folks in Alaska could sit at home on a cold day and see tomatoes growing on the roof, but there isn’t much out there expressly dedicated to rooftop agriculture - at least not yet…
When you find something, please let us know!

You might begin here:

Any home or business owner planning on doing major roofwork or a green roof are encouraged to learn more about these grants first.

  • City of Chicago Green Roof/Cool Roof Grants Program - provides funding for residential and small commercial properties under a certain area for green roofs as well as cool roofs (higher reflective coating and roof surfaces to cut down on the Urban Heat Island Effect, lower cooling bills, and extend the life of the roof system).
  • Delta Institute - Chicago-based nonprofit takes on local projects and funds a limited number. From their website:
    “We create new models for development that won’t harm the environment, and that will benefit disadvantaged communities. We’re entrepreneurial about preventing pollution, conserving energy, and helping blighted communities recycle industrial property. And we advocate for policies that protect and make the most of the region’s human, natural, and economic resources.”
  • Get creative!
    That’s right… think of how your organization is helping the environment by doing rooftop agriculture. Try the Illinois EPA or Mikahail Gorbachev’s Global Green or any number of charitable organizations that come up with any decent search engine. Try hitting up a Fortune 500 company, try appealing to a concerned wealthy individual.
    And pass the info on!

Additional Links

Note: The above links are a decent place to start to see other projects and developments and trends in green roofs, but tend to be geared toward commercially-available products and installers for non-productive roofs, meaning those whose vegetation is intended largely for aesthetics and limited air quality improvement rather than well-balanced rooftop agriculture.

Rooftop agriculture: green roofs with real meaning and purpose

Urban Habitat Chicago’s goals for a productive green roof are best exemplified by the Rooftop Victory Garden for True Nature Foods at 6034 N. Broadway Ave. This budget-conscious approach that focuses on making food overhead may not be for everyone, but it is beginning to show real results.

The roof system was chosen for its cost efficiency and light weight over a less-than-robust existing structure. Growing media, the effects of wind, and irrigation patterns have been tested through hands-on trial-and-error rather than rule-of-thumb methods.
Plants have been carefully selected for their properties ranging from nutritional value to drought tolerance. Species planted in fall 2006 include buckwheat, burdock, comfrey, Jerusalem artichoke, and artichoke, which were selected for their ability to provide food, fuel, fiber, encourage human health, and help build healthy soil. Species planned for summer 2007 will include herbs such as mints, rosemary, oregano; tomatoes, potatoes, beans, and squash.

Past posts related to rooftop agriculture

Related media

Your feedback helps us help you (and others)

We need your comments! Does the above information help? Did it lead to a viable project for your organization? We want to know.

Again, while UHC’s resources are limited, and while we struggle to make ends meet, we do try to provide as much service to folks who are in line with our mission.
Help us do this by considering a small donation to UHC or commenting below - any leads or additional information you have may help us help others.

Good luck!


Kellen Gillespie on April 6, 2009

I love the idea of rooftop gardening. My company is farily small and extremley new and we create functional vegetable gardens for people in the city. However due to the permits and structural evaluation of buildings my company can’t provide the adequate service as of yet. Hopefully in the future we will become the leading company in rooftop urban farming. But until then keep up the good work, and I hope to meet some of you at the upcoming Food Policy Summit in Chicago on April 8th. Cheers!

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