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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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True Nature Foods Rooftop Victory Garden

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True Nature Foods Rooftop Victory Garden

Before we hit the roof

In 2005-2006, UHC helped True Nature Foods, an organics cooperative and neighborhood recycling center, become more viable as an example of sustainable renovation for small commercial buildings.

A former automotive shop with uninsulated brick exterior and painted CMU interior walls built in the 1980’s when insulation was seen as unnecessary and excessive mechanical heating and cooling were the norm, True Nature Foods was intended as prototype green upfit on a shoestring-budget.

In late 2005, UHC helped with winterizing to make the cold months less extreme for this poorly insulated building. Future phases were to include other sustainable design strategies such as south-facing trellises with vines trained from the roof garden for shading during summer (anybody got any awning frames they aren’t using?), solar curtains for alternately rejecting and absorbing sunlight, vegetated thermal mass benches for moderation of temperature swings, custom-made solar heaters for collection of radiant energy, and exterior raised planters.

We still might do some of these, but money is always the issue.

The real focus, however, quickly became what customers wanted to buy more of - very fresh produce. And how much fresher can you get than something grown and harvested from 16 feet away?

On the roof.

That’s right.

The Rooftop Victory Garden

The True Nature Foods Rooftop Victory Garden for localized agricultural production was begun as Phase I in 2006, and is named after the former use of the site as a ‘victory garden’ during the World Wars.

See a list of plant species to see what we planted and harvested from the roof.

Brief history

In 2004, Urban Habitat Chicago began planning the project. In 2005, we evaluated the existed building and applied for a City of Chicago Green Roof Grants Program 2005: Residential and Small Commercial Buildings grant from the Department on the Environment toward realization of the vegetated roof. In 2006, we received the grant and became a ‘poster project’ of sorts for the grant program, which, unfortunately, is no longer active.
During 2006, we conducted testing of the prototype rooftop garden system at Echo Studio, a local architecture firm.
After applying for and receiving a permit for the Victory Garden, UHC installed the rooftop garden, maintained, harvested, and managed it exclusively for True Nature Foods.

In 2009, after four successful growing seasons, UHC trained a core group of volunteers to maintain and harvest individual plots.
UHC still remains active in managing and consulting the owners of True Nature Foods to keep the Rooftop Victory Garden a success.

If you don’t believe us… go taste the results!

Learn more about rooftop agriculture and green roofs

Frequently asked questions

Getting started on a rooftop agriculture project

How you can help

Urban Habitat Chicago is a not-for-profit organization. Our members work very hard to balance their own businesses, full-time jobs, and their passions for promoting grassroots environmental strategies and solutions with UHC.

Donations of time, materials, financial (or other) support, etc. are welcome, and will help us realize our goals in creating a prototype green upfit of a Chicago business. Some ideas in the works that we’re having trouble paying for:

  • Stairs and observation platform to make it easier for visitors to view the rooftop garden, harvest crops, and provide a roof over the community paper and cardboard recycling center (very important with the recent downscaling of public recycling programs)
  • Irrigation system to insure a stable and well-maintained food source
  • Monitoring system to provide much-needed data collection for North America on a working Chicago vegetated (call it ‘green’ if you must, but it’s much more than just that…) roof
  • Trellis of awning frames, donated wood, or other appropriate materials
  • Future phases including other passive strategies (see above)

Media resources

Media coverage

See a short animation (2.9 MB Quicktime) of the roof.

Learn more

*True Nature Foods Rooftop Victory Garden is also published on Open Architecture Network


Owner: Paula Companio, True Nature Foods
Project manager/volunteer coordinator for True Nature: Carla Riggs
Assistant project manager: Sabina Shaikh
Volunteers: More info to come
Landscape and biological design: Michael Repkin, Repkin Biosystems
Architect: Dave Hampton, Hampton Avery Architects
Structural engineering: Louis Shell, Louis Shell Structures
Installation, maintenance, and planning: Urban Habitat Chicago

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