Green Roofs at Toronto Public Library

September 2, 2014 | Bill V.

Comments (11)

Did you know there are three Toronto Public Library branches with green roofs?  According to library blogger Zoe, in 2009 Toronto was the first city in North America to require all new buildings to incorporate a green roof.

The photos below show two green roofs at the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) which make up approximately 20% of the total roof surface area. They are part of the multi-year revitalization that is finishing up this Fall 2014.  The first photo was taken from the 5th floor Arts Department looking down to Yonge and Asquith.


Green Roof Toronto Reference Library looking down to Yonge and Asquith from Flickr by B. Cehan
Toronto Reference Library source B. Cehan / Flickr

Green roofs are beneficial as they help manage storm water runoff and as well they contribute to reducing the urban heat island effect (the temperature is cities is significantly hotter due to human activities).  The photo below shows the green roof parallel to Yonge Street. 

The growing medium is a special light weight mix about 150 mm deep.  The vegetation is a meadow mix as follows: 15% Buffalo Grass (Buchloe dactyloides); 5% Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca Rubra); 20% Chewings Fescue (Festuca rubra commutata); 25% Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea); 5% Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta); 5% New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae);  5% Dwarf Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis Tinctoria);  5% White Yarrow (Achilea millifolium);  5% Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya);  5% Evening Scented Primrose (Oenothera lamarackiana); and 5% Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus).

Green Roof Toronto Reference Library


TRL was designed by Raymond Moriyama with an awe inspiring five-storey atrium open space and many hanging plants from the various floors giving it a "Garden of Babylon" feel as you can see from the vintage 1977 photo and the more current one below it. 

Metropolitan Toronto Library interior 1977
Metropolitan Toronto Library 1977 source TPL Digital Archive


Metro Toronto Reference Library by wmacphail on Flickr(cc)
Metro Toronto Reference Library by Wayne MacPhail on Flickr (cc)

The recently renovated and award winning Bloor Gladstone Library Branch (which celebrated 100 years in 2013) has a wonderful green roof and an outdoor reading garden  (see the two photos below).  We have a pinterest board that shows the history of the branch in photos.

Bloor Gladstone Branch Toronto Public Library green roof.  Bloor Gladstone Branch - Toronto Public Library - Green Roof

Bloor Gladstone Branch - Reading Garden
Bloor Gladstone Branch Toronto Public Library Reading Garden


Newly opened Fort York Branch is Toronto's 99th public library and worth a visit (see photos below). It has a green roof as well as a Digital Innovation Hub.

The Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Library, under construction and expected to be open in Spring 2015, will also have a green roof.  Lastly the Albion Branch, which will start its renovation in 2015, will feature a green roof.

Fort York Branch Toroto Public Library Green Roof November 2013
Fort York Branch Toronto Public Library Green Roof November 2013

 Fort York Branch Toronto Public Library Green Roof November 2013

Fort York Branch Toronto Public Library Green Roof November 2013


I was inspired to blog about green roofs and gardens when I saw the cover of a new book New York Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop Gardens of New York

This was not the only book we had on this subject - who knew there was a mini publishing bonanza on the rooftops of NYC?

Up on the Roof New York's Hidden Skyline Spaces   Top of the City New York's Hidden Rooftop World