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The problem.

With more than vegetation atop more than 300 buildings, Chicago has been recognized as a leader in green roofs. These vegetated rooftops help to reduce runoff and mitigate the urban heat island effect.

Though the city has been recognized for its efforts toward sustainability, Chicago also has been the target of recent criticism related to its food systems. In particular work by Michelle Obama and others has drawn attention to so-called “food deserts”—areas without access to fresh produce and other healthy foods.

The solution.

Though still relatively uncommon, rooftop gardens promise to provide the benefits green roofs while also addressing shortages of fresh produce among urban dwellers. In this class project, I evaluated candidate buildings for rooftop gardens in five neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side: Austin, Humboldt Park, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park and North Lawndale. These neighborhoods are home to just eighteen buildings with green roofs.

I evaluated six criteria, including the locations of existing green roofs, community gardens, farmers markets and schools; the roof area of the building; and the potential for heat island reduction as determined by the color of the roof. Based on these criteria, I assigned each building a suitability score and identified the three most suitable buildings in each neighborhood.

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