New York’s Javits Center Installing Green Roof

In New York City, bigger is almost always considered better. So why not add one of the world’s biggest green roofs to the Big Apple’s list of attractions?

The Jacob K. Javits Center, the city’s largest convention space, located in Manhattan on the Hudson River, has been undergoing a major renovation since 2009. Recently, the center announced that it has chosen Xero Flor America to supply a 292,000-square-foot green roof atop the structure, which is expected to be completed before the end of 2013.

Artist's rendering of the completed Javits Center renovations, including 292,000 square foot green roof. Image via FXFOWLE.

Artist’s rendering of the completed Javits Center renovations, including 292,000 square foot green roof. Image via FXFOWLE.

Bruce S. Fowle, founding principal of FXFOWLE Architects, which is partnering on the project with Epstein Global, said that the Javits green roof will collect and absorb about 6.8 million gallons of rainfall annually, ensuring that it won’t contribute to the city’s runoff.

The green roof will also “conserve energy by moderating temperatures on the roof and lowering the temperature of the air being drawn into the rooftop HVAC units during cooling season, while simultaneously helping to reduce temperature extremes inside the building,” Fowle added. “The green roof also adds the aesthetic value of urban open space — the fifth façade of the building that will be seen and appreciated from emerging adjacent high-rises.”

Diagram of the five-layer green roof mat. Image via Xero Flor America.

Diagram of the five-layer green roof mat. Image via Xero Flor America.

The Xero Flor Green Roof System, developed in Germany, consists of five layers of materials: A root barrier, a drain mat, water-retaining fleece material, XeroTerr growing medium (soil) and the vegetated mat.

The project’s waterproofing consultant, Commercial Roofing Solutions, said the Xero Flor mats are pre-vegetated and grown for 9 to 12 months in upstate New York to adapt to the regional climate. The completed mats will use 14 different varieties of sedum plants to promote diversity and sustainability.

Workers begin rolling out the final pre-vegetated green mat atop the Javits Center. Image via Xero Flor America.

Workers begin rolling out the final pre-vegetated green mat atop the Javits Center. Image via Xero Flor America.

By installing a green roof, the Javits Center will move closer to its goal of achieving LEED Silver status, according to Tishman Construction, which is managing the renovation project.  Other green improvements include the replacement of the center’s curtain wall, upgrades to the mechanical and electrical systems that will reduce energy consumption by 26 percent, and various interior reconfigurations to increase operational efficiency.

The Javits green roof will be huge, but it doesn’t come close to being the country’s largest single green roof on a free-standing building. That title is still held proudly by the nearly decade-old 454,000-square-foot green roof at the Ford Motor Co.’s River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Mich., which was also installed by Xero Flor.

With 840,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Javits Center hosts about 150 events annually, with an average attendance of 2.5 million visitors per year.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.