When Toronto flooded in July 2013 after a historic rainfall, it quickly became Ontario’s mostly costly natural disaster causing damages over 850 million. Like most urban centres, the amount of concrete in the city leaves little place for storm water to go. So how do we design our cities to optimally mitigate flooding during extreme weather events? Green roofs could be the answer.
Liat Margolis, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Toronto, studies the optimal construction of green roofs to maximize environmental performance, such as the mitigation of waste water. By determining the optimal amount of water a green roof can absorb, we can reduce the pressure on the existing infrastructure and reduce the damage caused by the severe weather that is becoming more frequent. These technologies can also help to lower ambient temperatures and possibly reduce the urban heat island effects. Once established, we can then begin to look at how these new green spaces can serve as stepping stones to improve or increase biodiversity in our urban environment.
According to Prof. Margolis, what her lab cares about is “going beyond the lip service that the green movement is all about”. Through their research, they hope to design our cities to be smarter – to have our buildings, streetscapes, and parks play a role in environmental management, and at the same time do everything that they were always doing.