A rooftop meadow: Charlottetown contractor wants to see more green roofs

Shaman Ferraro wants to get Charlottetown's skyline greener, and says education and incentives are key.

Shaman Ferraro says a small fee for developers who don't put in green roofs could offset new program

Shaman Ferraro takes a break from raking the meadow on the 11th storey of the Holman Grand Hotel in Charlottetown. (Pat Martel/CBC)

When Shaman Ferraro gazes across Charlottetown from the 11th-storey green space on the Holman Grand Hotel, he sees a lot of flat, grey roofs.

"You can see the stark difference of the green roof behind me compared to the flat roofs in the area off the Holman."

The hotel has four small green spaces that were put in when the building was constructed in 2011. Ferraro was recently hired to rejuvenate them.

'Beautify the downtown'

But as the owner of Atlantic Green Contractors, Ferraro sees many possibilities.

Shaman Ferraro carries a flat of new sedum plants to fill in bare spots on the green roof on the fourth floor of the Holman Grand Hotel. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"We only have four green roofs in Charlottetown," Ferraro said.

"In a city centre that is growing and looking to continue to grow, where tourism is a huge industry and hospitality is a huge industry, I see a lot of opportunity to beautify the downtown."

Visit a green P.E.I. meadow 11 storeys above the city

4 years ago
Visit a green P.E.I. meadow 11 storeys above the city 0:53

'Allowing the native species to establish'

One of the biggest benefits of a green roof is evident after heavy rainfalls, Ferraro said. Normally, buildings and parking lots are designed to carry storm water away as quickly as possible into the city's storm sewers.

Shaman Ferraro test the pH level in the sedum green roof on the fourth floor of the Holman Grand Hotel in Charlottetown. (Pat Martel/CBC)

But sometimes the city's infrastructure can't handle the heavy rain, resulting in flooding and an overflow at the treatment plant.

"One thing a green roof can do is absorb that rainfall and release it at a slower rate," Ferraro said.

"What this does is reduce the combined sewer overflow and the stress on the city infrastructure."

Ferraro said a green roof adds additional weight, something that needs to be factored in during design and construction.

Shaman Ferraro from Atlantic Green Contractors has a great view of many of the flat, gray roofs in Charlottetown. 'You can see the stark difference and the contrast in traditional roofing versus green roofing.' (Pat Martel/CBC)

"It's not that we can't do it. We'd just have to get an engineer to assess the building."

So if green roofs are such a good idea, why aren't there more here?

In 2009, the City of Toronto mandated that new buildings over six storeys must include a green roof.

Charlottetown's green roof bylaw only applies to new buildings downtown.

New buildings need to dedicate 25 per cent of the available roof to green space — whether a green roof or traditional landscaping. Or, 10 per cent of the entire lot size needs to be green space — whichever is greater in size.

The fourth storey green roof on the Holman Grand is what Shaman Ferraro calls a traditional sedum roof. (Pat Martel/CBC)

But rather than tougher bylaws, Ferraro would like Charlottetown to offer incentives to developers who put in green roofs — and charge a small fee for those who don't.

"A property owner who didn't want to put in a green roof could be forced to pay $50 or $75 or $100 a year, but it is money that would then help offset the cost of a green roof program," Ferraro said.

"Currently, all of our storm water management fees come out of taxpayer dollars." 

'Reducing the effect of urbanization'

Ferraro also suggested more education is needed, for developers and the public.  

"The issue we're trying to solve here is really just repairing the environment and reducing the effect of urbanization."

Shaman Ferraro says, just like lawns on the ground, green roofs need to be maintained to keep them healthy. (Pat Martel/CBC)

A spokesperson for the city of Charlottetown says while green roofs are a great idea, there are currently no plans to bring in incentives or education programs.


Pat Martel has worked with CBC P.E.I. for three decades, mostly with Island Morning where he was a writer-broadcaster and producer. He joined the web team recently to share his passion for great video. Pat also runs an adult coed soccer league in Stratford. He retired in Oct. 2019.