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Canada: How the Ryerson community is shaping urban agriculture

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The Ryerson Urban Farm on the roof of the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre grows up to 10,000 pounds of produce annually.

Ryerson University
Innovation Newsletter Issue 32: Fall 2019


Professor Doshi, who chairs the Toronto Green Roof Technical Advisory Group, was a principal investigator for a Ryerson report which played a central role in the creation of the City of Toronto Green Roof Bylaw. It requires new buildings with more than 2,000 m² in gross floor area to have green roofs incorporated into their design. Rooftops to be used for urban agriculture have potential to be designed within this framework. Toronto was the first city in North America to adopt this type of bylaw, and in recent years, cities like New York and San Francisco have introduced their own legislation.

“In some respects, green roofs have become mainstream,” said professor Doshi, who is now being consulted on whether similar rules can be included in Ontario-wide building codes. “If you go on the Gardiner Expressway from one end of town to the other, you can’t help but notice all the green roofs.”

Ahead of the curve on the issue, Ryerson established its first green roof in 2004, when Valerie Pringle (a 1974 alumna of Ryerson’s Radio and Television Arts program) and her husband Andrew funded an installation atop the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre. Professor Doshi says that in the past decade, developers have begun to recognize the additional functions green roofs can offer, including stormwater management, temperature control of buildings and providing a community feature in residential buildings.

“Today, all across North America, people are engaging with this idea of growing plants and vegetables on rooftops,” he said. “I’m certainly proud, and I think Ryerson should be very proud, that it all started in Toronto. For me, the eureka moment was the bylaw.”

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