Green Roofs Come to Chicago: No Bells, No Whistles, Just Value

Green Roofs Come to Chicago:  No Bells, No Whistles, Just Value

by: Karl Sorensen

Some of the best technologies today are not limited to miniature circuit boards and denoted by lowercase prefixes.  Often, the more significant innovations tend to be subtle.  They enter the market without the noisy, narcissist fanfare that usually accompany high-tech offerings.  It’s in this humble fashion that Omni Ecosystems introduced their sustainable, layered, modular tray, Green Roofing System to the Chicago market.    


With roots in Germany, Omni Ecosystems has been the leading advocate of green roof technology and sustainability in America’s built environment since 2009.  By retrofitting roofs with green spaces, Omni can double roof lifespans, capture stormwater, reduce energy expenditure, decrease smog and provide an oasis in even the thickest urban jungles.  And the only bugs that can be found in Omni’s new technology are the little ones with wings that pollenate their plants every year. 

How does it work?

Omni Ecosystems developed patent-pending modular trays and created proprietary media mixes to foster vegetation growth in harsh, shallow soil environments, explains project manager Michael Skiba.  These modular trays are then interconnected at roof level, with a fully integrated and concealed self-sustaining irrigation system that allows for a relatively maintenance-free green roof.  In as little as five weeks, Omni’s built-in-place system can efficiently reach 80% vegetation coverage, allowing owners to reap benefits almost immediately.

“Once the system is in place,” stated Skiba, “the owners can choose to be as hands-off or hands-on as they want.”  Maintenance contracts can either completely eliminate owner involvement, or more green-thumbed owners can opt to personally maintain the rooftop vegetation at their leisure.  And consistent with Chicago’s resolve in the face of annual polar vortices, the Green Roof System can endure the harshest Midwest winters to bud again every spring.

If you’re green to going green

According to Omni, there seems to be a general hesitancy to integrate green systems into new designs or existing structures.  To address those concerns, Skiba suggests that they consider the following:

  1. Designers:  Omni can provide LEED credits (heat island, stormwater mitigation, energy management) and increase the overall lifespan of roof membranes
  2. Cities/Municipalities:  Omni can capture stormwater runoff, mitigate heat island affect, decrease smog, improve air quality and lower energy expenditures
  3. Owners:  Omni can provide aesthetically pleasing green spaces for tenants, reduce energy costs, keep buildings cooler, increase the lifespan of roof membranes, foster the growth of food or produce, and increase usable outdoor space

Note, in addition to the Green Roofing System, Omni Ecosystems can also offer green facades and living walls.  A green façade is vegetation growing on a vertical surface.  A living wall is vegetation that grows from a vertical surface.  To learn more, feel free to contact Burnham Works or Omni Ecosystems for further information.




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Karl Sorensen of Burnham Works

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