Rooftop Resources Project

Given that those of us living in the Bay Area already face ever-growing constraints on our supplies of energy, and water resources, and the destructive and highly concentrated corporate agribusiness model, Bay Localize considers it imperative that we assess and utilize all open, workable space for the development of sustainable, supplemental rooftop garden, rainwater catchment and renewable energy systems. As it now stands, the majority of urban rooftops are simply unused, lost space. With sufficient incentives and local initiative, this space could be harvested for produce from community or commercial gardens, for clean electricity from renewable energy systems and for potable water from catchment systems. The implementation of such systems hold great promise in creating a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits.

Objective: Localization in Practice through Rooftop Food, Energy, and Water Systems
The Rooftop Resources project will put relocalization into practice by developing an assessment tool for determining the potential of urban rooftops to generate substantial volumes of food, electricity, and water. The study will utilize professional estimates and data sets that focus on the flat, urban roofs of commercial and residential buildings. This assessment study will focus on one portion of a district in Oakland to project what systems are appropriate for a given type of rooftop and then develop a conceptual model of how the system can be implemented and what volumes of resources can be produced. The study will also analyze the environmental and economic benefits, and identify legal and political barriers such as access to roofs. Finally, the study will be used as a means to spur implementation of these resources.

Within the first year, which will serve as the research and documentation phase, the project will gather extensive structural information on archetypal commercial and residential buildings, compile a knowledge base on environmental conditions within the study area, assemble technical and economic background on feasible rooftop garden techniques and types (e.g., raised beds and “green roofs”), as well as appropriate solar technologies, and rainwater catchment systems. We are currently working with urban planning firm, Design, Community and Environment and engineering firm, Holmes Culley, to produce a neighborhood assessment.
The assessment is based in the Eastlake district of Oakland. The graphic below shows a preliminary conceptual rendering with the flat roofs indicated in green.

Eastlake District

The Product: A Flexible Model for Groups to Assess Local Rooftop Potential
After the initial phase is complete, Bay Localize will publish a flexible and extensible model that provides a framework and process for conducting a rooftop assessment in an urban context. The report will cover rooftop gardens, renewable energy technologies, and rainwater catchment systems and will include step-by-step instructions for assessing different building types and likely resource yields. Basic methods and selected data sources relevant to assessing economic and environmental benefits will also be included. The report will be published on the Bay Localize website and through allied networks and will be made freely available to the public.

Putting the Study to Use: Spurring the Sustainable Development of Urban Rooftops
Depending on the initial findings, the study may be used to further any number of objectives:

  • Use as the basis for a funding proposal (RFP) for deeper study of rooftop potential
  • Use to develop a survey of building/property owners to determine their willingness and interest in developing their rooftops based on identified economic benefits
  • Use to help spur policy changes/remove obstacles to rooftop development
  • Use as the basis for developing an educational course at community colleges
  • Use to encourage the establishment of rooftop projects in the Bay Area

Get Involved! Please contact project leader Ingrid Severson at

Attachment: Roof Pitch i.jpg
Size: 53.33 KB
aaron – 16 July, 2006 – 20:06