Living
Laboratory

When Howlett Hall needed renovations, the Ohio State University (OSU) covered its new roof with a 12,000-square-foot garden — a pilot retrofit, and the campus’ first green roof to be publicly accessible — that functions as a “living laboratory” for students, faculty and visitors.

When it opened in 1967, Howlett Hall was intended to feature a rooftop greenhouse, which was never completed. So when OSU renovated the building in 2013, the university’s Chadwick Arboretum and Learning Gardens saw an opportunity to finally implement a teaching garden. They commissioned NBBJ to design the green roof and help raise funding, following an open design charrette involving designers, horticulture advocates and academic representatives.

A series of circular paths and planting beds define the green roof, with tables, chairs and wood decking that allow people to enjoy the outdoor space. The planted zones mix different species for variation in color, texture, height and seasonal changes. In addition to mitigating 200,000 gallons of stormwater runoff each year, the gardens are expected to extend the new roof’s lifespan to 50 years by protecting it from the elements.

Maintained by the employees and volunteers from the Chadwick Arboretum, the roof garden is a living laboratory for students and plant enthusiasts, a destination for visitors, and a retreat for beauty and fresh air between classes. What was once an eyesore to those in surrounding buildings is now a daily source of color and respite just outside the window.

Plant Species
Plant Species
Plant Species
Plant Species
Plant Species
Plant Species
Plant Species
Plant Species