Green roofs

Bringing Workspaces to the Great Outdoors

Rooftops on buildings from New York to Seattle are being transformed into usable – even desirable – spaces with developers, owners and tenants seeking to extend workspaces outside of four walls and to create areas for meetings, social events and even gardens.

JLL Vice President Maureen Hawley discussed a trend for maximizing rooftops for tenants, noting that it’s not just tenants in traditionally creative spaces that want to offer outdoor space. Even traditional office towers in the CBD are getting in on the game. “It’s definitely come up as a serious point of interest for tenants, to know they can stay in the central business district, have an office in a vertical environment, and still have that outdoor space: a building roof top, balconies, or landscaped plazas, without needing to move to a campus,” she said in an interview with JLL Real Views.

Facebook’s new Seattle office will boast a rooftop park — plus a walking trail, fire pit, covered cafeteria and more, scattered across a series of balconies (see renderings compliments of Geek Wire) in a Frank Gehry-designed building. Geek Wire notes that Gehry also designed Facebook’s Menlo Park building, which features a nine-acre green roof with a half-mile walking loop and more than 400 full grown trees.

In Chicago, the former Montgomery Ward catalog house that is now home to Groupon is adding a rooftop deck with skyline and Chicago River views.

Building out a rooftop space isn’t inexpensive. The Wall Street Journal cited up to $400 per square foot in New York, depending on structural and code requirements. But the investment may pay out in the long run, as a study cited in Entrepreneur, notes that, “incorporating elements of nature into your workday can also give your brain a boost, resulting in increased productivity, focus and creativity.”

Beyond perks for building tenants, rooftops can be used as a visitor attraction and a source of revenue. A New York Times article says tourist rooftop observatories in Manhattan are all the rage, citing some extraordinary examples – from the 102nd floor of 1 World Trade Center to the famed views from both the 86th and 102nd floors of the Empire State Building.

Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood is home to Edenworks, a cutting-edge rooftop farm that is home to plentiful crops of bok choi, arugula, sage and more, along with fish tanks where the farm is raising tilapia. An article in Real Estate Weekly says the company plans to expand throughout New York City, noting a huge benefit for employees to have access to an exclusive farmer’s market on the rooftop of their workplace.

Have you experienced an innovative rooftop workspace? Tell Market Share readers about it in the comments.

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