Dell Medical School Green Roof

An 11,000-square foot succulent-and-wildflower garden on top of a seventh floor parking garage, this green roof, planted in July 2016, will be visible from the attached Health Transformation Building, as well as from hospital rooms in the Dell Seton Medical Center across a green parkway.

Research has shown that visible green spaces can facilitate faster recovery in hospital patients and improve well-being of staff and visitors, and this green roof was strategically integrated into the Dell Medical School site in order to provide health benefits for patients, students, faculty and staff, and visitors. An separate strip of roof garden will also run along the west-facing side of the seventh-floor offices parallel to Trinity Street.

Pushing the limits of green roof self-sufficiency, this project aims to flourish without irrigation. The native plant assemblage —prickly pear (Opuntia ellisiana), red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), manfreda (Manfreda maculosa), Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and plains coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) — has proven to be resilient in extreme conditions, and the load-bearing capacity of the parking garage below the garden allows for a full foot of soil mix, allowing greater insulation from heat and retention of rainwater.

The growing medium itself, the Wildflower Center’s own SkySystem™, was specifically designed for green roofs in hot climates. The University of Texas at Austin’s Facilities Services has installed soil sensors to monitor soil moisture and assess watering needs on an ongoing basis.

Environmental Designer Michelle Bright, who helped plan the Dell Medical School green roof, says the overall model is based on Wildflower Center research plots that have been surviving without irrigation since April 2014.

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