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Living garden on bus rooftop to add some rolling green to city streets


October 6, 2010

Digital mockup of a bus-top garden (Image: Marco Castro Cosio)

Digital mockup of a bus-top garden (Image: Marco Castro Cosio)

Image Gallery (4 images)

Finding room for green spaces in more and more crowded cities isn’t easy but NYU graduate student Marco Castro Cosio has hit upon the idea of planting gardens on some previously wasted space found on city streets – the roofs of buses. With New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) running a fleet of around 4,500 buses, each with a surface area of 340 square feet (31.5 m2), Cosio says that if a garden was grown on the roof of every one, there would be an extra 35 acres of rolling green space in the city.

It might sound a bit far fetched but Cosio’s Bus Roots idea has managed to take second place in the DesignWala Grand Idea Competition and a prototype has already been installed on the roof of a vehicle dubbed the BioBus. The prototype garden only covers a small area at the rear of the BioBus’s roof and is mostly growing small succulents, but it has been traveling around New York for the last five months and has even ventured as far as Ohio.

Cosio says the purpose of the Bus Roots project is to reclaim forgotten space, increase the quality of life and grow the amount of green spaces in the city. Amongst the benefits of bringing plant life to the city listed by Cosio are mitigation of the urban heat island effect, acoustical and thermal insulation and CO2 absorption – although you’d have to wonder whether the amount of CO2 soaked up by the bus’s rooftop garden is enough to offset the extra fuel the bus will burn through carting the extra soil and plant life around.

If you’re interested in checking out the prototype BioBus, it will be open to the public at the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois on Sunday, October 10 and at the USA Science & Engineering Festival at the National Mall in Washington D.C. from October 23–24.

Via Treehugger

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

The problem is, roof garden are quite heavy as compared with the weight of such vehicles. And the heavier a vehicle is, the more energy it needs to run. Placing them on several bus fleet would lead to huge increase of overall energy consumption, cancelling out all their positive value - if not making it even worse for the urban air quality.

So this is merely aesthetic.

Angelie Baral

I love it! The other benefit of the rolling green roof is that it acts as a filter, removing fine particulate air pollution from the air. Put green roofs on bus shelters, and voila!, you have improved the air quality of the city! By the way, there are bus shelters with green roofs, you can read about them here: http://cleanerairforcities.blogspot.com/2008/09/green-roof-on-bus-shelters.html


Busses are inefficient because they stop and go. Naturally the lighter the bus, the more efficient it would be.

How does adding weigh to a bus, make it green?

Michael Mantion

The inefficiency of stop-and-go driving can be easily overcome with regenerative braking such as a KERS flywheel or some sort of electric motor system. Even with that though, it looks like the bus in the first picture has stones covering the dirt to keep it in place. I can only imagine how much weight that adds. Another factor to consider would be the increased aerodynamic drag over the top of the bus. All those leaves must catch a significant amount of wind.

Forward Thinker
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