Do you know the difference between a vegetative versus green roof? A vegetative roof is a roof that has an actual vegetation component. A green roof is simply a roof that is considered sustainable. The largest in Atlanta vegetative GreenGrid® roof was installed recently at the Woodruff Arts Center.

The Woodruff Arts Center sits in the heart of Midtown Atlanta and is surrounded by high rises and soon to come Trump Towers. For those who work in the area looking down on the Woodruff Arts Center, which is state-of-the-art from the ground level, wasn’t quite as pleasant from higher elevations. Welcome visionary

GreenGrid Roof becomes largest installation of it's kind in Atlanta.

David Harris, P.C. of Smith, Gambrell and Russell. David works on the 32nd floor of the Promenade II building across the street. David looked down and felt like the Woodruff Arts Center basically needed to present as lovely a view from the top as it does from the ground. Seeing examples of other vegetative roofs in other cities, David, as a member of the board of trustees, approached the Woodruff Arts Center and asked if those efforts could be duplicated. It would take a full two years to see the first phase of this project completed.

David Harris, Smith, Gambrell & Russell, visionary for the vegetative roof project

David has done extensive research on vegetative roofs. Enter his office and you will see all types of proto-types for vegetative roofing solutions. The choices and distinctions of greening a roof with plants are quite extensive. Southface was enlisted to do a study of storm water and energy savings that a vegetative roof would provide. Personal meetings and contacts with the recommended vendors were then contacted. One of which was chosen as the best solution for the roofs.

Weight, drainage, xeriscaping and of course money all came into play. Since the Woodruff Arts Center is a non-profit, David had to get the funding donated with the interesting caveat of not duplicating other fund raising efforts by the Center. It’s not an easy task and it takes determination to be ahead of everyone’s understanding of the broad benefits that a vegetative roof brings. Then add the creative element of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). SCAD’s residence hall now resides at the Woodruff Arts Center. SCAD students were enlisted to develop a pattern for what is arguably the largest piece of living art in the city. Now that’s cool.

Promenade II in the background overlooking the roofs at the Woodruff Arts Center.

David worked with the college’s design students who created a complete four season plan for the plants. So during each season the roof will change design and color. So not only does the roof have all the technical details of double drainage trays, seedums which have high drought tolerance, soil that is a mixture of various things including home grown organic chicken manure created by ItSaul Natural, LLC, light weight materials, an extended roof life of seventeen years, and a five to seven percent projected energy reduction…it’s art. It’s a perfect solution for the Arts Center. Another way to enlist SCAD was to have the project documented. Enter Documentary film maker Peter Svensson and Woodruff will have a film to present on the whole first phase of the project.

So what’s next? “Well the main building” states David. The SCAD students came up with a design for the largest roof which is where Symphony Hall, Alliance Theater and the administration offices of the Woodruff are located. The title of the design is the Golden Spiral. It’s a great opportunity to create the next Green Art Roof. It might be that the Woodruff Arts Center has to figure out way for people to see its latest artistic acquisition.

David is currently soliciting donations for the main building.He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or (404)815-3515.

Greg Harper is the project manager from GreenGrid