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Using the Unused Airspace

Columbia University, GSAPP Fall Studio’23; Instructor: Jing Liu 


The local shops of 82nd Street have constantly been placed under dispute due to inequity and diversity. The store owners face many issues that challenge their likelihood of surviving. Language barrier, income inequality, and demographics play an important role in creating this climate inequity. Incidentally, the neighborhoods facing the greatest cooling center disparities are concentrated in Central Brooklyn, Central Queens, and across the Bronx which has a direct correlation with their median household incomes.


A combination of dense urban footprint and low-rise roofs has forced around 30% of the businesses to be temporarily/permanently closed in the street.  Green roofs are one of the easiest solutions to promote a better microclimate in these buildings. However, New York City is home to less than 0.1% of NYC’s 1 million buildings with green roofs with most of them concentrated in Manhattan, particularly in midtown and downtown.

When asked, a great number of the shop owners of 82nd street were unaware about the existence of the roofs  yet alone its potential.


The building codes of all the units on 82nd street are within the 1926 and 1938 codes. Both of which allow the roof to hold 40 pounds per square foot of live load. A semi-intensive green roof holds a dead load of 13-20 pounds. So, with the help of NYC DEP, these leftover urban elevations can be converted into green roofs. But the cost of installation and maintenance holds the biggest liability of installing green roofs. So, converting these roofs into a modular-flat- packed typology can allow these roofs to be installed and maintained by the businesses instead of giving any political control to any authority. 

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