Montreal Gazette

UP ON THE ROOF

Mon­treal­ers mov­ing up and out for sum­mer

- JOANNE PEN­HALE

Flat Mon­treal rooftops can be trans­formed into ur­ban oases — but ar­chi­tect Owen Rose warns home­own­ers to in­volve the right kinds of pro­fes­sion­als, and to be will­ing to wait out lengthy mu­nic­i­pal per­mit­ting pro­cesses.

Rooftop decks, or ter­races, and green roofs are a grow­ing trend in densely-pop­u­lated cen­tral Mon­treal neigh­bour­hoods, in­clud­ing the Plateau, Rose­mont and StHenri. Streets are lined with sunny, flat-roofed du­plexes and triplexes, and the res­i­dents of these build­ings’ top storeys usu­ally have no yard ac­cess — which makes de­vel­op­ing the rooftops for out­door use an at­trac­tive op­tion.

“You can do a great rooftop ter­race, but when it lands in the base­ment, it’s not as fun,” said Rose, who has been de­sign­ing rooftop ter­races and green roofs since 2004. “The warn­ing is al­ways struc­ture, struc­ture, struc­ture.”

In ad­di­tion to work­ing with an ar­chi­tect, and con­sult­ing lo­cal

bor­ough of­fices about spe­cific re­quire­ments, like rail­ings, Rose said, home­own­ers should con­sult with a struc­tural engi­neer who can as­sess what in­ter­ven­tions are needed to en­sure a home can sup­port rooftop de­vel­op­ment.

Green roofs, which Rose likened to hav­ing a backyard on the roof, are the most ex­ten­sive — and ex­pen­sive — rooftop de­vel­op­ments.

In­stalling a heavy layer of earth on top of an ex­ist­ing home, he said, of­ten re­quires a se­ri­ous struc­tural over­haul. “That’s why the rooftop ter­race is the so­lu­tion that most peo­ple are opt­ing for, be­cause it’s the most cost ef­fec­tive, fastest to build, rel­a­tively easy to get ap­proved, and struc­turally, rel­a­tively easy to sup­port.”

Be­fore ar­chi­tec­tural draw­ings can be brought to life, per­mits are re­quired by lo­cal bor­oughs, he said.

“Peo­ple get frus­trated in the spring when they de­cide to build a rooftop deck or green roof, and then the per­mit process takes so long, the pro­ject is im­pos­si­ble to re­al­ize (that) sum­mer,” Rose said. He said it can take three to four months be­fore per­mits are is­sued.

The ideal time to start plan­ning for a rooftop de­vel­op­ment, he ad­vised, is the end of sum­mer or early au­tumn. “Then, you can re­ally go through the ideas while it’s still warm and light out.”

Af­ter de­vel­op­ing plans in the fall, Rose ad­vised ini­ti­at­ing the mu­nic­i­pal per­mit process by early win­ter. As that process un­folds, he said, home­own­ers can seek out a gen­eral con­trac­tor and dis­cuss costs.

“As soon as the spring thaw ar­rives, you get your gen­eral con­trac­tor up on the roof,” Rose said.

In 2008, Éti­enne Richer and Élise Boyer bought a Villeray cot­tage that had pre­vi­ously been con­verted from a du­plex. Two years ago, they built an ex­ten­sion off the back of it whose struc­ture could hold a sig­nif­i­cant load. Last sum­mer, a hot tub and a green roof with plants like a plum tree and rasp­ber­ries were in­stalled above that ex­ten­sion, Richer said. On the pre­vi­ously ex­ist­ing rooftop, a much lighter cedar deck was built, which now ac­com­mo­dates a din­ing area, planters with herbs and space for a small bar­be­cue.

Mi­nus the hot tub, Richer es­ti­mated the costs to de­velop the ter­race and green roof were $18,000, in­clud­ing the work of a struc­tural engi­neer and ar­chi­tect, which were sub­con­tracted by their con­trac­tor.

Richer said the mu­nic­i­pal per­mit process was long; it took four months for the fi­nal plans to be ap­proved.

How­ever, de­spite the wait­ing, he also said the process was smooth and easy. To ac­cess the roof, Richer, Boyer and their chil­dren use a steel stair­case ac­cessed from their back bal­cony.

Rose noted that in­te­rior stair­cases to the roof are also an op­tion. “Although it’s more ex­pen­sive, the ben­e­fit ... is that you can also cre­ate with that a light well,” he said, es­pe­cially if the stair­well is built in the cen­tre of the apart­ment be­low. When win­dows or doors are kept open at the top of the stair­well, Rose added, it also al­lows hot air to es­cape from the build­ing.

Coopéra­tive Cer­cle Carré is a seven-storey co­op­er­a­tive in Old Mon­treal with hous­ing units for about 60 artists and cul­tural work­ers. Their new rooftop de­vel­op­ment, de­signed by Rose, in­cludes a green roof on one-quar­ter of the roof, with plants like straw­ber­ries and chives, and sep­a­rate area with con­nected square and cir­cu­lar ter­races, which are sur­rounded by river rocks and 40 mov­able gar­den planters.

Paul Neu­dorf, a res­i­dent who co­or­di­nated the rooftop de­vel­op­ment, said the pro­ject will in­crease the neigh­bour­hood’s bio-di­ver­sity and re­duce the ef­fects of ur­ban heat is­lands.

“The idea all along was to have a space for ur­ban agri­cul­ture,” Neu­dorf said. “We built it be­cause we want to re­duce our eco­log­i­cal foot­print.”

The ter­races are made of Que­bec white cedar, which Rose said is his favourite wood be­cause it’s durable, lo­cal, smells great and is beau­ti­ful.

Un­like du­plexes, triplexes and smaller multi-unit homes that re­quire mu­nic­i­pal per­mits, the multi-storey Cer­cle Carré build­ing fell un­der the scope of the Régie du Bâ­ti­ment du Québec.

“It was a dif­fi­cult process with Régie du Bâ­ti­ment,” Neu­dorf said, adding that pro­vin­cial green roof guide­lines were an­nounced af­ter the hous­ing co­op­er­a­tive had its ini­tial de­sign, so they were forced to re­design the pro­ject and sep­a­rate the green roof el­e­ment from the wooden ter­race.

In­clud­ing pro­fes­sional fees, ma­te­ri­als and per­mits, Neu­dorf said the rooftop de­vel­op­ment cost about $90,000 — $20,000 of which came from En­vi­ron­ment Canada’s EcoAc­tion pro­gram.

Rose es­ti­mated that for mod­est residentia­l rooftop decks, home­own­ers should ex­pect to pay be­tween $35,000 and $40,000 to have it done prop­erly.

“There are ad hoc rooftop ter­races that have been built,” Rose said. “The dan­ger is that they haven’t been prop­erly as­sessed by struc­tural engi­neers.”

Rose said the risks of such doit-your­self rooftop decks in­clude un­safe ac­cesses and rail­ings, or no rail­ings at all, com­pro­mised roof wa­ter­proof­ing, and more se­ri­ously, com­pro­mised struc­ture. “Struc­ture in the sum­mer­time is not where it counts,” he said.

“Win­ter­time is when the prob­lems will come … in March un­der a me­tre of wet, heavy snow.”

 ?? PETER MCCABE / MON­TREAL GAZETTE ?? The rooftop ter­race of Coopéra­tive Cer­cle Carré on Queen Street in Mon­treal last month. The build­ing is a seven-storey con­crete and steel build­ing that was con­verted into an artists’ hous­ing co­op­er­a­tive in 2010. They wanted to use the flat roof of the...
PETER MCCABE / MON­TREAL GAZETTE The rooftop ter­race of Coopéra­tive Cer­cle Carré on Queen Street in Mon­treal last month. The build­ing is a seven-storey con­crete and steel build­ing that was con­verted into an artists’ hous­ing co­op­er­a­tive in 2010. They wanted to use the flat roof of the...
 ?? JOHN KEN­NEY / MON­TREAL GAZETTE ?? Éti­enne Richer and Élise Boyer had a deck and green roof built on top of their Villeray cot­tage in 2013.
JOHN KEN­NEY / MON­TREAL GAZETTE Éti­enne Richer and Élise Boyer had a deck and green roof built on top of their Villeray cot­tage in 2013.
 ?? JOHN KEN­NEY/MON­TREAL GAZETTE ?? Éti­enne Richer wraps up a hose af­ter tend­ing to the gar­den on a rooftop deck and gar­den at his and Élise Boyer’s home in Mon­treal. They fin­ished a deck and green roof pro­ject on top of their Villeray cot­tage in 2013 for about $18,000. It al­lows them to...
JOHN KEN­NEY/MON­TREAL GAZETTE Éti­enne Richer wraps up a hose af­ter tend­ing to the gar­den on a rooftop deck and gar­den at his and Élise Boyer’s home in Mon­treal. They fin­ished a deck and green roof pro­ject on top of their Villeray cot­tage in 2013 for about $18,000. It al­lows them to...

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