A new roof at Terminal 2 goes green

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Green roof installation caps Terminal 2 expansion project

When the new addition to Terminal 2-Humphrey at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) opens this fall, the eastern view out the second-floor windows will be green.

A “green roof” – featuring ground-covering plants and rock mulch -- was recently installed opposite the four new gates. The roof will be home to a variety of plants, including blue fescue, reed grass and Virginia creeper.

“We wanted plants that do well in harsh, seasonal conditions, but have good seasonal color as well,” said Todd Halunen, a landscape architect with Kimley-Horn, the firm that designed the green roof at MSP’s Terminal 2 expansion project.

Click to view a time-lapse video of the green roof's installation.


The featured plants will flower in different seasons to consistently bring color to the roof.

But the landscape aesthetics are only the roof’s most visible perk.

“With green roofs, the benefits are multiple,” said Halunen, who worked on the project with the green roof’s lead designer Andrea Arnoldi, also a landscape architect at Kimley-Horn.

The vegetation, he said, keeps the roof cooler than a standard roof, extending its life, and providing more insulation for the terminal below. The amount of rainwater runoff is reduced in part by the moisture required for the plants.

The project also reflects the Metropolitan Airports Commission ongoing efforts to integrate sustainability into building design.

Installation of the plants on the green roof – which is about one-third the size of a football field -- started in early August and took about two weeks. 

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Click for an interactive 360-degree view of the green roof.


The green roof will be viewable from several vantage points, including the secure area of the new section of Terminal 2, the nearby parking ramps and the elevator towers that serve the ramps.

Attention to design details provide the roof with a longer life with minimal maintenance. The raised planter wedges and an art piece that supports a vertical “living” wall are made of weathering steel, which requires no maintenance and takes on a static, rust-like appearance over the years.

The roof's irrigation system includes technology that monitors the plants' need for water, and includes special spray heads so that in windy conditions, the water doesn’t blow back into the glass windows facing the new gates.

The installation itself didn’t require loads of soil to be placed on the roof. Instead, the process started with plant trays supplied by LiveRoof, a network of industry-leading green roof growers. The plants were grown locally off-site by Bachman’s and then transported in the trays by truck to Terminal 2. The plant trays were lifted to the roof and set in place by hand, above a water-tight membrane that sits on the structural roof.

When it rains, the plants’ root systems and the roof drain under the soil will prevent the soil from being washed out.

Although a leaky roof can be a problem on any project, it would be particularly problematic on a green roof because the source is underneath plants, soil and insulation, Halunen said.  The design team has paid special attention to those elements and the installation process itself, he said. The team also installed a leak detection system to head off any surprises before they appear.

As a first-of-its-kind for MSP, the green roof project will allow operations and maintenance personnel to test the benefits of the roof, gauging the potential for other installations in the future.

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