Heard on the Hill

Green roof deck dreams for Hart dry up

Hopes for a roof deck atop the Hart died on the vine Tuesday after a reality check from the Architect of the Capitol

There’s not a breezy hangout spot coming to the roof of the Hart Building. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hopes for a roof deck atop the Hart Senate Office Building for employees to enjoy died on the vine Tuesday after a reality check from the Architect of the Capitol.

It all started with a hearing on the Architect of the Capitol’s 2020 budget proposal. The line of questioning by the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee turned to energy savings, sustainable practices and a lengthy discussion on grass genotypes best suited for green roofs. 

Chairman Tim Ryan asked acting AOC Christine Merdon if more green roofs could be installed on the Capitol campus as part of ongoing and future construction projects. 

When Merdon told the panel that the Hart Building and the O’Neill federal building already have green roofs, that planted a seed in Ryan’s mind. 

“Could you turn it into a place where people could go?” he asked Merdon.

He wanted to know if Capitol complex green roofs — covered with vegetation and other plants — could become sunny roof decks open to staff and lawmakers.

“It’s not accessible,” said Merdon. “That’s the challenge, it’s not an accessible roof.”

That was the sound of a hard “no” from an agency that manages and maintains all 18.4 million square feet of facilities and 570 acres around Capitol Hill. 

“Gotcha,” responded Ryan.

The Hart roof also includes solar panels and skylights, which produce energy and allow natural light to filter into the atrium.

The roof deck dream could live on, however, because the Dirksen Senate Office Building could be full of potential. A green roof was installed in the 7,200-square-foot middle section in 2011, replacing what had been an “unusable outdoor tennis court,” according to the Architect of the Capitol website.

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