Aerial Drone shot of the Music City Center and downtown Nashville. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto/Farm Flavor Media

With stunning architecture that pays tribute to Nashville’s reputation as Music City, the 2.1-million-square-foot Music City Center is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Nashville. But surprisingly, one of the convention center’s most unique and beneficial features is not inside the building, but on top – its roof.

Different from typical concrete and metal, the Music City Center features a green roof made of plants, grasses and other living material. This living architecture brings Tennessee’s multimillion-dollar nursery industry to Nashville’s iconic skyline. Greenrise Technologies, based out of Readyville, built the roof, designed to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing, while focusing on sustainability and conservation efforts.

“This was our first large ‘greenroof,’ ” says Mike Shew, maintenance manager at Greenrise Technologies. “Our founder, Scott McGaughy, worked diligently with engineers to build a roof that would be both functional and attractive. From specially engineered soil, drainage material, underlayment material and the sedum sod that was grown specifically for the roof, to the pavers for the walkways on and around the roof.”

The roof of the Music City Center was designed to achieve several conservation practices, including stormwater retention and urban heat island reduction, which is when concentrations of buildings and other surfaces absorb and retain heat. It’s attractive as well, with the physical design representing the frets and body of a guitar that includes solar panels, and green “rolls” to symbolize the rolling hills of Tennessee.

Rooftop of the Pinnacle Financial Partners building in downtown Nashville. Photo by Greenrise Technologies

Going Green

McGaughy founded an initial company called Landscape Support Services in 2008, with a focus on mulch and soil. It was then that he began building green roofs, and in 2012, he dissolved a partnership with Landscape Support Services and founded Greenrise Technologies.

“With the push of going ‘green’ and the desire to control water runoff in bigger cities, the green roof industry has exploded for both new construction and remodeling older buildings,” Shew says.

Highlighting sustainability, Greenrise produces everything that goes into building a successful roof, including specific soils and growing mediums that consider factors such as drainage, water retention, compaction rates and weight requirements. In fact, the company won first place for their efforts on the Music City Center in 2013 as the Roofing Contractor Project of the Year in the Sustainability category.

Roof of the Christ Hospital in Ohio. Photo by courtesy of Greenrise Technologies

Supporting the Industry

Along with the Music City Center, Greenrise has built green roofs for several other buildings, including Pinnacle Financial Partners in Nashville; the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia; the Sam Nunn Federal Building in Atlanta, Georgia; and several hospitals such as the University of Virginia Hospital, which features green pyramids and a simulated glass river, and Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio

Shew says that although the company grows some of their own plants, they rely on the agriculture industry, specifically the nursery industry, to supplement.

“We buy a large quantity of plants from the nursery industry, and spent over $500,000 on plants this year,” Shew says. “We purchase grasses and perennials as well as sedum plant material.”

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