The Reading Healthplex’s new surgical wing is home to a two-acre roof garden, one of the largest hospital green roofs in the nation. The garden is both intensive and extensive, allowing the hospital to expand its footprint and fulfill both open space zoning requirements and storm water management needs. The green roof includes a healing garden and warm season meadow. Key features include an oval lawn, birch groves, a sanctuary garden, a water feature, and a pergola. Combined, these elements provide a series of rich experiences for the staff, the patients, and the public. The roof garden circulation is defined by curving weathered steel planter walls, which create intimate nooks for reflection and spaces for larger gatherings. Paths on the roof garden, which is open to the public, connects visitors to an adjacent park and ties the garden to the larger context.


This roof garden is part of a 476,000 square foot expansion of Reading Hospital for the new Reading Healthplex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care. Because the project is in an urban context and a densely built 46-acre hospital complex, spatial limitations posed a significant design challenge. The expanded building program engulfed much of this property’s available open space, including an existing healing garden. These spatial restrictions were complicated by a thirty-foot change in slope across the site. Furthermore, the client wanted to visually and physically connect the new landscape to an historic arboretum and park just south of the site. The resulting design incorporates 88,000 square feet of green roof and 11,000 square feet of at grade landscape to create an expansive healing garden, an intimate sanctuary garden, exterior dining space, and pedestrian paths.

Despite the large amount of structure occupying the site, the design emphasizes healing views of nature and green space. This is accomplished by incorporating landscapes on the roofs of new structures, borrowing views of adjacent landscapes, and incorporating exterior spaces into the interior experiences. The primary tower and healing garden are arranged to maximize visibility of the new native meadow and to borrow views of the arboretum beyond. In other areas, the green roof masks the view of the surrounding buildings, creating a serene spot for reflection and relaxation

Within the healing garden, native plant communities are emphasized: groves of birches and sedge create serene shaded seating areas. Sounds from a sculptural water feature add to the sense of tranquility and provide a backdrop to this shady space. Moving south across the roof garden, the healing garden becomes an open, sunny meadow, eventually sloping down to street level and connecting the landscape to the arboretum beyond.

The healing garden is built as an intensive green roof system above a 115,000 square foot surgical wing. Sweeping planter walls constructed of weathering steel allow enough soil depth to support larger trees and rich planting combinations. Lightweight soils and foam fill are used to reduce structural loads in strategic locations while creating landforms that add dimension to the space.

The exterior dining space and outdoor waiting area are built at grade, using cast in place and precast paving systems. These spaces are surrounded by building, creating a unique challenge during installation. Trees had to be sized such that they could be brought through the interior of the building or dropped in place with a crane, and soil amendments had to be carted through the building or blown in.

Designers from both the architectural and landscape architectural teams worked together to craft exterior spaces into extensions of the architecture. For example, the Sanctuary Garden is located outside of a surgical waiting room and allows users space for private reflection. Tree placement was also carefully coordinated with the structural design team to reinforce areas subject to greater weight and to economize where possible.

Due to the extreme build-out of the hospital property, very little space remained for stormwater infiltration. Extensive green roof systems were incorporated on other rooftops to provide views of vegetation from inside and to help manage stormwater. The civil team worked closely with the landscape architect to ensure that the landscape also performed the required stormwater management function. An expert green roof consultant provided critical technical support in the design of green roof systems.

Immense amounts of excavation were required for the construction of the buildings, complicated by a rocky geology, unexpected groundwater, and a web of urban infrastructure. These challenges quickly ate into owner’s contingency and threatened the construction schedule. A well-organized general contractor and meticulous landscape contractor allowed the landscape portion of construction to move forward without missteps despite little headroom for delays or additional costs.

One of the most important advocates for the project, the client, recognized the benefits of the green roof approach early in the design process. The healing garden is regarded as an integral part of the building expansion. This level of client support freed the landscape architect to focus on the design of the spaces with the confidence that an adequate budget would remain intact. This level of engagement has proved helpful with regards to the management of the landscape. The landscape architect has kept in close contact with facilities staff to communicate maintenance needs and provide input and support.

Other designers involved in the design of landscape:
Ballinger – Architects
Roofmeadow – Green Roof Consultant

Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State):
423 S 7th Ave, West Reading, PA 19611

Design year: 2012-2015

Year Built: 2015-2016


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