The Jacob K. Javits Center, home to nearly 180 convention events a year like Comic Con and the Auto Show, is often overlooked as a piece of functional architecture and might be the last place you might imagine a verdant green roof. Yet, it may be one of the most ideal places for one, given the center’s massive size. With 840,000 square feet of convention space and 2.1 million total area space (including an extension), the Javis Center is the busiest convention center in the United States. And as we learned on a recent visit with the New York Adventure Club, up on the roof is a 6.75 acre green roof, equivalent in size to five football fields.

The green roof, by Xero Flor, is part of the $463 million renovation to the Javits Center by FX Fowle and Epstein, which notably included a replacement of the recognizable glass facade. Now of a less-reflective fritted glass and tinted in blue, the Javits Center has the dubious distinction of being the number one killer of birds in New York City. In fact, it reduced bird kills by 90% and for its efforts, the convention center received an award from the Audubon Society, now a partner in the activities on the roof.

Other institutional partners monitoring wildlife and environmental activity on the rooftop include Fordham University, Drexel University and Cooper-Union. Amidst the sedum, there are two birdhouses for kestrel falcons, five species of bats and two beehives. There have been baby geese, moved gingerly to a wildlife preserve by the Javits Center staff, and baby seagulls. There is talk of introducing lizards who may attract additional bird life. There’s also a climate station.

Climate station

The green roof is supported by a building-wide, cutting edge monitoring system, powered a custom program by Siemens. There are thousands of sensors throughout the Javits Center, measuring things like temperature, carbon dioxide and oxygen levels, storm-water runoff, sewage levels, water pressure, and much more. Everything can be controlled digitally, via the $20 million computer room or manually. As we sat in the meeting room, a touch of a button brought cool air in.

All this technology, which will lead to a likely LEED Silver status for the building (results to come in a few weeks), means that they can track the benefits of having a green roof. The roof soaks up 6.8 million gallons of rainwater each year, a great boon to the neighborhood which partially sits in a high-risk flooding zone. The overall renovation efforts have led to a 25% savings in energy costs. The building staff is constantly adjusting and thinking of new ideas too–of priority is a way to bring more fresh water for the birds.

As the Javits Center staff tell us, they’re still learning about the benefits of the green roof and how to optimize it for the building and for the wildlife gathering there, but the energy benefits of the renovation are already paying dividends.

Next, see the new 7 line extension subway station that opened just next to the Javits Center and read about the Top 10 Secrets of the High Line. Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.