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House Finance committee advances rooftop farm bill

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Feb 22 2013 04:34:00 PM HST

The capitol 's fifth floor isn't much to look at these days. But talk to a rooftop gardener and there are possibilities

HONOLULU -

Hawaii's state Capitol’s fifth floor isn't much to look at these days.

But talk to a rooftop gardener and there are possibilities.

Imagine a fifth-floor farm in an area now "kapu" because of a leaking roof.

"They are looking to use most of that for a rooftop farm to create a more interactive environment for the lawmakers," said Alan Joaquin, of FarmRoof, a sustainable small business build around rooftop gardens.

It could be a great green statement for the governor and his support for agriculture or opening a can of worms because  the state comptroller isn’t keen on adding the potential for more problems on a roof already showing its age.

Supporters said don't worry.

"There is a lot of concern about structural integrity that is misled by what’s up there now. There are 48 planters on that fifth floor and that are leaking and are heavy," said Joaquin.

 A year ago, Joaquin installed a rooftop garden at the old Comp USA site that is now home to Auto Mart.

The Capitol project could involve a similar blueprint.

FarmRoof has also launched another project has just begun flourishing a top of Castle Medical Center.

"The Castle Medical Center is 1,000 square feet and it is built on top of a roof that is not designed to have a green roof," said Joaquin.

So in his eyes, the greening of the capitol is do-able.

"If your system weighs only 5-pounds-per-square-foot and the dead load capacity of the roof is 20 pounds per square foot, then you are only taking up 25 percent of that capacity," said Joaquin.

It is innovative agriculture. The question is, are lawmakers willing to take the risk with the roofs above their heads.

Another wrinkle is that because the Capitol is an historic building, any changes will have to get the nod of state preservationists.

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