Goats to graze on Vancouver Convention Centre green roof

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Image: Vancity Buzz

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Downtown Vancouver’s hidden meadow atop the West Building of the Vancouver Convention Centre will be mowed by a herd of goats at the end of this year’s growing season.

Since the building’s completion in 2009, landscape contractors have been responsible for providing the 24,300-square-metre (1.5-acre) green roof with its annual trim. But for this year, convention centre staff opted to abandon the motorized lawn mowers for the more sustainable option of employing 60 goats to complete the task.

Chilliwack’s Green Goat Solutions will deliver this year’s trimming needs for this year’s pilot project. Approximately 70 goats will be used to complete the October trimming within a span of about three weeks whereas a team of about six people have previously accomplished the same project within a week.

“It certainly takes a bit longer but these animals will naturally chomp on the grass and weed and leave fresh fertilizer in their wake,” Green Goat CEO Aaron Peet told Vancity Buzz.

“They’re also able to cover hills, places that are difficult for a lawn mower to reach. There’s actually a fair bit of sloped terrain on the green roof.”

Peet adds the entire process could also be accomplished in a single day using 200 goats, but greater numbers would be more difficult to manage.

In recent years, demand has grown in North America for ‘rent-a-goat’ services to mow lawns and fields. The brush eaters have even been used by Google to clear the fields of their Mountain View Headquarters. Closer to Vancouver, the green roof of the Old Country Market in Coombs, Vancouver Island features grazing goats throughout the summer months – the town’s main tourist draw.

Vancouver Convention Centre staff say their goat crew will cost the same as mowers. While the goats are bound to be a spectacle, there is no public access to the green roof to see the herd in action.

There are 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses on the roof’s six-inch thick growing medium of lava rock, topsoil and gravel. At the peak of the growing season, the growth can reach a height of up to six feet in some areas which provides a natural urban habitat for spiders, dragonflies, ants, damselfies, grasshoppers, ants, sparrows, juncos and finches.

European honey bees living inside the rooftop’s four beehives have also greatly contributed to the roof’s wild growth. Last year, the bee population produced 80 pounds of wildflower honey for the convention centre’s culinary kitchens.

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Kenneth Chan Deputy Editor & Social Media Manager at Vancity Buzz. He covers stories pertaining to local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation, infrastructure, and anything else that makes a difference in the lives of Vancouverites. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]vancitybuzz.com
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