A Study on Madison (WI) Open Space System

Last semester, I did a study on Madison’s open space system with a focus on the quality of bus system and green roof initiatives as a part of URPL 590 – Open Space and Park System’s class project. The purpose of the project is to assess the existing conditions and find the potentials for improvement. The following maps show the summaries of my studies.



Madison’s open space goals are to improve the 6 sides of well livings:

  • Connectivity
  • Catalysts for development
  • Cohesion
  • Food system
  • Art & culture
  • Natural resources



Focusing on the Connectivity goals, public transit is the key characteristic to connect the east and west sides of Madison together. Thus, bus station quality is one component to be improved. The map below shows that the city’s bus stops lack of amenities i.e. bus schedule, bench, shelter, light, and real-time system. The decent bus stops are heavily concentrated in the downtown and the campus areas. Meanwhile, more than 50% of  the bus stops out of the areas are just a pole with the word bus stop on it.


The other interesting goal is Natural Resources. To improve the environmental quality, green roofs are found to be the good solution for urban areas. Thus, I did a study on the green roof opportunities for Madison’s isthmus area.

The statistics from Green Roof for the Healthy Cities (2012) show that Madison, compared to the other cities with the same scale, is not advanced in green roof installations.



So I did a research on the challenges of the green roof installation in Madison. What makes people feel hesitate to do it? It turns out that there are 7 possible challenges:

  • Structures

Soil needs 4”-18” depth and 25-100 lb/sq.ft. additional dead load which normally exceed the conventional structure capacity. According to Gillette (2017), steel bar joists and light gauge framing cannot handle additional loads while the old reinforced concrete structures are more feasible. Thus, the existing buildings might be only feasible for green lawn without

  • Building codes

An accessible or intensive green roof requires additional building requirements such as number of exits, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, and lights which create extensive costs to the green roof adopters.

  • Security

Additional security staffs and amenities might be required.

  • Liability / lease agreement

Approval from the City of Madison and new building insurance are required for the installed green roofs.

  • Space allocation

An accessible green roof requires vertical circulations i.e. stairs and elevator which can create extra costs to the building owner. Also, the privacy of the building space might be changed upon the green roof installation.

  • Costs

Structure, elevator, plant materials, and maintenance costs.

  • Incentives

The city grants are eligible to only solar roofs, no funding for green roof. Not enough incentives for developers or current building owners to adopt the facility.

From all challenges, the biggest part is extra costs and lack of supports from the city for the green roof adopters. Thus, I picked the other 5 US major cities with more successful green roof projects to study in details bout their incentives. i.e. Washington DC, Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. The study result is the table below:


The results reflect that:

  • All successful cities have more than one financial incentive to encourage green roofs.
  • Non-financial assistance such as technical supports and grant workshops are also important.
  • Green roof inventory helps the city to identify the current green roof projects and new potential sites. Especially in Madison which have many old buildings in the downtown area. Finding the buildings with concrete or brick-layered structures will identify the potential retrofitting sites.

The other goals are listed in the poster below:


For the techniques, I use:

  • GIS
  • Illustrator


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