Building a hill seems easy enough, doesn't it? But when you're creating a hill on a ROOF, it's a totally different game. The Berry Center was intentionally designed and constructed to hold a green roof, so there are unusually heavy-duty supports in the infrastructure beneath the Berry Prairie. Even so, it can hold only so much weight (hence the need for soil-less growing medium which is lighter and drains water faster than real soil) and piling a bunch of "dirt" in a hill would exceed that.
To solve this issue while meeting the Biodiversity Institute's desire for more topography and vertical interest on the roof, the designers came up with the plan to excavate the growing medium to a certain depth, add Geofoam (which is essentially landscape-grade styrofoam), and pile the medium back on top of it so the depth is still 8-12" but at a higher elevation. Make sense? Very clever.
Photos of the process:
Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute