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A New Living Roof for Esalen

Articles: A New Living Roof for Esalen

Rugged cliffs and the Pacific dominate the Esalen Hot Springs setting. Photo: Daniel Bianchetta

Soaking  in the natural hot springs is an integral part of any visit to the Esalen Institute. Laying in one of the stone tubs you can watch the waves of the Pacific crash onto the shore and enjoy the dynamic landscape of Big Sur. A living roof blends with this natural environment, provides year round interest, and contributes to the magical experience.

Overgrown bunch grass on the Esalen roof prior to renovation. Photo: Sam Molitas

However, over the past 11 years conditions on the roof progressively declined. The original roof lining pulled away from the edge of the concrete due to poor adhesion and lack of a termination bar. And the aggressive roots of native bunch grass—the primary planting—were causing problems. As Grounds Manager at Esalen, I decided it was time to start over and create  a lasting and beautiful environment for bathers.

I contacted Lisa Lee Benjamin, an environmental design  consultant, and together we devised  a n...

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