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Green Roofs on the Move

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  

By Jörg Breuning

Well before modern green roof technology started in Germany in the 1970s, I was already collecting Sedums in the Alps.  As a kid I liked the little ‘fir trees’ because I was able to carry them home in my stuffed Lederhosen pockets and miraculously they would survive, even after a 4-5 hours hike.  Forty years later, there is still one surviving ‘fir tree’ growing out of a terra cotta pot at my Mom’s house. The last time it was repotted was more than 20 years ago.

When I was a teenager, Professor Hans Luz, a Landscape Architect from Stuttgart, Germany, was pioneering the implementation of green roofs on buildings and parking structures.  A visionary, Luz recognized green roofs’ stormwater retention potential and their overall ability to reduce the environmental footprint of any building.  From there green roofs went viral, spreading throughout Germany and Europe.  It was not long before cities began realizing the relief green roof provided to their overloaded combined sewer systems.

By the nineties green roofs had spread all over Europe.  Pockets of green roof believers had developed in cities across Europe.  But modern green roof technology was struggling to spread beyond the borders of the EU. 

During the nineties I frequently vacationed to the United States, notably the Southwest.  Even while on vacation one part of my mind was always considering how green roofs could be introduced to the States.  I desperately tried to make presentation about green roof in the USA but associations like International Erosion Control Association were never interested.  I talked to many American landscape companies during my vacations, but they simply thought I was crazy.

In 1999 Chicago’s Mayor Delay visited Germany and saw a green roof for the first time and decided he wanted this technology on his City Hall.  Almost 30 years after green roof technologies were first developed in Germany the time was finally right for the United States.  I am proud that I brought green roof technology to this project in Chicago.  

Twenty years from now I believe green roofs will be a fundamental part of all new buildings, as important a basic building feature as windows, doors, heating and cooling, water supply, etc.  In the end it is all about reducing the footprint of a building and putting on top of a building what was once on the ground – this is just common sense.  In my opinion it is simply our responsibility that we have to diminish our impact into nature.   We can do it in many ways, but green roofs seem the most efficient.  The longer we wait the more of our current profit and wealth we have to sacrifice later.

Success also means Green Roofs must be done right the first time.  There is no need to over engineering, use irrigation, strive desperately for LEED points, embellish the aesthetic design or embrace crazy environmentalists’ ideas that want green roofs to save the entire world.

This reminds of another success story that started in Stuttgart, Germany when Gottlieb Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) invented the world’s first car.  His invention went around the globe in a very short time and is the basis of any functional economy.  From the same place, green roofs are now starting to go around the world and will be the basis of any functional urban ecology.

             

Spotlight on the Sun-Root™ System

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, January 28, 2013

Back in 2012, Green Roof Technology installed our first Sun-Root™ System in New York City.  The vegetation’s ability to cool the air increases the efficiency of the solar panels perched atop the green roof. 

Learn more about combining solar and vegetated
roofs with our Sun-Root™ System

This week the Sun-Root™ System has been highlighted in “Under Cover: Solar Vegetated Roofs Take Root,” a recent online article by Green Manufacturer.  The Sun-Root™ will also be in the spotlight in their January/February issue of the Green Manufacturer Magazine.     

Chicago, one of America's green roof leaders, is slowly falling behind in the technological race. Numerous studies have proven solar energy integrated with vegetated roofs are more efficient than either practice by itself. Chicago has yet to offer any incentives that include integrated solar green roof systems.

Northwestern University: 
What Chicago Green Roofs Are Missing Out On 




Green Roof Professional Celebration

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, January 28, 2013

Thirty years ago on January 27th 1983, Jörg Breuning was one of the first people in the world to earn a green roof professional accreditation. 

Optima, now Optigrün AG, was the first green roof manufacturer to offer an in depth educational system for the installation and maintenance of their products.  In order to be eligible for the accreditation, a candidate had to have completed 3-years of apprenticeship with a certified landscaping company. 

Jörg’s green roofing career began on September 1st 1980 at Otto Arnold GmbH, one of the first landscaping companies in the world with its own green roofing division.  In 1985 he earned his national certification and horticultural technician degree – a program of work and study that required 5-years of practice in an approved landscaping company and 4 semesters of University study. 

Jörg learned green roofing from the original pioneers and visionaries of modern green roof technology.  Since those early days in Germany, Jörg has gone on to pioneer many new innovations in green roof technology, start multiple companies in both Germany and the United States, and completed multiple award-winning projects

Everyone here at Green Roof Technology would like to congratulate Jörg on his 30-years of excellence in the green roofing industry.  

New Lancaster Green Roof

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, January 25, 2013

The sun sets on the 3rd day of construction.  High winds and freezing cold temperatures have made this project particularly challenging.    

Using money from their $7 million dollar PENNVEST green infrastructure loan, the City of Lancaster has begun installing the first of 10 green roof projects.  The first extensive green roof is currently being installed on the Dewatering Building at the City’s Wastewater Treatment Facility.  The 7,000 square foot extensive green roof is divided between two rooftops.   Green Roof Technology has been the City’s green roof consultant for a while now and will continue to be involved every step of the way.  Our primary objective now is to oversee the installation of the extensive green roofs.  Many more pictures to come. 

Read more information about Lancaster’s Green Infrastructure PENNVEST loan at Water World.

Video highlighting Lancaster's green infrastructure plan.

Green Roof on Floating Home "Siberfisch"

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, January 21, 2013

First Sustainable Home on the Water with a Green Roof

 

With the cost of living in large cities constantly rising, the search for viable alternatives is constant.

Flo Florian and Sascha Akkermann of design firm Confused-Direction and the project-developer Bernhard Urich had urban affordability in mind when they designed the Silberfisch houseboat.

The house is a thoroughly modern floating home that, instead of occupying a valuable plot of land, is anchored in a body of water. In theory, the Silberfisch would allow residents to remain in a location indefinitely or relocate on a whim. It’s an interesting concept whose acceptance by the general public might be debatable.

However, the eco-friendly principles underlying the house are universally appealing. Two of the primary “green” methods used in the house’s construction are a green roof planted with vegetation and the use of reclaimed wood wherever possible. The toilet is an Eco-Toilet which saves water recources. Additionally, the house produces zero emissions. As home prices and eco-friendliness become increasingly critical issues, Confused-Direction’s Silberfisch houseboat may become a realistic option.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silberfisch houseboat is a floating home by Bernhard Urich and the guys from the design firm Confused-Direction Flo Florian and Sascha Akkermann. This eco-friendly project, with zero emissions, represents a balanced mix of design and maritime romance. It has been designed for the areas with big water surfaces or in cities where property costs are high house boats offer an alternative.

Visit also their home page:  www.schwimmhausboot.de/

 

Cool Roofs are not Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, January 17, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

 

In Physics class we learned basics about thermodynamics and about thermodynamic equilibrium. In simple words the content of a black coffee mug “adjusts” faster to the surrounding temperature than in a white coffee mug assuming the material and material thickness of the mugs are the same.

Exposing these mugs to the sun light the black mug will convert the electronic energy (sun light) into heat faster and no light or shade cools it faster assuming the ambient temperature is lower. The physics behind converting light into heat is called radiation-less transition. White (or bright) colors reflect the (sun) light more effective than black. 

Any macroscopic or microscopic body on our earth is exposed to these physics properties including all particles in the air of which can be plentiful in polluted cities. While the sun light enters in to the earth's atmosphere, all bodies (particles in the air) receive portions of the sun's electronic energy and convert them in to heat. For example, on a high mountain we experience much more sunlight, or electronic energy, because the air is "thinner" or has less particles in which the light has to travel through. On a beach the light intention is also very high and this is caused by the reflection of the light off the the water and sand. Sunburns on the beach are of high risk because of the consistent wind, we don't experience the transition from light into heat on our skin as fast. No living organisms can reflect the light 100% effectively, but they can actively reduce the consequences (heat) by using techniques such as evapotranspiration.

Roof Surface Temperatures
(a sunny day in May, air temperature around 72ºF)

Reflective roofs can't reflect 100% of the light either, but they are good to a certain degree (see roof temps above). However while reflecting the light back in to the atmosphere, this reflected light will meet all the particles (bodies) again and substantially increase their temperature. It is well proven that less than 5% of sunlight is reflected back into space once it's in our atmosphere.

White roofs relocate the transition point of light into heat from the roof into the atmosphere or surrounding bodies (e.g. buildings). They simply don't eliminate the problem of increasing temperatures (heat island effect) caused by human settlements and they don't decrease the environmental foot print of structures. In addition, the white surface has a slow thermodynamic equilibrium. It takes a long time to to heat up in the winter (when heat is necessary) and cools down slower during summer nights.

The kingdom of plants were the only organisms over millions of year who developed a super-efficient mechanism to reduce the heat transitioned from the sun light. It is called evapotranspiration - powerful, miniature AC units powered simply by solar energy. These super little AC units are found naturally on Earth, but can be practically placed anywhere.  By using this naturally occurring phenomenon and installing green roofs, the outcome will go further beyond any man-made machine or material.

In many countries where insulation requirements are more intense than in North America, it is questionable whether reflecting roof material makes sense to start with. From a global environmental perspective and understanding the basic science of physics, reflective roofs are just relocating the heat issue caused by human development. It is similar to building a chimney higher at a coal power plant so not to pollute the air, when in fact the wind will just carry the pollution toward a different city.

Sometimes I wish all LEED™ professionals would have more common sense and follow these laws of nature and their own environmental gut feeling - it is simply better living under a tree canopy rather than under a polar glacier. 

A Nice Gift for Green Roofers - Un Jardin sur le Toit – First Green Roof Fragrance

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, January 14, 2013

Un Jardin sur le Toit – First Green Roof Fragrance

by Jorg Breuning

Jardin sur le Toit by Hermès features a little slice of nature perched on the rooftop of the building of the house of Hermès in Paris, France. A feast for the sense and the mind. A fragrance of light and delight, crunchy and cheerful.

 

Hermes launches the new fourth fragrance from the collection of garden-inspired fragrances Un Jardin, named Un Jardin Sur Le Toit or “A Garden on the Roof” in 2011. Un Jardin Sur Le Toit refers to the especially luxurious garden located on the Hermes’ headquarters building roof. A secret roof garden, hidden in the heart of the city, in Paris.

The garden is full of aromatic herbs, flowers and fruits whose flavors vary as they pass through the metamorphosis induced by the seasons. Its fresh and sweet-smelling atmosphere is captured by apple, pear, rose, green grass, basil, magnolia and compost notes.  This fruity, vegetal, floral eau de toilette is appreciated by both women and men.

The composition is designed by Jean-Claude Ellena.

Picture: http://www.lacentraldelperfume.com

Elevating Urban Farms onto Rooftops

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, January 09, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

 
Photo credit: Kölner Wein Depot

Long before green roofs became necessity and rooftop farming was trendy in North America, Dipl.-Ing Markus Wittling was planning to elevate an entire vineyard on top of the Wine Museum in Cologne, Germany.  Build in 2002, the sloped green roof spans over the entire museum building of almost 20,000 square feet. It is the first vineyard on a roof, the first sloped rooftop farm and the first and oldest organic urban farm on a roof in the world.

In the middle ages Cologne was the most important wine trading town north of the Alps.  The "Weinmuseum Köln e.V." is honoring this factwith a brand new museum with astonishing and educational exhibits on wine. The green roof displays 40 of the most important grape species from around the world situated onto 720 vine stocks.  The soil layer (growing media) including granular drainage is approximately 27 inches deep and consists of a blend of porous volcano material like Lava rock and Pumice - materials in which grapes simply grow best. 

 This rooftop vineyard is a prime example of the performance of modern green roof technology and is ideal for educational purposes.  If you have a chance to visit Cologne, the Wine Museum is a must on your Green Roof Safari and your effort will be rewarded with amazing wine tasting

For more information: www.weinmuseum.com or simply contact us.

 

 

The Economics of Green Roofs from the Perspective of the Commercial Client

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, January 07, 2013

 A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Extensive Green Roofs

In 1994, Fritz Hämmerle published an analysis on the economic benefits of extensive Green Roofs for the very first in the international Green Roof magazine Dach + Grün. Nearly 20 years later, it is now undisputed that extensive green roofs have numerous positive effects on the environment and the physical properties of buildings. Nevertheless, today only a small amount of extensive Green Roofs have been installed in North America and this is mainly due to the high initial costs of construction and the commitment to proper long-term maintenance.

The lastest cases study (2013, Jorg Breuing) about the economics of extensive Green Roofs in the USA is now available for download.

Download the entire case study as a PDF (107KB) exclusively at our Resources Page.                                         http://www.greenrooftechnology.com/case-studies

A Flower in Disguise

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, January 02, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning & Samantha Yurek

"A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows." - Doug Larson

 

Photo Jörg Breuning, Green Roof Service LLC: Hieracium aurantiacum, Orange Hawkweed. Haunted by environmentalists and often branded as obnoxious, farmers and nurseries stamp Hieracium as invasive.

It is all about perspectives, experience and evolution.  Weeds are typically plants growing where they are in competition with cultivated plants or simply unwanted by humans.  However, seeing it from a philosophical point of view any organism has a right to exist.  It is the intention of each organism to multiply, spread and adjust to the surrounding environmental conditions.  This adamant approach has also helped humans to develop and thrive over ten thousands of years.  The word native has become a stereotype of certain plants that should be growing in a particular region.  But with human perspectives being far from uniform, the term 'native' has been skewed over time.  The term is irrelevant when looking at the larger picture of evolution.

An unwanted plant on intensive green roofs could be ideal ground cover for un-irrigated extensive green roofs or vice versa.  Being an outside element, green roofs will undergo natural succession and evolution as described above.  This succession can effect the function of a green roof in the long run for the better or worse.  Ideally, maintaining a green roof helps to guide the plants in a stable coexistence with minimal succession, creating little maintenance.  In most cases it doesn't matter whether the green roof plants were planted intentionally or not.

Un-irrigated extensive green roof designs tend to have extreme conditions; therefore the plant pallet is rather narrow.  It is very difficult for most plants to sustain themselves over decades.  Introducing many of these so-called 'weeds' on to a rooftop environment may prove to be more efficient because of the vigorous growing capabilities.  Yet many factors such as unique weather events during the establishing phase (3-8 years), artificial irrigation, pre-grown nursery trays, excessive fertilization, can be counterproductive in modern green roof technology.


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