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Green Roof Technology has Relocated

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, June 28, 2013

Green Roof Technology has successfully settled into a new location in Baltimore, Maryland. We are now located on the corner of Roland Avenue and 37th Street in the heart of Hampden. We have acquired more space and a delightful location! We relocated in the beginning of June. Please feel free to stop by and check out the new place! Our phone and fax numbers will still remain the same.

 3646 Roland Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21211


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We welcome questions and comments.

AskJorg@greenrooftechnology.com

Phone: 443-345-1578

Fax: 443-345-1533

 

 

New Sun-Root™ System Installed

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

By Samantha Yurek

Last Wednesday, June 19th, Green Roof Technology traveled to Northern Virginia to help install a green roof demonstration project, complete with a Sun-Root System™. Being the latest achievement in sustainable design, the Sun-Root System™ effectively combines solar power with vegetated roofs.

Working with the company Prospect Solar, we were able to help preserve the environment and promote renewable energy. Prospect Solar was established in 2010 by the well-known Prospect Waterproofing Company. One of the leading specialty roofing companies in the DC area, they have been successful for over twenty years. Prospect Solar has been following in their footsteps, creating more sustainable alternatives to the traditional roofing practices. 

Combining Urban Rooftop Farming with Public Transportation

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, June 22, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

Photo: Bauder, SSB Stuttgart Germany

Germany is the country of inventors, poets and thinkers. According to historical research, rooftop farming has been a long tradition since the mid-evil times in the dense cities of Europe. The lack of open space inside city walls brought people up to their roofs. Because there was also no efficient sewer systems, it was easy to utilize the organic remains to fertilize and grow plants. Throughout the centuries, survival proved to be a tough journey, mainly caused by overpopulation. When it became too dangerous to venture from your house, people discovered their roofs as additional space for growing their own food in order to overcome these rough years. Currently we are witnessing this growing trend once again in many metropolis areas in North America. The motivation is still the same, jobs can be hard to find, it's difficult to stand out when everyone is competing for essentially the same things.

Luckily our sewer systems are more advanced today, synthetic fertilizers are cheap and these farms do not depend on organic remains anymore. The quality of food should be acceptable in this respect - disregarding the extreme rates of pollution within cities.

However, let us backtrack to the topic of inventions.

Growing food on rooftops of the public transportation system (buses and trains) can help to combine two major needs of urban citizens. The added value is that your transportation systems are now also farmer's markets and while riding the bus home from your cubical, you can manage all your food shopping in one step including fresh produce grown directly above - on the roof! If the roof of the transportation vehicle is a semi permeable membrane, the carrots actually can be harvested from the inside. How convenient would this be? Depending on the crop, the sunny routes have more sun loving veggies and the transportation system manages regular crop changes from a more balanced and diverse food supply. Think about all the new jobs being created!

Sure, this technology is just in the beginning stages, but with the current hype for locally grown and diverse environmental approaches, it is just a matter of time until people will also jump on the bandwagon (or bus). It is just as ideal to look for some free advertising space in the press.

So, see you on the Lemon Line or drop me a line from the carrot bus (they should probably invest in free WiFi too).

 

Jörg Breuning welcomes people who want to learn from decades
of green roof experience - askjorg@greenrooftechnology.com

A Solar Garden Roof for Non-Profits

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, June 21, 2013

By: Ryan Miller

Renewable energy is an attractive tool that businesses can use to offset rising energy costs. What makes renewable energy so attractive are the Federal and State incentives that cover over 30% of the costs to install the system. An investment today in a Solar Garden Roof creates a path of energy independence where your rooftop is producing the power necessary to run your building, instead of the local power plant.

So how does a non-taxable entity like a non-profit organization (NPO) take advantage of the plethora of incentives to produce energy for their own building? Fortunately there is an investment option tailored for NPO's called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). PPA's are used in situations where a site host does not desire to outlay the capital required to purchase a system, or is not able to take advantage of the tax benefits available due to being a non-tax paying entity. Through the PPA, the NPO will have no upfront investment nor carry any of the ongoing operations and maintenance obligations. The NPO will then enter into an agreement to purchase the energy produced at a rate below current energy rates.

With this setup, the NPO will make uniform, monthly payments at a reduced cost when compared to the current energy bill. After a set period of time, the NPO can decide to purchase the array from the investors at an agreed upon price. From there the system is paid off and the NPO is enjoying free energy, thanks to the SUN!

Green Roof Service/Green Roof Technology works with NPOs and investors to tailor the right PPA for an investment in a Solar Garden Roof.

Swarthmore College Performing Arts Center Green Roof Install

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

 

Our relationship with Swarthmore College began nearly a decade ago. We have had the privilege of working with the college on several other green roofs, a few of which appear on the front cover of popular green roof books.

This past Friday, Andrew went to Swarthmore College to oversee the install of the college's newest green roof. The Furbish Company was awarded the contract to install the 31,000 square foot green roof.

On a beautiful afternoon, the Furbish installers added the final touches on one of the lower roofs. The custom designed green roof is a hybrid single-course system that utilizes heavy-weight drainage and retention fabrics (provided by Resource Conservation Technology), a 100% pumice growing media layer (provided by Stancills Inc.) and sedum mats (by Sedum Master). This system was utilized due to the roof's weight capacity limitation.

 

 

 

Green Roofs are Standard on Passive Houses

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, June 14, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek


Photo Source: Wikipedia

In the past few decades sustainable building practices have come a long way. Many designers are striving to use the latest technologies to create more environmentally friendly conscience structures. Some of the best examples of sustainable buildings are considered Passive Houses. Germany is at the forefront of this trend, having been researching and developing specific environmental design principles since the early 1990s. These principles surpass LEED™ certifications and are overall less expensive. Energy consumption of a Passive House is between five to ten times lower than an average (LEED™) building, decreasing the environmental footprint two to five times. 

These houses are designed with many modifications. Exterior walls tend to be two to three times thicker when compared to conventional home. Natural and controlled ventilation systems are also prominent, helping to keep temperature balanced throughout the entire building. All these modifications make Passive Houses almost completely airtight and soundproof. Many of these houses are designed to include a green roof or solar powered system


Photo Source: Wikipedia - as you can see, this passive house on the right

In 2010, there were over 25,000 Passive Houses in Germany and around 13 in the United States. In Urbana, Illinois, the first Passive house was erected in America, back in 2003.

Energy Cost Savings Through Green Roofs: A Myth

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, June 10, 2013

An Executive Summary of Facts by Jörg Breuning

It is unavoidable and common sense that wearing wet clothes in winter will end up in hypothermia. Wearing the same wet clothes on a hot summer day, might actually help to feel cooler - not to be confused with feeling more comfortable. If we have only one set of clothes, for all four seasons, they would typically be made up of two layers. The first layer protects against direct environmental impacts such as sunlight, rain or wind and the second layer usually consists of a breathable layer for comfortable wearing and controlled air circulation. 

Source: Columbia

I have learned on my travels all across different desserts on earth that these layers reduce temperature increase on hot, sunny days, but at the same time can reduce the loss of body heat during extremely cold nights. Indigenous people of extreme environments have learned this lesson over centuries and were able to survive under these circumstances with this simple layer strategy. My father always used to say: "What is good for the cold is also good for the warm."

 Any man-made structure is nothing more than a body that requires consistent 'body temperature' to make it usable for the purposed design. A building without reliable all-season clothes is worthless or requires a tremendous effort (energy or operating costs) to make it useful.

Helping to make a building useful for people, the 'coat' consists typically of an insulation layer covered with a layer to protect against the elements (waterproofing, roofing membrane). Since we all know that the protective sheet will deteriorate over time this sheet (waterproofing) has to eventually be renewed, a process experts call re-roofing, which usually happens every 18-25 years.  

It is proven by my experience (since I have been designing and installing green roofs for 35 years) that a green roof can double the lifespan of the roof. The green roof acts like an additional all season two-layer system on top of the roof where healthy plants are the first layer, protecting against direct environmental impacts. The green roof growing media (green roof soil) is the breathable layer.

There is only one difference; the breathable layer (growing media) on a green roof is also the basis for the well-being of the plants and must be able to store water and air at the same time for a healthy growth. If this layer doesn't fully support the plants (and only the plants) the entire coat does not function and the plants tend to indicate this by suffering or a change in plant varieties present.

Above we learned that a wet coat in winter causes problems because water is not a good insulator and so we have to consider heat loss in winter when speaking about green roofs. We also understand now that dry green roof soil in summer will store heat (in the aggregates) and increases the cooling needs.

A green roof (and green walls that grow on growing substrates on vertical surfaces with consistent irrigation) are only thermal masses with hardly any insulating values. Considering these facts, building owners should be cautious when someone tells them that green roofs are good insulators. This is just not the case, especially if the building envelope is not insulated correctly in the beginning. Fixing heating and cooling loss simply through green roofs and/or green walls is impossible or a short-term solution.

With all the current research in this field, it's surprising to me that people still claim green roofs are good insulators. Additional insulation below the original coat is necessary (waterproofing or walls) to make the most effective roof (cost wise and physically) compared to any vegetated layer combined with growing media of growing substrate.

However, the thermal mass "green roof" certainly has lifespan extending properties for the waterproofing (and again, I can confirm this with projects spanning over 35 years). This is the key to start thinking in long terms (50+ years) in the building industry and is the most sustainable approach. Longevity is hardly considered in LEED™ certifications and with less emphasis on longevity, many awarded LEED™ buildings might fail for a certification because they can't be upgraded easily when the costs of energy increase. I am not referring to how wasteful the footprints of many of these 'innovative' building designs are.

Photo DM Products: Penn State's futuristic Millennium Science Complex earns LEED Gold for this space-wasting empty over hang. The 'water head' of the campus (or of their bureaucracy). Pants can not even grow underneath - how can people survive?

In the last 35 years, energy costs increased eight to ten times (!) and are expected to grow accordingly over the next three to five decades (or the lifespan of a green roof). Knowing this, selling a green roof for insulation purposes will unavoidably end up in a costly disaster for the building owner. Removing a fully functioning green roof in less that 25 years after installation, simply to add to more insulation, meet future requirements or to keep heating and cooling costs low.

Green roofs do not extend the life span of selected, important building components dramatically. Increasing the lifespan of any building is the best environmentally friendly approach in the building industry and the most efficient way to reduce costs for the owner over decades. Although, if scientitst and green roof professionals often do not understand this unique property of green roofs and don't design underplaying components accordingly, the building owner won't be very happy in the future. In 20-25 years when parts star needing to be replaced, a second green roof will be the last choice of the building owner because it will simply be additional costs with few benefits as originally promoted.He might not understand why he should disassemble a perfectly functioning and well established green roof, precisely when certain individuals led him in the wrong direction in the past.

Conclusions:

•  As a building owner be careful when people try to sell you green roofs as a good insulator without mentioning that additional insulation is necessary for the building for future energy needs.

•  Building owners have to understand that any available research about the insulation value of green roofs reflect only a current snap shot and potential savings in a very short time period (less that half life time of a green roof) and they are worthless when the intention is to build for half a century.

•  There are no energy  studies completed over a 50+ year time span comparing a green roof (plus additional insulation) and a conventional roof that will be re-roofed with additional insulation 20 years from now (typical re-roofing practice)

Trust only experts that recommend additional insulation under the green roof because then they expect that your investment will last a human lifetime, which will be profitable but also affordable during this time. Designing the roof (or wall) to last for five decades or more requires a lot of responsibility and expertise of the designers - if they value their customers.

 

Rooftop Farming an Environmental Nightmare

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 04, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

Companies spend millions of dollars on creating rooftop farms to demonstrate how "green" they are. There is no doubt advertising with living green is a good idea because it makes the customers believe that the company practices environmental leadership.

However, the reality looks very differently.

Recently a food company started a huge campaign promoting their rooftop farm (and their green leadership) by opening a 17,000 square foot rooftop farm on the East Coast.They were optimistic that they could grow 10,000 pounds of produce during the short growing season. This is approximately 25% over the average vegetable and berry crop yields estimated for New England on the ground during a good year, based on traditional irrigated farmland.

Since environmental conditions on rooftops are more extreme, achieving this goal seems ambitious and will require higher amounts of water and fertilizer. With more moisture in green roof soil the main benefit of green roofs (stormwater retention) is sacrificed and the run-off will most likely now contain more nutrients than in the run-off from traditional farms. Nutrients are already the number one pollutant in our waterways.

Based on these harsh environmental conditions growing crops on rooftops will be more labor intensive.

A 17,000 square foot rooftop farm requires approximately 300 tons of engineered growing media (soil) or 672,000 pounds in order to grow an average of 8,000 pounds of produce a year. In other words, it takes more than 80 years to grow the equivalent crop weight that was transported up onto the roof in the first place. This does not include the tons of water, fertilizer or structural support for the building that has to be shipped to the city and hoisted up on to the roof to start and maintain the garden.

Roof top farms ultimately increase the shipping (costs) of goods into cities. Shipping produce from a farm located on the ground is cheaper and more efficient because everything necessary to sustain the farm is already at hand. The food from rooftop farms is being transported a shorter distance creating a false sense of environmental responsibility. When in reality, the amount of materials essential to implement and maintain a rooftop farm outweighs the good in this situation.

Consider this: every person consumes 200-400 pounds of produce in a year (Profiling Food Consumption in America in 2000, Agricultural Fact Book) and an average of 8,000 pounds feeds around 20-40 people and requires at least one full-time, skilled farmer.

On a traditional field, one farmer can easily manage a 10-20 times larger area with a higher yield per acre using organic principals, which are not even discussed with most roof top farms.

Buyers of food from companies with rooftop farms are misled by advertising and are paying more for their goods while supporting a trend known as Greenwashing.

Jörg Breuning welcomes people who want to learn from decades of green roof experience - askjorg@greenrooftechnology.com

 


Green Roof Irrigation Revisited

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, June 01, 2013


About a month ago the blog, Irrigation on Extensive Green Roofs, was posted on our website explaining why irrigation is an unnecessary component of any extensive green roof. A green roof is an efficient system that should function perfectly on its own in the given environment. An extended version of this article was recently posted on Greenroofs.com. You can check out the whole irrigation article here!

Jörg Breuning welcomes people who want to learn from decades of green roof experience - askjorg@greenrooftechnology.com



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