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Proud to be the New Green Roof Technology Team Member!

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, December 14, 2012
By Samantha Yurek



I grew up in Norrisville, an extremely rural area in the top left hand corner of Harford County.  My childhood was one of exploration; following streams imagining we were Lewis and Clark, constructing forts from the natural resources abundant in the forest behind my house, playing outside all hours of the day.  Our parents had no need to worry; we lived on the side of town where the grass was greener.  The time I spent outside as a child has given me so much appreciation for the earth where we reside.  It wasn’t until I enrolled in an environmental class during my senior year of high school, that my heart was finally set on a career path advocating for the health of our environment.

I eventually broke away from the small town scene to further my education at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  This past May I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Communications.  Even with the gray cloud of unemployment casting a shadow over the majority of recent college graduates, a narrow ray of sunshine peeked its way into my life.  I recently got my foot in to the door of the growing environmental movement by becoming a new member of the Green Roof Technology team.

Although my experience with green roofs has been limited, I’m excited to expand my knowledge on the subject as well as start my new career working towards a positive change in our environment and community.  I look forward to practicing the art of writing, whether it’s in the form of a blog, a magazine article, or a simple email reaching out to our clients.  There are so many aspects of the green roofing industry and I’ve only started to dip my toes in the lake of knowledge Green Roof Technology has to offer me.  Today will mark my fourth day as a team member and I have already gained understanding of the various types of green roofs, the process in which they are created, and found out that my company is the single supplier of the integrated solar green roof design in North America.  I have found the perfect job: personally having a hand in mitigating storm water runoff, lowering the urban heat island effect, improving the air quality, and producing power using a sustainable resource, amongst many other benefits.  I want to thank my coworkers for this unique opportunity that will surely rival any Christmas present I will receive this year.  Don’t forget, every green roof counts!


Ground Mounted Solar Farms - Questionable

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, December 08, 2012

Ground mounted Solar Farms are questionable.

Jörg Breuning Dec 5th 2012

 

It is widely known that multibillion companies are massively investing in solar energy. Especially Internet companies (Google, Yahoo, 1and1, etc.) have huge demands for energy to feed their decentralized server systems. Experts estimated that in ten years from now this modern telecommunication (internet, clouds, videos, email etc.) require worldwide 1963 Billion kWh. This is three times more than the current entire power consumption of France, Germany, Brazil and Canada together (Greenpeace).  With this numbers in mind it is understandable that these companies like to reduce their energy costs in the long run with alternative energies.

Photograph: Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images

However alternative energy doesn’t mean it is “green”. Especially ground mounted solar farms (the preferred solution of these companies) consume a tremendous amount of land and produce substantial amounts of run-off. Typically the development starts with clear-cuts of forests, elimination of native environments or transforming farm land. After the development is done sometimes vegetation is brought back. Typically low growing grasses that require regular maintenance with sheep, weed covers, mulch, gas powered mowers and chemicals.

Source: http://www.greentechmedia.com/content/images/articles/German-Solar-Weeds%281%29.jpg

Once this expensive maintenance is not done consistently the performance of the system will suffer and eventually completely fail.

Picture: http://www.greentechmedia.com/content/images/articles/German-Solar-Weedds(1).

 

Ground remote Solar Farms.

Solar arrays installed on already impervious areas will reduce the land consumption dramatically. Also being less addicted to Facebook , IGadgets, PC, or smart Phones can actually reduce the energy need -our impact- without losing contact to friends and still making new friends. A hand written note in a personal calendar can be more environmentally friendly than connecting to clouds and email programs.

Since there are already enough existing roofs, parking lots, rail road tracks and roadways that could be covered with Solar and also combined with extensive green roofs would create recognizable stormwater reduction, perviousness and last not least power. This combined technology is available since decades but many Architects, Engineers and developers seemed to be blinded by the sun while the supposing green industry takes out one piece of fertile land at a time and taking away nature’s most advanced solar panel – the plants that are surrounded by a natural sponge.

No additional land use and hardly any maintenance on extensive Green Roof / Solar combination with the well-engineered Sun-Root ™.

Sun-Root System unfazed by Superstorm Sandy

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, December 04, 2012

by Ryan Miller

In April of 2012, Green Roof Technology introduced the first Sun-Root solar green roof system to the United States when we installed a 1 kW system (4 Sun-Root Modules) atop the New York Parks & Rec. office on Randall’s Island in New York City. The rooftop, which is eye-level with commuters on the Triboro bridge, creates and stores enough power during the day to power a series of rooftop LED lights throughout the night.  New York City Parks & Rec was drawn to this technology as a means of adding solar power without the need to drill into the membrane to harness the solar array.

Although controlled wind studies have already proven the strength of this system, we are now able to report some real-life wind tests.  Recent Superstorm Sandy made landfall late October, only 6 months after installation, and left without moving the Sun-Root System an inch.  New York City reported maximum sustained winds at 85 mph with some gusts reaching 92 mph .  Upon visiting the site a week after the storm made landfall we found that our original placements of the Sun-Root withstood the winds without a shift.   Jorg could not be happier.


Green Roof Research in North America

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, December 03, 2012

Green Roof Research in North America By Jörg Breuning

 

I am always amazed how much funds, intellectual energy and resources are put into research of extensive green roofs without the consideration of feasibility and without considering the demands of the plants.  Especially in research common sense should be the starting point of any qualified discussion. This raises also the questions, why are extensive green roofs in Europe –in particular Germany – are so successful?

It is solely successful because extensive green roofs according modern green roof technology are a cost efficient (and beautiful) tool to manage stromwater issues. Period. All other highly market benefits or positive “side effects” are generated by the system for free because these are only consequences of successful implemented nature. Focusing on the side effects and improving them will compromise and eventually reduce the main purpose of an extensive green roof by increasing costs for designing, engineering, implementing and maintenance.

In the academic world Liebig’s law of the Minimum should be applied in any step of the discussion and research. However understanding the limiting factors – including limiting economic factors – requires a tremendous amount of experience, historical data and common sense. The lack of these factors and the lack of time seem the limiting elements but justified by many unique human properties like vanity, self-promotion and economic restrains. On the other side (consumer side) the humans are also part of nature and it is natural that any of their decisions are made accordingly. If an idea doesn’t fit into this process (controlled by the scarcest or limiting resource) we walk away from it, like plants will “walk away” if their minimum requirements are not met. With the disappearance of plants on an extensive green roof we lose the purpose and the investment.

It is common sense that plants cannot walk away as fast as humans so their disappearance might take 2 decades or more which is still much less than the lifespan of extensive green roofs – the lifespan we promote.

For example measuring and promoting building insulation properties of a thermal mass or heat sinks like extensive green roofs was developed as a selling instrument of the industry (like reflective roofs). Trying to improve that will consequently compromise the main purpose to the negative. The end of this research will find out that it is most efficient and probably 10 times cheaper just to increase the buildings insulation on any surface of the building. It will also perfectly benefit when energy prices will continue to super-proportional increase or when we like to build our settlements that they last longer than just two decades – or when we want that the building has the same lifespan as an extensive green roof.

As I brought modern green roof technology to North America from Europe I expected a higher understanding of common sense and of Liebig’s law since it seemed to work in the social and financial world. Investing the research funds in actual extensive green roofs according proven modern green roof technology (e.g. not pre-planted boxes) would benefit the environment, industry and building owner much more and would help to start an entirely new research generation in 10-15 years from now.

When it comes to living technologies going back to the roots sometimes helps or simply is a necessity.  

DC Green Roof Education and Outreach Event

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, November 12, 2012

On Friday, November 16th Jorg and Ryan will be in Washington DC to give a presentation on Solar Green Roofs.  

The event is hosted by the Anacostia Watershed Society and will focus on 3 important issues: a) the benefits and design of solar green roofs, b) the design and plant selection for green roofs, and c) methods to reduce the installation and life-cycle costs of green roofs.

If you wish to join us on Friday, please RSVP to greenroofs@anacostiaws.org  Space is very limited, as we expect a full house.

Swarthmore College's Little White Grub Problem

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, October 26, 2012
A few months ago we were contacted by Swarthmore College to help identify the cause of a disturbance on the roof.  During a routine visit in August about 20% of a large, upper section of a green roof was completely torn up.  The disturbance occurred in areas where low-growing Sedums, such as S. sexangulare, S. album, and S. spurium dominate.  Areas where taller Sedums, such as S. takesimense, S. kamtschaticum grow were left undisturbed.  

Further investigation located the likely perpetrators.  Numerous white grubs were found in soil.  The likely cause of the Sedums being torn up is from birds scavenging for a snack.  The grubs feed off the roots of the Sedums, weakening their ability to resist the damage caused by the birds.  

Our article about the damage inflicted on the green roof and ways to remediate the problem continues in our Autumn 2012 issue of Green Instance.  The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College has also written a summary of the events, which can be seen here.

Join Our Team!

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We have exciting news.  Green Roof Technology is looking for the right individual to join our team.  You can see more details about the position here.  

But suffice it to say, we're looking for an experienced and enthusiastic person to help with all our social media needs and office organization.  

We have been sorely needing someone to help us out with this work for some time now, and with the upcoming year looking busier than ever, this winter is the best time to add to our ranks.  

If you're interested in the position, please email andrew@greenrooftechnology.com, subject Social Media Position.  Be sure to include your resume and cover sheet.

The Enclave

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Enclave Gets a Lawn

Last week Green Roof Technology, with the help from some friends from Highview Creations, spent  3 days installing a 4300 sf. sod lawn at The Enclave in College Park, Maryland.  The project was a huge success.  Every step of the way went nearly as smoothly as we had imagined.  

Here's a succession of photos taken over the course of the install.  Enjoy!

Just a note to everyone out there:  Rolling out 4300 sf of sod in 100 degree heat is HARD work.  I spent most of the day soaking myself down under the sprinklers.   

Most Economic Green Walls

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, August 25, 2012

 Paris Green Wall

 

Some decades ago Patrick Blanc, French botanist working at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and specialized in plants from tropical forests created and introduced a unique design for a vertical garden with real plants (Vertical Garden, Green Wall or Mur Végétal). His simple system or other much more sophisticated systems are based on a consistent water and nutrient supply comparable to horizontal high tide/ low tide (Ebbe/Flut) systems in super-efficient nurseries. These systems often include artificial light and heat/cooling for sustainable growth.

Without being a horticultural expert Patrick Blanc was able to start a new trend utilizing horizontal plant propagating systems applied to the vertical as living art. Maintenance and operational costs of all these wall planted systems are very high and so the environmental benefit is certainly questionable. Typically in less than 10 years costs for maintenance and replanting increase the cost for installation without considering the high consumption of energy and water. 

Today when you fly in to Paris Airport Charles de Gaulle you will see multiple, small green walls - very attractive, lush green with an appealing biodiversity. Closer investigations discovered that these walls the next step of green walls that are super-efficient and extremely low cost for installation and maintenance. The systems at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris don’t need any artificial lights, they are completely disconnected from any power and water source and they are very efficient dust collectors. The amazing biodiversity has potential for the highest LEED rating.

Here are a few plants identified:

  • Attractiva plasticifolia (grown out of recycled content)
  • Fakefolia polychloridenses (PCB senct)
  • Metatrashus recyclisa (never green invasive)
  • Ripoffera myclientus `Variegatus´ (native)
  • Hidensia polyestertonia (forever green)

 

Good art reinvented.

Dr. Phil O. Dendron, Bel Air,  August 26th 2012,       

Mid Atlantic Green Roof Symposium Highlight

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One topic on discussion during the symposium I believe is in need of even more discussion is the implementation of a requirement to monitor the long-term performance of green roofs.

The need for annual green roof monitoring is essential.  Too often we encounter failing green roofs.  The green roof ecosystem is fragile, especially in its early establishment years, and can fail for many reasons.  They can fail due to poor design, poor installation, wrong material choices or negligent maintenance, and none are mutually exclusive.  The effect this has on the performance of a green roof is dramatic.  A complete failure of a green roof system can occur rapidly and it is a huge liability, both economically and for safety reasons.  Let us also not forget that a bad green roof is an image problem for all of us and reflects badly on the entire industry.  Each green roof that fails to support its vegetation or leaks is one more stigma the entire industry has to overcome.

A mandatory green roof monitoring system, whether operated by a government agency or an independent 3rd party, would be able to identify failing green roofs and require whatever is necessary to restore the green roof to a proper level of performance.  We believe any green roof that is supporting a healthy ecosystem, complete with year-round vegetation cover, is more likely than not properly functioning and meeting leading performance metrics.

Recently, buried within Maryland’s Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program was a clause that requires annual monitoring of stormwater bmp’s: 

            (III) PROCEDURES FOR MONITORING AND ANNUALLY VERIFYING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE ON–SITE SYSTEMS, FACILITIES, SERVICES, OR ACTIVITIES IN REDUCING THE QUANTITY OR IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF STORMWATER DISCHARGED FROM THE PROPERTY.

Striking ‘annually’ from the clause is disappointing and the legislators have essentially gutted this clause of its ability to secure long-term performance effectiveness.  Once again we believe a mandatory monitoring system is essential and it is only a matter of time until one is implemented.  Who will be the first?


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