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Mineral Wool in Green Roofs – From Zero to Hero?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, April 13, 2019

 Mineral Wool in Green Roofs – From Zero to Hero?

The use of Mineral Wool in Green Roof applications is an increasing trend in North America and in countries where such industry is still young or focused on fast profits rather than on longevity.

 

One selling benefit of Green Roofs is the extended lifetime of the underlying water proofing because the Green Roof protects the roofing against the elements. Can Mineral Wool stand up to this?

Against any semi scientific promotional material from Mineral Wool applicators, the market share of mineral wool in the German Green Roof construction industry is around 0.1% or out of 100 million square foot new green roof construction every year (Germany) it is only around 100,000 sf/year.

The reasons for this marginal market share are simple:

  • Mineral Wool has shown a drastic loss in performance after 5-7 years.
  • Mineral Wool is engineered for nurseries and for only one growing cycle.
  • Mineral Wool fibers are considered “hazard” in Europe.
  • On extensive Green Roofs the water retention and water-air ratio is unsuitable for succulents.
  • Mineral Wool expands and contracts in wet-dry cycles.
  • Mineral Wool is hydrophobic and can dry out the traditional overlaying growth media faster.
  • Mineral Wool growth media boards require ballast.
  • Green Roofs with Mineral Wool are difficult to repair, replant or recover.
  • Mineral Wool interrupts natural soil profiles (unnatural soil profile).
  • Mineral Wool is an additional installation step and related to higher costs.
  • Some Mineral Wool products compress under the load of ballast (soil).
  • Some Mineral Wool products contain Phenol resin or Phenol-Urea-Formaldehyde resin as binder and these products can hardly be recycled. Ecose technology is environmentally better but it doesn’t eliminate other problems mentioned here.
  • Reuse of all types of Mineral Wool for the same purpose is only possible after a (non-existing) difficult remanufacturing process.

 

An inexperienced green roof installer might like the idea of an obvious simple installation. However, what looks nice in a brochure doesn’t necessarily reflect the reality. Ballast on the Mineral Wool boards is still required and this requires different equipment. The setup costs for additional equipment are the same whether small or larger amounts of ballast ( or ballast reduces the setup costs).

Engineers might like the tremendous amount of water retention of Mineral Wool. However, they forget that plants (vegetation) have a very specific need for a balanced air-water ratio. If engineers plan the use of succulents (like Sedums) such air-water ratio is even more important (emphasis on air). Engineers are not horticulturalists.

Mineral Wool is widely used in nurseries for one-season vegetables. After this growing season the Mineral Wool (often combined with plastic) ends up on landfills. In 2008 it was around 200,000 tons of hazard waste in Netherland alone. Further, nurseries are growing their crops under highly computer controlled conditions for nutrients and air-water ratio in green houses. Who wants to sell a nursery to a building owner with roof under the sky?

In general shouldn’t we like Mineral Wool in Green Roofs? Mineral Wool gives us lucrative additional jobs in the future for repair or replacement (job security…).

 

 Photo: Repair, Reuse - impossible

I am a lifelong green roof professional and I stand up to my principals with the promise that a green roof should last as long as the building – and that the materials can be reused for the same purpose after that and without processing (there are many fancy names in advertising for it, like cradle-to-cradle etc.).

Like me many people don’t care about fancy word creation and they stand for and what the American Green Roof industry should stand for uncompromised quality and doing things right. Quick profits, instant gratification or senseless warranties don’t promote the trade of professional Green Roofers and it is certainly not my philosophy.

Mineral Wool is: From hero to zero.

 

I appreciate reading my opinion, based on 4 decades of Green Roof experience from all Green Roof friendly places in the world.

Celebration 20 years of Integrated Green Infrastructure

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, July 12, 2018
Integrated Green Infrastructure That Last

Celebrating two projects with 20 years of integrated Green Infrastructure.

It is now 20 years after Jorg Breuning managed the Green Roof installation at the Zeppelin-Carrée (left)

and 1999 Kronen-Carrée (right) in Stuttgart.

 

Over 500,000 sf of green roofs nicely visible on Google Earth. Probably the first Solar Garden Roof on Earth.

Experience pays back on the first day!

 

#greenroofs #biophylilla #stormwater #greenrooftechnology #greeninfrastructure #optigreen #solargardenroof

Fluent Transition from Green Roof to Green Wall

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, April 06, 2018

Fluent Transition from Green Roof to Green Wall for 23 Years



Multimedia artist André Heller created a world of wonder to celebrate Swarovski’s hundredth anniversary in 1995. Heller’s thematic centerpiece for Swarovski Crystal Worlds was the shape of the Giant. He developed the story of a Giant who set out to experience the world and all of its treasures and wonders. With this knowledge, the Giant settled down in Wattens/Tyrol, where he has watched over his Chambers of Wonder ever since.

So far, 14 million visitors from around the world have experienced the magic!

The original principle of these Chambers of Wonder is based on the historical chamber of wonders in the castle of Ambras, which was a sixteenth-century attempt to assemble a universal collection of all knowledge known at the time. In the Chambers of Wonder at Swarovski Crystal Worlds, internationally and nationally recognized artists, designers, and architects have interpreted crystal in their own unique ways. They create concepts of space and experience from the sparkling material.

Welcome to the magical world that unfolds whenever you step through the head of the Giant into Swarovski Crystal Worlds…

Visit the worlds of wonders covered under a Green Roof and protected by the Green Giant:

The subterranean world of the Giant begins in the Blue Hall, the first Chamber of Wonder in Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds). Its slanted walls, painted in the color “International Klein Blue,” a shade developed by the artist Yves Klein, suggest the inside of a cave.
#greeninfrastructure #greenroofs #greenwalls #svarovski #stormwater #oldschoolgreening #sustainable #museeum

Health Care and Green Infrastructure

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, February 06, 2018

State of the Art Health Care and Green Infrastructure

BG Hospital Tübingen A hospital with LEED certification might be far away from State-of-the-Art. That it can be done differently and with commons sense shows the featured project. It has been upgraded constantly over the last 5 decades, always with Green Infrastructure in mind as a central element to reduce the footprint of the building and the increase the well-being of the patients.
 

This project likely increases LEED Platinum by 30%, but no Dollar or Cent was wasted for any certification. All money was directly invested in measurements to improve the environmental foot print and to increase the patients experience, that they can leave the hospital as soon as possible.

American Hospitals typically want to shine with their LEED points and assume that patients like this idea. Unfortunately this doesn't help in their healing process, actually keeps them longer in hospital - what helps the hospitals having more occupied beds and more income. The patients pay for the ego of the hospitals likely twice (not State-of-the-Art!).
BG Hospital Tübingen: The BG Hospital Tübingen is one of the largest trauma centers in Germany. 

Initially designed as follow-up clinic, it has been working closely with the neighboring Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen and its university hospital. 
In 1987, the collaboration became contractual: within the scope of the “Tübinger Modell”, the clinic takes care of the treatment of patients, as well as of research and teaching in the fields of trauma, hand, plastic and burn surgery. In 2006, this very successful model was expanded to the fields of oral, jaw and facial surgery, which have since been integrated into the BG hospital. The Siegfried Weller Institute for Traumatological Surgery at the BG hospital Tübingen works on a wide range of innovative projects. The work done by interdisciplinary teams focuses on bone metabolism diseases and stem cell research.

Germany has a universal multi-payer health care system with two main types of health insurance: "Statutory Health Insurance" (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) known as sickness funds (Krankenkassen) and "Private Health Insurance" (Private Krankenversicherung). Germany's state healthcare system is the oldest in Europe, dating back to the 1880s. Citizens pay into one of the 300 statutory state sickness funds through their payroll or bank. According to the Euro health consumer index, which placed it in 7th position in its 2015 survey, Germany has long had the most restriction-free and consumer-oriented healthcare system in Europe. Patients are allowed to seek almost any type of care they wish whenever they want it.
Please find a larger picture here: Jorg Breuning www.greenrooftechnology.com

Fireworks, Green Roofs and Happy New Year! 2018

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Sunday, December 31, 2017

Green Roofs and Fireworks


Practically all dry organic materials are combustible at relative low temperatures. Roof shingles or many waterproofing membranes on roofs are typically petroleum-based products (including Asphalt) and there is hardly any difference to dry organic materials. Some products are equipped with chemical fire retardants that could decrease the risk of spreading fire, unfortunately not the risk of leaks cause by heat and impact.

The living vegetation of fully functional and well-engineered green roofs contains moisture and most plants (especially succulent plants on large extensive green roofs) have a fraction of the energetic potential comparing to all other components used in a building. The green roof growing media (soil for the green roof plants) is a blend of different mineral components with an organic content of typically less that 15%. It is practically impossible to set this material on fire – even when the natural moisture content is not considered.

Fires or leaks on non-vegetated roofs caused by consumer or display fireworks could have been prevented if the building would have had a fully functional green roof without mono-culture vegetation, or if conventional roofs would be well-maintained (regular removing of organic debris from the roof and gutters).

Certainly a fire is the worst-case scenario; however in most cases smoldering firework parts (and cigarettes) are only causing leaks on unprotected roofs that are discovered much later and relate to costly repair. Roof warranties typically don't cover any sort of mechanical impact and they are -again- worthless. See blog post from 2014.
See also Fire Safety on GreenRoofs

Nature is (literally) so cool.

Happy New Year!

Norwegian Green Roof Log Cabins in the USA

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Norwegian Green Roof Log Cabins in the USA

Sloped Green Roof

Around 50 years ago there was trend in the USA of having Norwegian Log Cabins as a second home.

All of these cabins came entirely from Norway and they all had a Green Roof. Most of these cabins with timber from Norway still exist and the owners are very proud of having these solid, cozy and unique structures.
Unfortunately most of Green Roofs have been replaced by metal roofing during the last 20 years.

Nevertheless the simple Green Roof systems (without plastics) lasted at least 3 decades without major maintenance and without any irrigation systems. Even Fire Marshals never had an issue with this unique long lasting roofing solution.
Around 12 years ago I had the honor to meet a building owner, who wanted a Green Roof back and as it was originally designed. The project was near Washington, DC and meanwhile the building was surrounded by 60 feet tall trees and entirely in the shade. The structure was still able to carry around 30psf for the Green Roof.

Finally, with a new roofing and a divided drainage system in a multilayered, seamless Green Roof the owner was satisfied with the result. Look at the picture (from 2015) and tell me what you think.

There is no irrigation system, no single source warranty, very limited use of plastics and very limited maintenance.



See more: Click Here
 

Natural Blow Job

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, May 30, 2016

Natural Blow Job

Like an endless army of parachutists released from an airplane, seeds and fruits travel the wind currents and gentle breezes of the earth, possibly colonizing a distant mountain slope or fertile valley potentially 1000 miles from their origin. Literally hundreds of species in many plant families have adopted this remarkable method of dispersal and make the promoters of native plants look like a fool.

Imagine a little parachutist seed can fly 1000 miles in ten days it still takes probably 20-30 generations and 15-20 years getting around the globe. Seeds found in hail or high altitude air samples confirm that this is not a fiction.

Plants have very limited mobility and consequently rely upon a variety of dispersal vectors. Wind is only one and there are many other smart ways. The easiest might be humans. If a plant gives humans a trade-off (nice flower, fruit etc.) they can carry them as far and nowadays in a much short time.

Relocating to a faraway location isn’t always successful but it is necessary for the specie to survive in evolution where natural and manmade forces might eliminate the original place. Especially under fast changing climate conditions it is important for specie to stay flexible or to mix with similar species to create more resident ones.   

Comparing to this smart and self-sustaining way of plants, many humans make themselves to fool by either helping to transport the plants or by categorizing plants into native and non-native.  Doesn’t it sound like schizophrenia when you get a LEED point for native plants on a 500sf Green Roof downtown Manhattan and at the same time(GMO) corn is grown on almost 100,000,000 acres across the US?

There is no question that the worlds Gen-pool of all organisms must be preserved but the way as it is approached seems in most cases unprofessional and desperate.  Being 45 years a gardener, I understand that nature has its own way – we can be part of it but we can’t be the director of it.

 

Green Roof Failures

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Do Green Roof Failures increase with Roofing Manufacturers?


 

 

In the last two days I visited four of my projects that are between 14 years and 1 year old.

Each of these Green Roof has an own interstesting history and with the exception of the “cozy” Green Roof, each of the extensive green roof host over 25 and 40 plant species in excellent health.

None of them was ever irrigated and the oldest was fertilized the last time 10 years ago. All of them require hardly any maintenance (2 hours per 5,000sf / year).  One Green Roof is maintained only once every 3 years.

 

For these amazing, inexpensive and resilient green roofs a special thank to all who participated!

 

In contrast:

I was on one roof that was installed and maintained by a roofing company with materials from a famous roofing manufacturer.   This roof is basically going down the drain because of incompetence, sloppy work, and inappropriate materials.

This roof came with a costly single source warranty that –as always – doesn’t cover anything of the green roof. The cost for this worthless application was around 25% higher than a fully functioning Green Roof from well trained gardeners.

 

This is one of many projects around the Nation where I am questioning myself whether roofing manufactures and roofing companies should work in the Green Roof field. As a matter of fact in last decade 90% of roofing manufacturers offered Green Roof Systems that consistently underperform or that are not maintained properly. Actually most of these manufactures changed their systems and approaches to Green Roofs more often than they changed the management of these multi-million Dollar corporations. 

While many of these manager focuses on how increase revenue and some of them how to fix the problems with Green Roofs their quality of the waterproofing and craftsmanship of their installations went down. Striving for more revenue is not a wrong thing in general but when this is done on the backbone of the Green Roof industry and our all prospect clients it is more than questionable.

As client you have to figure out whether it is more important to make unknown stockholder happy or yourself.

I don’t fall for roofing warranties and sales forces with nice brochure

This particular roof will be recovered by an extensive weekly maintenance program until the end of the year and a monthly maintenance program for the entire next year!  

Fireworks, Green Roofs and Happy New Year!

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, December 31, 2015

 

Fireworks, Green Roofs and Happy New Year!

Practically all dry organic materials are combustible at relative low temperatures. Roof shingles or many waterproofing membranes on roofs are typically petroleum-based products (including Asphalt) and there is hardly a difference to dry organic materials. Some products are equipped with chemical fire retardants that could decrease the risk of spreading fire, not the risk of leaks cause by impact.

The living vegetation of functional and well-engineered green roofs contain moisture and most plants (especially succulent plants on large extensive green roofs) have a fraction of the energetic potential comparing to all other components used in a building. The green roof growing media (soil for the green roof plants) is a blend of different mineral components with an organic content of typically less that 15%. It is practically impossible to set this material on fire – not even considering its natural moisture content.

Potential fires or leaks on roofs caused by consumer or display fireworks can be prevented if the building has a fully functional green roof.

A fire on any roof is the worst-case scenario. I many cases smoldering firework parts (and cigarettes) are causing leaks on unprotected roofs that are discovered much later. These problems are unknown on fully functional green roofs. When a green roof prevents a leak or even a fire it is typically not recognized but will save expensive repair or even loss of a building.

Nature is (literally) so cool.

Happy and successful green 2016!

 

Zero Run-Off for 20 Years

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Sunday, December 06, 2015

Zero Run-Off for 20 Years!

 

The Kriegbaum Logistic Center and production facility is located in southwest Germany. This extensive Green Roof in Bondorf was designed by Stötzer + Neher Landscape Architects primarily as a nature roof for advanced water retention.

This project demonstrates over 2 decades using Green Roofs as a storm water management tool. The entire complex containing the two huge warehouses and adjacent parking areas has no (zero) run-off to the sewer system. All rainwater is retained, treated and infiltrated into the ground water on-site. All components were tested to avoid any contamination of the ground water. The infiltration water (run-off) is consistently tested for water quality. Since the project often has no run-off it is impossible to perform water tests – no run-off = no pollution.

Installation of this 14 acre green roof was a special challenge since it had to be completed within 10 weeks. This could only be achieved by having 4 state of the art blower trucks on site working constantly to apply the 10,000 cubic yards of growing media on the roof (up to 500 cubic yards a day). With a 150-ton hydraulic crane, all the other components (almost 100 truck loads / 3 per day) were conveyed to the roof area.

To increase biodiversity there are multiple locations on the roof with seasonal open water, wood locks and breeding opportunities for birds.

The project saved the building owner around 2 million Euros for increasing the water treatment plant and sewer system.


North America in contrast:

 

From 2010 to 2015 warehouse new construction in the US tippled from around $5 billion to 15 Billion this equals around 1000 new warehouses every year and translates to a potential of at least 1 Billion of square feet of extensive Green Roofs that could retain the volume of Lake Constance that is surrounded by three countries (Germany, Switzerland and Austria). On top of that and if these Green Roofs are done right and without irrigation, these Green Roofs would allow a controlled succession that could develop over the years to a unique habitat for many endangered species.

As the nationwide building codes require expensive engineered fire suppression systems the same building codes can require simple and highly efficient Green Roofs. Unfortunately most Green Roof or other environmental organizations don’t focus the low cost, high efficient simplicity – they focus on adding carrots or a rare native plant species to an environment that is far away from being connected to the ground.

Common sense exists as term but it isn’t in the head of most people because it doesn’t generate the attention and “individualism”.


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