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Best Green Roof Solution

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, October 02, 2017

The Best Green Roof Solution… by Jörg Breuning, the Green Roof Patroller

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

The Best Green Roof Solution: Education & Experience

In my opinion as the Green Roof Patroller, the best green roof solution can only come from well-educated practitioners with a very long experience in selected horticultural and landscaping fields.  Over the many decades, Green Roofs have been developed from a mixture of high performance natural materials to a combination of engineered elements with natural components.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller
Case in Point: “Classic” Roof Drain Cover.

Since North America was introduced to modern Green Roof technology much later than Europe, I believe only a few people understand the real basics and the evolution of this amazing landscaping/ horticultural practice on ground-remote locations.

Trial and Error System

Without understanding the basics, the North American Green Roof market is still like a kid who learns by trial and error – on the back and costs of building owners.  One problem is that every few months “new,” “revolutionary,” and “optimized” Green Roof systems are introduced.  Made of all kinds of materials that may sound good, many hardly withstand the biological activity of plants or the harsh environment on the roof for as long as the structure lasts.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller
Brilliance – we don’t know what we are doing but when we mix all kind of different materials, double up drainage, and weigh it down with pavers, there should be no problem, right?

Something that may have been tested by NASA or firefighters isn’t automatically good for the plants or the environment.  The engineers or technicians behind such reinventions of the wheel might have fancy degrees.  However, many have hardly installed their own developments with their own hands on a large scale.

Long Term Research Lacking

Additionally, they never evaluated their inventions or innovation over a long enough time (more than 5 or 10 years) before making them available for the market.  I have seen people coming into this industry with a big bang and quietly leaving after a while to move up in the hierarchy of a different industry – to do the same there?

Who You Gonna Call?

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller
Erosion Blanket – is eroded and takes the soil down.  Sometimes a belt, suspenders, duct tape, super glue, and a nail in the belly button don’t help to hold the pants.  Buy pants in your size!

All of a sudden, the kid falls into the water well (a/k/a the Green Roof is not performing), then the building owners call for practitioners who are supposed to fix the engineers’ problems.  Building owners don’t usually call the original engineers or technicians because they can be vain.

And, when later problems or questions arise from the building owner, the engineers behind the design of the green roof don’t necessarily feel responsible anymore.  Perhaps they don’t always know the answers without Google, and these are hardly right.  In some cases they call a practitioner later; and even then, they don’t always provide the entire picture.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller
The beauty of engineering – a squared box doesn’t follow a radius.

Engineers are typically not seeking for answers that discredit their efforts.  However, they try to suck out every piece of information they can get from practitioners and simultaneously avoid valuing the source because of being afraid of scratches to their polished image.

Plants vs. the Bottom Line

An additional problem is that most engineers (even at universities) are on the payroll of large corporations that are pressured to develop profit-maximizing solutions. These solutions are typically against the needs of plants – because plants don’t care about money and the stock market.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Plants are “only” the key player on green roofs.  No happy plants = no Green Roof = no happy client.

Underperforming Green Roofs

I estimate that around 50%-60% of all Green Roofs in North America are underperforming, failing, or have been renovated, replaced, or will be going under a major renovation soon.  For Germany I would estimate this number at around 5%.  At the same time, in Europe an extensive Green Roof costs around $5/sf and in the US closer to $20/sf.

My Concerns within the North American Green Roof Industry Besides the Odd Engineering Practices?

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller
Ingenuity – when polystyrene plastic materials fall apart before they are installed.

1. No solid, full time practical training over more than two years before getting a professional in this field.

2. Students are not being paid during practical education – they actually have to pay a few 1,000 bucks to get a certification, like buying a certificate or a title at Walmart.

3. No innovative and large scale research over 5-10 years.  Just baby step copies and mail stamp-size research (typical research areas in Europe are 10-50 times bigger than in the US).

4. Green Roof contracts are coupled with roofing contracts (it is like buying a dryer only in combination with a fridge).

5. Low roofing quality, materials and/or inverted roof membrane assemblies (IRMA).

6. Repurposing materials that were never engineered for green roofs (e.g., in my opinion, there is no American-made drainage board that would meet my criteria and the full needs for plants).

7. Worthless single source warranties.  If you choose your own microwave, you don’t get a warranty on the fridge.

8. Greed for quick cash and/or fame.

9. Not understanding the big difference within the horticultural trades (a carrot grower is not automatically a green roof expert and a beekeeper doesn’t understands all plants).

10. Huge deficit in experienced and reliable hands-on installers and maintenance for Green Roofs.

11. Often, hands-on installers/practitioners are treated dismissively from architects, GCs (general contractors), roofing companies, or engineers.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller
This makes a worried customer and a happy landfill.

Green Collar Workers

Practitioners are not Blue Collar workers, they are not White Collar workers.  We are Green Collar workers who stand above the traditional collar thinking and who have had the patience to monitor this unique living environment for decades to learn how to go beyond what is written in books or on the internet.

All the above problems have a great potential to damage the Green Roof business in the long term.  Building owners don’t want to be ripped off and each project that causes problems will change their opinion about Green Roofs in general.  While many building owners don’t want to commit to owning up to a problem on their green roof, others will spread the word among other building owners.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller
The nature of nature – growing media below a plastic box with stressed Sedums. When you hire a butcher: Edging with hardly any slots; slots are too big and too high.

Ultimately, all the nice colorful brochures and great write-ups from environmental associations won’t help to change the opinion of a dissatisfied building owner, nor will it change the quality of Green Roofs.

As a practitioner I approach things very practically:

If I want a good loaf of bread, I am simply not going to the butcher.  So why do you let the butcher engineer your Green Roof?

Jörg Breuning, the Green Roof Patroller

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Health Care and Green Infrastructure

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, June 01, 2017

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: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/state-art-health-care-green-infrastructure-jorg-breuning Jorg Breuning www.greenrooftechnology.com

World’s First Modular Green Roof System

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Sunday, February 12, 2017

World’s First Modular Green Roof System

Modular Green Roof System

Green Roof Professionals around the globe often wonder or speculate how and when the commercial modern Green Roof industry really took off. There are many opinions and alternative facts out there but only a few really know that the hot spots with patents were in Basel Switzerland and in Stuttgart Germany for seamless or wall-to-wall Green Roof systems.

The World’s first modular (or tray) system has been developed in Stuttgart by Brecht and Hämmerle, mainly known as the Brecht System (if one doesn’t consider terracotta pots on roofs as a modular system).

The Brecht System was a basic polystyrene box with a three-layer Green Roof system. The system was available in extensive, semi- intensive and intensive planting depth. With this simple three-layer system the inventor combined many benefits in one box. All systems had a water reservoir for maximum water retention – more than any other Tray system currently on the market and more than any fabrics, foams or mineral wools, and the boxes contained standard nursery soil for a healthy fast growth and to lower costs.

There were different options for covering the less attractive boxes, with either wood or metal (aluminum). Today we call these frames around the boxes: Edging.  

Based on the polystyrene, the boxes were very lightweight and easy to install. Actually, they fitted into each other to create different heights and different planting depths. I would describe them as a Modular –LEGO-like planting system.

Unfortunately, any polystyrene as a limited lifespan when exposed to UV or biological activity and so many of these roof gardens had problems after 5-10 years. Further, many of the plants rooted out of the boxes (drainage holes) and penetrated the waterproofing.

Around 1992 the last Brecht System was removed and replaced by wall-to-wall or seamless Green Roof systems. All of these Green Roofs are still existing - if the building still exists.

The Brecht Modular Green Roofs system had also other issues that are similar to the currently existing systems. However, nowadays the tray systems use metal, other plastics, and mainly with irrigation systems. This makes them last longer, but as often only delays the point of failure. The roots of plants and the biological activity on healthy Green Roofs are often underestimated as well as the functional lifespan of foams, polystyrene drainage mats, and mineral wool products.

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
 

Green Roofs North America

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, July 22, 2016

 

Does this ever happen in North America?

While in North America the average size of Green Roof is around 8,000sf this size would be considered a small size Green Roof in Germany. The average size in Germany is likely over 25,000 sf and the amount of Green Roofs build every year is probably 10 times higher.

Despite higher energy costs, the costs for the installation are lower in Germany because they build them in less than the half time, with fewer people, with hardly any middle men, without pre-planted plastic boxes and without consistently reinventing the wheel.  They don’t try to sell warranties – they are actually installing Green Roofs. They also spend no or less time posting their projects on all social platforms and don’t need to say this is the biggest, nicest, most divers, highest or any other superlatives.

They just do it because they understood the environmental and social benefits of Green Roof mass production instead of trying to grow one carrot in a city for millions of people just to be on TV. Green Roofs in Germany are done for everybody vs. in North America it is often done for personal vanity.

16 years of North American Green Roof industry and still researching? When does North America think big?  

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!  

First Extensive Green Roof in the Dominican Republic

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, January 21, 2016

First Extensive Green Roof in the Dominican Republic.

More than 12 years ago my friends Miriam and Buschi decided to settle in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic to educate the local people and tourists about animal welfare and a better interaction between humans and animals.

An awesome story that has grown and created support from all around the world. Universities, veterinarians and engaged individuals from North America and Europe spend their free time by helping them with hard work and donations, making a better life for animals and humans.

 

Beside their endless efforts for animal welfare their home has two large extensive green roofs that flourish since 12 years. It is quite an effort finding the right plants that can survive on less than 3 inch of soil mix. A thick, flexible, non-bituminous and root resistant waterproofing is the only German product of the green roof system. All other components were sourced locally and evolved over the years.

 

These green roofs are the first in the Dominican Republic and represent the basics of modern green roof technology – simple and effective without plastic elements or pre-planted containers.    

http://www.amigos-de-lucky.org/

https://www.facebook.com/Amigos.de.Lucky


 

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!

 

Advanced Green Roof Technology

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, November 23, 2015

At this time of Thanksgiving celebration our thoughts turn gratefully to you with warm appreciation.

We would like to take this time to express to you our sincere appreciation for your confidence and loyalty.

We are deeply thankful and extend to you our best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day!

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