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An Exceptional Green Roof

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, February 27, 2017

Sufism Reoriented Sanctuary

 

An Exceptional Green Roof

After more than half a century in temporary quarters, Sufism Reoriented now has a permanent home in Walnut Creek, California. Designed under the guidance of Murshida Carol Weyland Conner by the distinguished architectural firm of Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie, the new sanctuary is set among serene gardens on three acres of land in a suburban neighborhood about twenty-five miles east of San Francisco.

Alan Ritchie’s design perfectly realized Murshida Carol Weyland Conner's vision. Brought to fruition by the Architect of Record, Soga + Associates Architect Inc, this beautiful design is to endure for over 700 years. The building is innovative in many ways, from its curved marble cladding from Carrera, Italy, to its climate control with state-of-art air filtering systems, to its Green Roof composition with 100% recycled Foam Glass Gravel  engineered by Jorg Breuning , Owner of Green Roof Service LLC , to its storm water management with rain harvesting features to retain the entire annual rainfall, to its 33 feet tall hollow bronze sculpture with seismic base isolators and acrylic butterflies, standing inside of a 3-story tall room with curved glass guardrails.


With highly experienced architectural services and project management by Clement T. Soga, Soga + Associates Architects Inc, the Sanctuary’s construction began on May 24, 2012 and its Ribbon Cutting ceremony was held on February 24, 2017.

 

Green Roof Service LLC – Green Roof Technology worked hand in hand with Sufism Reoriented, Soga + Associates Architects Inc, and SWA Group Landscape Architecture to create a Green Roof solution that perfectly mimics the natural soil horizons with materials that will last thousands of years without compromising or limiting healthy growth of any vegetation at any time. Jensen Landscape carefully implemented the details and specifications of this new type of Green Roof under the direction of Jorg Breuning.  It is the first Green Roof in North America that utilizes Foam Glass Gravel made of 100% recycled glass on a large scale.  The ultra-lightweight material performs as a drainage and retention layer combined with outstanding structural capacities. Foam Glass Gravel is produced in the USA and in Germany according to the strict specifications of Green Roof Service LLC - Green Roof Technology.      

27th February 2017

Jorg Breuning

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.

Green Roofs and Fireworks

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, December 30, 2016

 

 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.

 

Any sort of fireworks damages or many other mechanical impacts are unknown on functional green roofs. Green roofs prevent leaks or even a fire and so it is the best payback is right there.

See also Fire Safety on GreenRoofs

Nature is (literally) so cool.

Happy New Year!

 

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?  

United States of America and Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Construction Going Up – Ecology Going Down?

From 2010 to 2015 warehouse new construction in the US tippled from around $5 Billion to $15 Billion with all the economic benefits. 15 Billion in new construction equals around 1000 new warehouses every year or approximately 250 million square feet rooftops plus the same amount of infrastructure provision. Annually, 500 Million square feet or 8800 football fields of lost nature by building new warehouses in the United States alone.

Green Roofs in North America?

With some of the existing warehouses, this translates to a potential of at least 1 Billion of square feet of new extensive Green Roofs every year that could retain the volume of Lake Constance that is surrounded by three countries (Germany, Switzerland and Austria) or over the double volume of Lake Powell (UT/AZ)!

Assuming that these Green Roofs are done right, maintained by professionals and without artificial irrigation, the natural and controlled succession of these Green Roofs would allow a unique habitat for many endangered species over the upcoming years.

These green roofs can also reduce the re-roofing costs by multiple billion Dollars with a related relieve for landfills and a huge reduction in energy use.

Most important however is the climate effect.

Warehouse belts surround any large city in North America. These warehouse belts with endless impervious areas actually preheat the air that is conveyed into our cities by the wind. In the worst-case scenario, these large warehouses have reflective roofing membranes that might cool the building but also increase – due to reflection – the heat in the atmosphere substantially.

Warehouse belts around cities are like a forced air heating system in a building only on a much larger scale – Warehouse belts are a wasteful forced air heating system for entire cities

Fundamental sustainable thinking and large scale long-term research hardly exists in the US, so it is no wonder that experts are likely to miss the entire picture.

Currently in the US there are no significant requirements or ecological considerations in master plans that address this counterproductive climate habits towards our cities. Actually, it seems that warehouse belts grow faster than Green Roofs!

North American ecological organizations, LEED, or other industry associations are also missing the bigger picture. They often work locally – from one block to the next, they are focused on one or two rare plants, on a distinctive bee species, butterflies or other human pleasing critters as long as there is an instant payback in popularity. It seems worth more having a highly unsustainable fully irrigated Green Wall in the cafeteria, a nice green plaque on the wall, or growing some carrots on the roof to demonstrate social and sustainable responsibility. Most marketing efforts for green washing are beyond the costs of a simple highly efficient extensive Green Roof that helps the future generations.    

Warehouse belts are heating American cities

The United States is a great country and North America is a large continent where thinking big was always wanted and welcome. Now it seems people are getting lost in their little plastic boxes, made in China with some nice flowers and a watering can next to it.

It is very romantic but also very embarrassing.

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!

 

Making Progress with Green Roof Maintenance?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, August 03, 2015
 
Making Progress with Green Roof Maintenance?

In the last decade in North America, we've seen many Green Roofs where the intended plants never really flourished. We estimate that in the US at least 50% of the green roofs are not performing to their fullest potential. This can be observed by simply looking at the most obvious of indicators, the plants themselves, regardless if they were planted on purpose or somehow found the space to take root.

The most performance/maintenance deficits on extensive Green Roofs we discovered on thin-layered systems (below 3 inch), pre-planted boxes (often called modular systems or hybrid systems), Green Roof Systems from roofing manufacturers with ineffective components, single source warranty-systems, or design intents without consideration for the needs of plants. 

Advertising Green Roofs Green Roofs, Problems
As advertised and the final product (sloppy work all around)

Because of their immense marketing efforts, these systems are not only much more costly (whether thin or thick), they were also hardly designed or engineered with maintenance in mind – or simply not designed with common sense. For these manufacturers revenue seems all what matters and references that look good on the first day for some pictures to post on Social Networks.

Often Planners and Engineers want to have the least work with the “unknown” territory Green Roof and hire an intern to google all the information they are looking for or much more likely, the nice colorful advertising with long-term warranties baits them.  Sometimes people fall in love with systems that seems innovative, new or that promise the most LEED points. It is all so convenient but nothing really helps the plants to grow.

 
As advertised and the final product

At the time when it does not work anymore, everybody pushes the “Old Maid” to others since the decisions were made democratically among all participants and because the building owner trusted the experts he ends up with the “Old Maid” and an additional bill that can go into the millions.


There are many reasons for building owners to question things in the process and to ask for a third party advice e.g. experienced Green Roof experts. The costs for advice are typically only a percentage  of potential savings before construction and likely save expensive repair, renovation or rebuild in the first 5- 6 years.

Our advice: Don't play cards - ask for advice. 





The Best Green Roof System

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, August 01, 2015

The main purpose of an extensive Green Roof is stormwater retention and delaying stormwater runoff amongst many other added values.

Above: An Irrigated thin layered Green Roof System – without irrigation it would be dead.

In the last decade in North America, we've seen many Green Roofs where the intended plants never really flourished. I estimate that in the US at least 50% of the green roofs are not performing to their fullest potential. This can be observed by simply looking at the most obvious of indicators, the plants themselves, regardless if they were planted on purpose or somehow found the space to take root. 

Most of these less healthy extensive Green Roofs are thin-layered systems, pre-planted boxes (often called modular systems or hybrid systems), Green Roof Systems from roofing manufacturers with ineffective components, single source warranty-systems, or design intents without consideration for the needs of plants. Typically these systems much more costly (whether thin or thicker) and the mid to long term results are often far below systems that are assembled in place with common sense.

 

Thin-Layered system with irrigation - doesn't work and doesn't retain much water

We all know that the transition from being a common nursery-grown plant (including pre-planted boxes) to the extreme environment of a rooftop poses severe challenges. Green roof plant nurseries typically have "great" advice and recommend the installation of temporary or permanent irrigation systems. In some areas this might be helpful when operated correctly but in all cases this advice is defeating the purpose of an extensive Green Roof (water retention). In almost all cases any type of irrigation caused a spiral of failures and it is wrong to irrigate extensive Green Roofs in areas with limited water for the cause of just having a green roof (Green Washing). Most company sponsored experts don’t see the entire picture or they only see the short term profit and commission (“Mow-Blow-Go”).

If a problem occurs and since many Green Roof system developer lack the proper and specific green roof horticultural knowledge, they may not be able to identify problems by simply looking at the indicators (the plants). This could cause the problem to gain momentum. In addition, the false conclusion that technology (Google search, Apps, synthetic growth media or sophisticated soil moisture control devices) can fix the problem supports my theory of hardly experienced or misinformed green roof professionals. They rely heavily on technology to fix any issues and miss the big picture.

Nature has the ability to take care of itself, as long as the appropriate design, materials and plants are used in addition to being familiar with the immediate location and climate.

Thin layered, super lightweight systems or systems with “innovative” components are just by physics not meant to retain “more” stormwater for the plants or they retain too much water for specific plants. As a matter of fact the costs for retaining stormwater in thin layered systems are extremely high comparing to a standardized extensive Green Roof with a thickness of 4-6 inch (depending on location). Besides the initial costs the lack of water retention (don’t forget all studies are done by the companies!) won’t support any significant bio diversity plus the operational costs (because of the required irrigation) are tremendous over time. Typically these Green Roofs never pay back with they are not utilized for “Green Washing” purposes in advertising.  

Irrigated extensive Green Roofs and/or thin layered, super lightweight systems (below 25 lbs/sf) will increase the nutrient pollution in runoff, require higher fertilization application, have hardly any tendency for self-healing, and may increase the pressure of unwanted plants and have a high risk for failure. Irrigated extensive Green Roofs are not environmentally friendly in most loactions!

Green roof designers and green roof professionals must understand that certain advertising, studies, White Papers or project references are all assembled by specific manufacturers and their goal is to make money – unfortunately on the back of a very advanced technology and on the back of their clients.

When we advise our clients they get the full picture because we have seem all solutions in the last 35 years, we have tested them and we are currently working millions of square feet where these systems require upgrades, reinstallation or massive repair (around 20 million in damage so far).

We also help our clients doing it as efficient as possible and to get their money back from prior failures through warranty claims and sophisticated lawsuits. This might help to standardize the function of Green Roofs and helps to get the black sheep out of the market. The building owner has a right that things are done right from the beginning.

Never irrigated in the last 10 years.

First Garden Bridge for Pedestrians in North America.

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, February 20, 2015

Modern Green Roof technology combined with a Blue Roof to minimize artificial irrigation, to maximize water retention and enable visitors to cross a busy four-lane highway without leaving the lush greening of a park.

 

The Garden Bridge at Universal Studios in Orlando is the first of its kind in Florida. Designed by Miles Architecture Group Inc., Libra Design Group and Green Roof Service LLC, the green bridge creates an innovative connection of Universal City developments. Selected ground covers, shrubs and trees escort pedestrians almost without notice that they are crossing over a busy highway. The distinctive landmark project is engineered with people in mind.

The Garden Bridge at Universal Studios Orlando project is approximately 3,000 sf (145' x between 18 and 25' wide). The bridge is designed to pond water in the granular drainage area to increase the water retention (a blue-green roof combination, Patent hold by Optigreen - 1978 and the first time introduced to North America by Jorg Breuning in 2001).



Unique projects require unique solutions. Keeping the costs for the structure low, the trees are located above the bridge's pillars. The walkway gently winds up to the bridge and over and is easy accessible for the handicapped or service carts.

The project was possible with an outstanding waterproofing solution by ALT Global. ALT Global meets the FLL requirements for root resitance.


 

This innovative green roof project is a master piece of teamwork between architects, structural engineers, landscape architects and green roof professionals with an open mind, environmental leadership and common sense.

Like us on Facebook with more information and news:

 

Extensive Green Roofs and Irrigation

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Thank you for all the comments on the blog post:

Irrigation on Extensive Green Roofs

 

We believe a lot of people in North America agree with the comment that in some areas Green Roofs can't thrive without irrigation. We at Green Roof Technology don’t disagree nor agree. Allow us to bring the discussion into a fundamental perspective:  

Before you built a structure, you have to remove nature or simpler living plants that nobody watered before. Modern green roof technology is able to mimic this type of environment and allows to promote exactly this drought tolerant and hardy vegetation. With a little more understanding of this technology, it is even possible to increase the plant varieties or the plants density.

Nevertheless  the attractivity might not meet the expectations of us (humans). Our picture in mind of a roof garden is a lush green vegetation form that is created with plants that please us (humans), that are not poison or dangerous. In some areas we can achieve this goal by utilizing resources that haven’t been available at this location before the structure was built.

By using natural resources (and water is the most valuable) we start changing our environment (we take water away from somewhere – from plants somewhere) just for our own comfort. Understanding that and the value of water should create an awareness to green roof professionals or engineers to design modern green roof technology in a way that no water or super highly restricted amounts of water are utilized.

Unfortunately, the irrigation industry and most of the green roof designers grew up in an environment where resources are endless. With that said the current waste of water on green roofs is simply not acceptable to me and in these cases green roofs are an environmental nightmare - just for our pleasure (and cash) and that things look “nice and green”.   

When I drive around in neighborhoods in San Francisco in the morning, my car is being washed by all the sprinklers and nobody has a problem with that…..

Simple and efficient technology is here since many decades but not in the interest of the industry, nor “re-invented” in the US or there is a lack of common sense – maybe it is a combination of all.

Most issues I am confronted with, are a result of high tech irrigation that is just not doing what it is supposed to do, there is not the right app, poorly designed and installed, too complicated for facility people etc. or simply drains the budget of building owners over time this water costs are going up.

Let’s discuss further and email us directly: info@greenroofservice.com

 

Comment by Jure Šumi ((LinkedIn):

 
Interesting input Jorg. Yes, extensive roofs should be self-sufficient where they can be. But in my mind this is not possible in really arid areas like Jim is saying. With our partners in Abu Dhabi we are now investigating what plants should be used there, where top temperatures are regularly reaching 120 F in summer months (with no rain for years). If you use local plants that are surviving in desert than they are surviving only due to the fact that the roots are extremely long and go deep in to the ground to find some moisture (not possible on the roof). Limited irrigation is still needed but the roof needs design with minimised ET, so also irrigation is as low as possible.

Maybe another thing to consider. Yes or no irrigation is also a question of what someone wants from green roof. Nice look is one aspect, stormwater managment is another. We should not forget Energy efficiency. According to our investigation and perfromance tests, evaporation has big effect on energy efficiency in the summer due to cooling effect. If moisture in the green roof system drops below certain level, the cooling effect is limited. So to have best energy perfromance of the roof, than you need irrigation.

 

Response Jörg Breuning:

Thank you Jure.

My starting point of thoughts about irrigation on extensive green roofs goes back to a fundamental point and only a handful people make these considerations.

Humans are capable to replace nature with a manmade structure on any location on Earth and they make it suitable for people to live there. In these fundamental thoughts, I expect that humans are also able to create this lost part of nature on top of these structures.

I agree this is not always cheap and not everybody is blessed with creativity or experience. Nevertheless, it is possible and it is our responsibility if we respect nature.

The rooting depth of plants is certainly a key element - it isn’t a road block. It seems it is the preferred excuse that we don’t need to feel responsible in what we re doing and that we don’t feel guilty.

I also think it using water for cooling buildings in an open system (what any green roof is) is considered - in my world - using elementary, limited and precious resources for our convenience. In the case that producing water (in dessert states) for the wasteful irrigation of plants (to make our close environment nice) might be a problem to justify to more than 100 million people that have no access to dependable water resources.

What I am saying is, that growing plants even in areas where plants would hardly grow can be done with extremely low impact on natural, precious resources at costs that are lower in the short or long term. The current hype for green roofs can create significant drawbacks in 15 or 20 years from now to building owners if the costs of water continue to rise. Keep in mind a 20 year old green roof is not even the half of the life span of a green roof (at least that is what I know from experience).

Professionals need to start thinking long term and not for quick profit, they should disregard fancy fashions or get away from desperate LEED point collecting terms if they seriously respect nature. 

Jörg Breuning

 

Picture: Deep rooting plant on roof with hardly any soil and never intentially planted (in Texas at the border to Mexico).


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