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.
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.
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.
First Garden Bridge in the world based on modern Green Roof technology.
Built 1977 for the National Garden Show in Stuttgart, Germany designed by Prof. Hans Luz Landscape Architect. A Green Roof that celebrates it 40 years anniversary next year.
The Green Roof Bridge or Garden Bridge connects the two major parks downtown Stuttgart and is accessible for free since 1977.
Pictures: Jörg Breuning 2012 ...doing it right in the first place!
Zero Run-Off for 20 Years!
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”.
In our dense Cities, more and more intensive Green Roofs are being built.
Besides all the environmental reasons, building owners recognized that a Roof Garden – usable green on the roof - creates additional value with a fast and consistent payback. A building with a roof garden is simply more attractive for tenants and potential buyers.
Typically, structural loads reduce this fantastic idea to a low profile extensive Green Roof or to an intensive green roof that is landscaped with Geofoam.
All professionals know that expanded polystyrene (Geofoam) is questionable from an environmental perspective. Some horticulturalists know that Geofoam has no benefits for the plants – actually, it reduces their rooting space for the plants (grass can root up to 3 feet deep) and consequently it increases maintenance and irrigation needs. As a result, most of these Roof Gardens with Geofoam are elevated intensive care nurseries.
Hardly any Roof Garden in Europe utilizes Geofoam because of the high risk of rodents and environmental conflicts. These roofs are being built with Foam Glass Gravel. Over the last 25 years Foam Glass Gravel replaced Geofoam and eliminated all the related disadvantages of Geofoam.
Foam Glass Gravel is 95% recycled glass, has a much higher compressive strength, the roots can practically expand like in a natural soil horizon and if combined with low-tide/high-tide irrigation the water and fertilizer consumption can be reduce by up to 75%.
The savings in no waste installations, less complicated irrigation systems, in water reduction and less maintenance make this material cheaper than any Geofoam application.
European architects also like the idea that you can create any type of landscaping on a roof without any problems, fully organic and without additional components. Foam Glass Gravel allows adding walkways, roads or other structures on top of it. Foam Glass Gravel has the best lightweight – compressive strength of all mineral materials available on earth.
The picture below shows typical setups of intensive Green Roofs with Foam Glass Gravel, like nature does it and to compare how people still do it with Geofoam.
Green Roof Service LLC - Green Roof Technology is proud to be the first that utilizes this advanced Green Roof solution with Foam Glass Gravel on projects in North America for amazing and low impact intensive Green Roofs.
The annual CitiesAlive Green Roof & Wall Conference is happening next week (October 5-8) in New York City. This conference hotspot is the place for green roof and green wall professionals to learn and discuss the latest technologies.
Every year at CitiesAlive, the 36-year green roof veteran Jörg Breuning and his company Green Roof Technology present innovative products and people that help make your project successful, affordable, and maximally environmental-friendly. “I like to share my experience, horticultural knowledge, and understanding of nature’s principles,” says Breuning, “to help people prevent wasted time, money, and frustration.”
This year, Jörg Breuning will present:
Geocell. World leader in foam glass gravel, a 99% recycled product that substitutes for manufactured foam insulation in green roof construction.
ALT Global, the world leader in advanced cold liquid applied membrane systems.
Prior innovations introduced by Jörg Breuning include introduction of the German FLL Green Roof Guideline. “The guideline is the foundation of all current green roof standards, guidelines, and most specifications, and its continued use among green roof professionals demonstrates its success,” says Breuning.
He has also fostered many North American green roof experts in their early days, including Ed Snodgrass (green roof plant grower and author of Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide), Charlie Miller (Roofmeadow), Kurt Horvath (Green Roof Solutions), and Michael Furbish (Furbish Company).
Come mingle with Jörg Breuning and the A-Team at the Green Roof Service LLC/Green Roof Technology booth (307, in the middle of the Trade Show floor).
The 2015 Trade Show opens with an evening reception on October 5th at 7PM and is open on October 6th
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 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.