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Urban Planning in North America

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Urban Planning in North America

Most American Cities like to have a diverse, sustainable, and thriving city of neighborhoods as the economic and cultural driver for the region.

In reality, these urban planners fall for nicely presented prestige projects that maybe have some green elements like bicycle storage, a solar panel, or living elements like a little green wall in the entrance area or roof terrace with some tomato plants. A little decoration of green is always trendy – whether it remains green or not. Important seems that the building is shiny, the investors and tenants have good names, and that it increases the prestige level of the city.

Urban planning in North America has hardly anything to do with long-term perspectives, environmental, people, or social aspects. “Urban” planning does not go further than maybe two or 3 blocks in a city. North America is a big continent with many tunnel-view urban planners, and since many of these planners have not much to do, they write daily blogs about “great ideas” of new ways for urban developments. It seems they write a lot and they do not do much.

In Europe, urban planning is almost on a helicopter- view basis, long-term with environmental and social aspects. Europe’s great urban planning doesn’t stop at the city or county line and it greatly reduces destructive urban sprawl. Being an urban planner in Europe is a tough job – they have no time to play on the internet posting great ideas. They just do it.

The picture below shows a neighborhood in Munich, Germany from google Earth. The development of this area started in 1994 and it is still going on. Developing an area like that over 20 years required a comprehensive urban planning long ago and with on single goal: minimize the environmental footprint.

1.  The area is connected to a large park with sport arena, pools, gyms, and recreational facilities including beer gardens.

2.  The community garden on the north allows people to grow their own flowers and vegetable.

3.  Most roofs are covered with green roofs, some are used of recreation or growing flowers and food. Most buildings have balconies where plants grow up (extensive green walls).

4.  Open space for socializing, playing games, walking dogs. Typically these areas are above underground parking garages.

5.  Solar Garden Roof that combine solar with green roofs to max-out the environmental benefits.

6.  Houses are entirely covered with PV.

All buildings have very easy access to a dense public transportation network and many office buildings can be reached within walking distance or by bicycle.

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.

One Size Fits All

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek

Or does it?  We're not talking about baseball caps or a pair of mittens here. Green roofs are a living system that on their own should thrive heartily in the environment in which they reside. Not all green roofs are similar, nor should they be. Diverse climates call for various approaches in construction a green roof to handle precipitation efficiently. The vegetation for any green roof should reflect local climate and growing conditions.

Uniform systems will most likely work out fine, but depending on the region, may need constant maintenance to uphold the health of the green roof. At this point, the question is if the green roof is actually doing its job. A green roof is supposed to thrive naturally, as a part of the ecosystem. It defeats the purpose when an irrigation system is put in place or the green roof is over maintained to avoid natural diversity.

Each green roof should be unique in a way that works most efficiently for that particular location. Here at Green Roof Technology we strive to create a living space that will thrive under specific conditions. There should be very little need for additional time, effort and money once a green roof has been put in place.

Combining Urban Rooftop Farming with Public Transportation

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, June 22, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

Photo: Bauder, SSB Stuttgart Germany

Germany is the country of inventors, poets and thinkers. According to historical research, rooftop farming has been a long tradition since the mid-evil times in the dense cities of Europe. The lack of open space inside city walls brought people up to their roofs. Because there was also no efficient sewer systems, it was easy to utilize the organic remains to fertilize and grow plants. Throughout the centuries, survival proved to be a tough journey, mainly caused by overpopulation. When it became too dangerous to venture from your house, people discovered their roofs as additional space for growing their own food in order to overcome these rough years. Currently we are witnessing this growing trend once again in many metropolis areas in North America. The motivation is still the same, jobs can be hard to find, it's difficult to stand out when everyone is competing for essentially the same things.

Luckily our sewer systems are more advanced today, synthetic fertilizers are cheap and these farms do not depend on organic remains anymore. The quality of food should be acceptable in this respect - disregarding the extreme rates of pollution within cities.

However, let us backtrack to the topic of inventions.

Growing food on rooftops of the public transportation system (buses and trains) can help to combine two major needs of urban citizens. The added value is that your transportation systems are now also farmer's markets and while riding the bus home from your cubical, you can manage all your food shopping in one step including fresh produce grown directly above - on the roof! If the roof of the transportation vehicle is a semi permeable membrane, the carrots actually can be harvested from the inside. How convenient would this be? Depending on the crop, the sunny routes have more sun loving veggies and the transportation system manages regular crop changes from a more balanced and diverse food supply. Think about all the new jobs being created!

Sure, this technology is just in the beginning stages, but with the current hype for locally grown and diverse environmental approaches, it is just a matter of time until people will also jump on the bandwagon (or bus). It is just as ideal to look for some free advertising space in the press.

So, see you on the Lemon Line or drop me a line from the carrot bus (they should probably invest in free WiFi too).

 

Jörg Breuning welcomes people who want to learn from decades
of green roof experience - askjorg@greenrooftechnology.com

Rooftop Farming an Environmental Nightmare

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 04, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

Companies spend millions of dollars on creating rooftop farms to demonstrate how "green" they are. There is no doubt advertising with living green is a good idea because it makes the customers believe that the company practices environmental leadership.

However, the reality looks very differently.

Recently a food company started a huge campaign promoting their rooftop farm (and their green leadership) by opening a 17,000 square foot rooftop farm on the East Coast.They were optimistic that they could grow 10,000 pounds of produce during the short growing season. This is approximately 25% over the average vegetable and berry crop yields estimated for New England on the ground during a good year, based on traditional irrigated farmland.

Since environmental conditions on rooftops are more extreme, achieving this goal seems ambitious and will require higher amounts of water and fertilizer. With more moisture in green roof soil the main benefit of green roofs (stormwater retention) is sacrificed and the run-off will most likely now contain more nutrients than in the run-off from traditional farms. Nutrients are already the number one pollutant in our waterways.

Based on these harsh environmental conditions growing crops on rooftops will be more labor intensive.

A 17,000 square foot rooftop farm requires approximately 300 tons of engineered growing media (soil) or 672,000 pounds in order to grow an average of 8,000 pounds of produce a year. In other words, it takes more than 80 years to grow the equivalent crop weight that was transported up onto the roof in the first place. This does not include the tons of water, fertilizer or structural support for the building that has to be shipped to the city and hoisted up on to the roof to start and maintain the garden.

Roof top farms ultimately increase the shipping (costs) of goods into cities. Shipping produce from a farm located on the ground is cheaper and more efficient because everything necessary to sustain the farm is already at hand. The food from rooftop farms is being transported a shorter distance creating a false sense of environmental responsibility. When in reality, the amount of materials essential to implement and maintain a rooftop farm outweighs the good in this situation.

Consider this: every person consumes 200-400 pounds of produce in a year (Profiling Food Consumption in America in 2000, Agricultural Fact Book) and an average of 8,000 pounds feeds around 20-40 people and requires at least one full-time, skilled farmer.

On a traditional field, one farmer can easily manage a 10-20 times larger area with a higher yield per acre using organic principals, which are not even discussed with most roof top farms.

Buyers of food from companies with rooftop farms are misled by advertising and are paying more for their goods while supporting a trend known as Greenwashing.

Jörg Breuning welcomes people who want to learn from decades of green roof experience - askjorg@greenrooftechnology.com

 


Green Roofs and Native Organisms

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, May 10, 2013

Green Roofs and Native Organisms

 

It is all about perspectives, experience and evolution. Any organism has a right to exist.  It is the intention of each organism to multiply, spread and adjust to the surrounding environmental conditions.  This adamant approach has also helped humans to develop and thrive over ten thousands of years.  The word native has become a stereotype of certain organisms like plants that should be growing only in a particular region – that is what humans think.

Exceptions seem only allowed with human approval and when they support human development – this is one reason why nobody has a problem with Gen manipulated corn for “bio fuel”. When our ideal of a functional environment gets out of balance there is always a solution from clever people with a weapon (solution) allegedly reversing the discovered issues. Sometimes an issue has to be created first to offer a solution to gain some popularity and attention. A few of them are even henchmen for big companies that intend to increase sales for an existing product in a new market. The system works in all levels but it is questionable when I see these paramilitary battles on TV commercials against a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) what is a “native” plant and it is clearly classified as a beneficial weed.

Education & Green Roofs - A Learning Experience

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, April 03, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek     

                 
                                                     Photocredit: The Calhoun School

The Calhoun School in NYC is a great example of a school utilizing green roof space to form environmental curriculum and promote a hands on learning experience. Back in May of 2005, renovations presented the perfect chance to retro-fit the building with a brand new intensive green roof. The green roof wasn't simply installed for environmental benefits; these renovations created a unique opportunity for outdoor science classrooms and an herb garden in the heart of an urban space. 

Implementing intensive green roofs, extensive green roofs or educational rooftop farms within urban schools would be a great learning tool as well as a benefit to the environment. Besides the obvious positive environmental aspects (stormwater mitigation, insulation, urban heat island relief, etc.) this green space can be used as an outdoor classroom, gardening space or for research.

Incorporating environmental education into an elementary cirriculum is beneficial for two main reasons. Learning to respect the environment at an early age is relatable to environmental ethics later in life. An environmentally friendly routine during childhood makes it more likely that these habits will continue down the road. And spending secondly, spending time outside improves self-esteem, motivation, reading ability and imagination, along with calming capabilities and decreases stress levels.

In the current age of technology, it is easy to spend the majority of your day staring into a glowing screen considering our dependence on computers, smart phones, TVs and e-readers amongst others. Children especially spend a significant amount of time with electronics as companions, inside and outside of school. I may still be in my early twenties, but within the past decade trends have quickly changed; my childhood was spent outside, no internet, no cable, and no smart phones, unlike today. The consequence of a lack of time spent outside has been researched in depth by journalist and author, Richard Louv. He has deemed this phenomenon as Nature Deficit Disorder, and explains the issues associated with a lack of nature in childhood in his book "Last Child in the Woods," published in 2005.

Intensive green roofs can bring a whole new set of opportunities right into the classroom. Hands on experiences, the potential for learning about and growing fresh food, and an on-site outdoor classroom are a few worth mentioning.

Modular Office Farming – Hybrid Office and modern Green Roof Technology

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Now that rooftops have been discovered to be a potential area for urban farming, many people believe this this is the solution for providing healthier and locally grown produce.  They believe in this place despite its over average air pollution, lack of natural symbiotic opponents, high costs for water, poorly nutrient retaining soils, high labor costs and no machinery.

Yellow PepperHowever and completely disconnected from all the above mentioned disadvantages food can also grow in the inside of any building.  Modern green roof technology implemented in old yogurt containers to act like a modular system and can easily find a place close to a light source.  Depending on the system, they require less than once a week watering.  The water could even be recycled cold coffee (no sugar), tea or flat sparkling water before it is dumped into the sink.  Instead of sieving out of the tea leaves or coffee grounds these waste products can be supplements to regular plant fertilizer.  The run-off of these simple systems is zero since nobody wants water puddles in the living room, office or conference room. The results can be remarkable and some additional vegetables for lunch are always good.

The systems work without high tech, with fully recycled and recyclable materials, comes without an App, no power outlet and any other gimmicks.

The fresh green of the plants creates a nice living and working atmosphere, keeps the humidity in the comfort zone and additionally cleans the – already filtered – air.  In our office peppers and pineapple are the favorites.  

 

 

Green Roof Service LLC/ Green Roof Technology 

Your Green Roof Technology team is able to develop low maintenance concepts for plants far beyond yogurt container solutions in private-, professional- and public environments. Furthermore, we design individual service packages concerned with the maintenance, health of plants and plant arrangements. From European studies we know that a better professional environment increases the motivation of people.     

Bildnachweis/Picture: GMH/FvRH

Elevating Urban Farms onto Rooftops

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, January 09, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

 
Photo credit: Kölner Wein Depot

Long before green roofs became necessity and rooftop farming was trendy in North America, Dipl.-Ing Markus Wittling was planning to elevate an entire vineyard on top of the Wine Museum in Cologne, Germany.  Build in 2002, the sloped green roof spans over the entire museum building of almost 20,000 square feet. It is the first vineyard on a roof, the first sloped rooftop farm and the first and oldest organic urban farm on a roof in the world.

In the middle ages Cologne was the most important wine trading town north of the Alps.  The "Weinmuseum Köln e.V." is honoring this factwith a brand new museum with astonishing and educational exhibits on wine. The green roof displays 40 of the most important grape species from around the world situated onto 720 vine stocks.  The soil layer (growing media) including granular drainage is approximately 27 inches deep and consists of a blend of porous volcano material like Lava rock and Pumice - materials in which grapes simply grow best. 

 This rooftop vineyard is a prime example of the performance of modern green roof technology and is ideal for educational purposes.  If you have a chance to visit Cologne, the Wine Museum is a must on your Green Roof Safari and your effort will be rewarded with amazing wine tasting

For more information: www.weinmuseum.com or simply contact us.

 

 


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