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Green Roofs on the Move

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, January 29, 2013

  

By Jörg Breuning

Well before modern green roof technology started in Germany in the 1970s, I was already collecting Sedums in the Alps.  As a kid I liked the little ‘fir trees’ because I was able to carry them home in my stuffed Lederhosen pockets and miraculously they would survive, even after a 4-5 hours hike.  Forty years later, there is still one surviving ‘fir tree’ growing out of a terra cotta pot at my Mom’s house. The last time it was repotted was more than 20 years ago.

When I was a teenager, Professor Hans Luz, a Landscape Architect from Stuttgart, Germany, was pioneering the implementation of green roofs on buildings and parking structures.  A visionary, Luz recognized green roofs’ stormwater retention potential and their overall ability to reduce the environmental footprint of any building.  From there green roofs went viral, spreading throughout Germany and Europe.  It was not long before cities began realizing the relief green roof provided to their overloaded combined sewer systems.

By the nineties green roofs had spread all over Europe.  Pockets of green roof believers had developed in cities across Europe.  But modern green roof technology was struggling to spread beyond the borders of the EU. 

During the nineties I frequently vacationed to the United States, notably the Southwest.  Even while on vacation one part of my mind was always considering how green roofs could be introduced to the States.  I desperately tried to make presentation about green roof in the USA but associations like International Erosion Control Association were never interested.  I talked to many American landscape companies during my vacations, but they simply thought I was crazy.

In 1999 Chicago’s Mayor Delay visited Germany and saw a green roof for the first time and decided he wanted this technology on his City Hall.  Almost 30 years after green roof technologies were first developed in Germany the time was finally right for the United States.  I am proud that I brought green roof technology to this project in Chicago.  

Twenty years from now I believe green roofs will be a fundamental part of all new buildings, as important a basic building feature as windows, doors, heating and cooling, water supply, etc.  In the end it is all about reducing the footprint of a building and putting on top of a building what was once on the ground – this is just common sense.  In my opinion it is simply our responsibility that we have to diminish our impact into nature.   We can do it in many ways, but green roofs seem the most efficient.  The longer we wait the more of our current profit and wealth we have to sacrifice later.

Success also means Green Roofs must be done right the first time.  There is no need to over engineering, use irrigation, strive desperately for LEED points, embellish the aesthetic design or embrace crazy environmentalists’ ideas that want green roofs to save the entire world.

This reminds of another success story that started in Stuttgart, Germany when Gottlieb Daimler (Mercedes-Benz) invented the world’s first car.  His invention went around the globe in a very short time and is the basis of any functional economy.  From the same place, green roofs are now starting to go around the world and will be the basis of any functional urban ecology.

             

A Nice Gift for Green Roofers - Un Jardin sur le Toit – First Green Roof Fragrance

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, January 14, 2013

Un Jardin sur le Toit – First Green Roof Fragrance

by Jorg Breuning

Jardin sur le Toit by Hermès features a little slice of nature perched on the rooftop of the building of the house of Hermès in Paris, France. A feast for the sense and the mind. A fragrance of light and delight, crunchy and cheerful.

 

Hermes launches the new fourth fragrance from the collection of garden-inspired fragrances Un Jardin, named Un Jardin Sur Le Toit or “A Garden on the Roof” in 2011. Un Jardin Sur Le Toit refers to the especially luxurious garden located on the Hermes’ headquarters building roof. A secret roof garden, hidden in the heart of the city, in Paris.

The garden is full of aromatic herbs, flowers and fruits whose flavors vary as they pass through the metamorphosis induced by the seasons. Its fresh and sweet-smelling atmosphere is captured by apple, pear, rose, green grass, basil, magnolia and compost notes.  This fruity, vegetal, floral eau de toilette is appreciated by both women and men.

The composition is designed by Jean-Claude Ellena.

Picture: http://www.lacentraldelperfume.com

A Flower in Disguise

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, January 02, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning & Samantha Yurek

"A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows." - Doug Larson

 

Photo Jörg Breuning, Green Roof Service LLC: Hieracium aurantiacum, Orange Hawkweed. Haunted by environmentalists and often branded as obnoxious, farmers and nurseries stamp Hieracium as invasive.

It is all about perspectives, experience and evolution.  Weeds are typically plants growing where they are in competition with cultivated plants or simply unwanted by humans.  However, seeing it from a philosophical point of view 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 plants that should be growing in a particular region.  But with human perspectives being far from uniform, the term 'native' has been skewed over time.  The term is irrelevant when looking at the larger picture of evolution.

An unwanted plant on intensive green roofs could be ideal ground cover for un-irrigated extensive green roofs or vice versa.  Being an outside element, green roofs will undergo natural succession and evolution as described above.  This succession can effect the function of a green roof in the long run for the better or worse.  Ideally, maintaining a green roof helps to guide the plants in a stable coexistence with minimal succession, creating little maintenance.  In most cases it doesn't matter whether the green roof plants were planted intentionally or not.

Un-irrigated extensive green roof designs tend to have extreme conditions; therefore the plant pallet is rather narrow.  It is very difficult for most plants to sustain themselves over decades.  Introducing many of these so-called 'weeds' on to a rooftop environment may prove to be more efficient because of the vigorous growing capabilities.  Yet many factors such as unique weather events during the establishing phase (3-8 years), artificial irrigation, pre-grown nursery trays, excessive fertilization, can be counterproductive in modern green roof technology.

Baltimore County Realizes the Need for Green Spaces; Preserves 38 Acres

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, December 19, 2012

By: Ryan Miller 



Baltimore County has announced that they will preserve 38 acres of publicly owned forested land in Perry Hall.  County officials believe this to be the largest preservation of open green space in that community in more than a decade.


With Maryland passing House Bill 987 earlier this year, many local governments are looking for ways to minimize the storm water runoff impact on our local watershed.  With increased urbanization, our green spaces are shrinking and so are the vast environmental benefits that come along with it.

http://articles.baltimoresun.com/images/pixel.gifThe land will be protected from development and it at two locations: about 8 acres in western Perry Hall and nearly 30 acres north and south of Indian Rock Park.  In an announcement of the land reclassification, County Councilman David Marks said he had worked with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz for the past year to preserve the land.

"Not only are we protecting green space in two distinct regions of Perry Hall, but we are preserving an area larger than the acreage at Perry Hall High School," said Marks, a Republican from Perry Hall. "It is a milestone for the Perry Hall community, and it comes at almost no cost to Baltimore County's taxpayers."

Source: The Baltimore Sun



Swarthmore College's Little White Grub Problem

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, October 26, 2012
A few months ago we were contacted by Swarthmore College to help identify the cause of a disturbance on the roof.  During a routine visit in August about 20% of a large, upper section of a green roof was completely torn up.  The disturbance occurred in areas where low-growing Sedums, such as S. sexangulare, S. album, and S. spurium dominate.  Areas where taller Sedums, such as S. takesimense, S. kamtschaticum grow were left undisturbed.  

Further investigation located the likely perpetrators.  Numerous white grubs were found in soil.  The likely cause of the Sedums being torn up is from birds scavenging for a snack.  The grubs feed off the roots of the Sedums, weakening their ability to resist the damage caused by the birds.  

Our article about the damage inflicted on the green roof and ways to remediate the problem continues in our Autumn 2012 issue of Green Instance.  The Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College has also written a summary of the events, which can be seen here.

Biodiversity on Extensive Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, July 03, 2012

By Kat Harrold


Photo by ~ Jorg Breuning

Despite issues of limited growing media depth and access an extensive green roof still offers a lot of potential for creating biodiversity.  The shallow system is capable of supporting a variety of drought tolerant herbaceous plants, succulents and grasses providing food and shelter year round.  Many insects and birds have found their way onto this type of green roof orchestrating ecological webs and food chains.  The limited accessibility of the green roof to terrestrial animals also offers sanctuary to ground nesting birds.  

 

 

 

Biodiversity and Semi-Intensive Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

By Kat Harrold

Photo by ~ Jorg Breuning

They say variety is the spice of life and this indeed tends to be the case when creating a green roof to promote biodiversity.  Green roofs with both intensive and extensive portions have been found to support the highest amount of biodiversity.  The combination of sedum meadow, grasses, and shrubs provides not just food but shelter for several species.  More information covering biodiversity on semi-intensive green roofs can be found on our case studies page in "Where the Beetles are Crawling and the Honey Bees are Humming." 

Visit us next week as we conclude our biodiversity segment with biodiversity on extensive green roofs!

 

 

Creating Biodiversity Through Rooftop Farming?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

By Kat Harrold

 

Photo By ~ Kat Harrold

Rooftop farming has the allure of self-reliance in a world of food uncertainties.

It is well known that urban agriculture on rooftops has recreational and educational value. However when it comes to economy and ecology these little pieces of intensive used land in polluted cities are more than questionable.

Depending on crop selection rooftop farms can provide habitat for several pollinators. At the same time they also provide food and shelter for insects, birds, and small mammals that might not be wanted. On ground remote locations it is very difficult and labor intensive creating a natural balance among wanted and unwanted organisms. Finally it depends on your goal, the time you like to invest, how much additional weight your roof can carry and last but not least your experience and knowledge in farming on impervious areas. Potentially urban agriculture on roofs or rooftop farms can be a diverse environment or – most likely - a monoculture stage for chemical warfare between man and nature.


Join us next week as we cover bio-diversity on semi-intensive green roofs!

Biodiversity on Intensive Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

By Kat Harrold


Photo By ~ Jorg Breuning

Intensive green roofs with great media depth and plant selection offer ample opportunities for biodiversity.  Ramps or tiered levels offer roof access to non-aerial fauna setting the stage for the introduction and interaction of the surrounding ecology.  Just because a large animal such as a bear or moose may inhabit the local area does not mean that the intensive green roof must attract it to make the biodiversity effort a success.  Creating an environment which supports a variety of plants and fauna on the lower levels of the food chain benefit the entire food web for the surrounding area.  

Visit us again next week as we discuss biodiversity and rooftop farming!




Creating Biodiversity on a Green Roof

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, June 04, 2012

By Kat Harrold

 

Photo by ~ Jorg Breuning

Creating biodiversity on a green roof or green wall is significantly different than restoring it on ground level.  On a rooftop there is no preexisting ecology to enhance; everything is from scratch.  In most cases the growing media is drastically different from the soil down below which in turn dictates what ecology can be supported.  Accessibility, high winds, and proximity to the sun can also be challenging issues for organisms.

Studies show that plant selection and depth of growing media have a greater influence on the biodiversity of a green roof than height.  In the translation of research covering the biodiversity of green roofs, “Where the Beetles are Crawling and the Honeybees are Humming,” the biodiversity found on green roofs as tall as 400 feet were comparable to that of lower green roofs.

Tray or modular green roof systems create the visual impression of a green roof by placing a series of planters close together.   The history of German trays, introduced in 1978, show that in most cases the performance of pre-planted boxes fail to meet performance and maintenance expectations.  The composition of a modular system simply does not provide the right set-up to reliably enjoy the 30 to 50 year lifespan expected from a built up equivalent system.  Additionally there tends to be incredible amounts of species die back during the first 5 years creating a sparsely vegetated monoculture setting.  These factors create a very poor and unreliable environment for biodiversity to take place.

Visit us next week for more information on bio-diverse intensive green roofs!

 

 



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