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Budget Cut for Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, February 09, 2013

by Jorg Breuning

 

There is now enough evidence to believe that the American economy is starting to recover.  However, ongoing clashes over taxes and spending threaten to delay or derail recent improvements.  Comparing to State Governments, most Counties, Cities or Townships do not have the luxury of drawn out debates.  They are short on money and have to make decisions and/or cuts quickly.

Over the last few years the subsidies for green roofs have increased consistently and there is hardly anybody who knows exactly how much cash or monetary value you can get in any certain area.  The cash cow with the name ‘Green Incentives’ is present.   Big corporations hire people simply to source these cash incentives and focus on these areas with their Armada of sale forces simply because the profit margins are higher in these places (milking).  For these companies it is almost like an additional return on their paid taxes- if they paid taxes at all.

Trade associations typically operate the same way and support this domino effect for more subsidiaries in the green roof industry. They are mainly financed by large corporations that are lobbying generously in both fields and utilize them to increase incentives and cash subsidies at the Federal, State, County, or City level.  For outsiders it can be seen as a closed loop system of slush funds.

To reduce competition in the green roof business, the big dudes also support Non-Profits to compete against smaller green roof companies for smaller jobs.  They often do that under the guise of the Good-Samaritan to create awareness and jobs for the unemployed young generation.

However, all of these hardworking and well educated smaller companies are the source of innovations, inventions, increase of efficiency and the guarantor of quality.  They are the specialists that deliver to the client what they promised, they developed experiences over years that can’t be taught in a seminar and they relatively pay the most taxes.

Cutting the cash incentives for green roofs by cutting budgets is their chance to prove their capability and creativity.  They would be able to move the industry forward by increasing the long term sustainability of green roofs and the industry by offering precisely what the client wants and to develop cost reductions without compromise.

The green roof industry is old enough to walk alone without breast feeding, although not old enough that it can survive entirely on its own.  Many Cities in the USA and around the world have shown that indirect incentives for green roofs (tax breaks, faster permitting, reducing stormwater fees, depreciation write-offs etc.) are much less costly and more effective.  Utilizing the saved budget money for educating a new generation, entire green infrastructure industry is more sustainable for the decades to come.  

 Budget cuts of cash incentives are the right direction for our industry. 

Stormwater Retention and Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, February 07, 2013

By Jörg Breuning

Any impervious area of urban development prevents precipitation from infiltrating into the ground.  Instead of soaking up the water, it redirects it to another area. By redirecting the stromwater into other areas, the run-off will accumulate elements that are on this impervious area and pollute the run-off water.

Looking for Stormwater Retention (direct contact of humans with water)

Over the last 5 decades multiple studies show that these pollutants have a measurable negative impact to the watersheds and ultimately the lakes, bays or oceans. Since humans are in direct or indirect contact with these bodies of water (through swimming, potable water, irrigation of land grown food, aquatic or seafood) these pollutants have great impact on our health and causes billions of dollars to be spent on health care. The majority of pollutants in our water sheds are caused by chemicals of farmland, substances from vehicles (antifreeze, oil rubber) or simple trash that is carelessly discarded.  For example, in many areas people are advised to reduce the consumption of local fish to less than one time a week because this food source is too polluted. It is questionable whether vegetables from farms (including rooftop farms in polluted cities) or other meat from mass husbandry are a good alternative.

With smart stormwater best management practices (BMPs), pollution can be controlled effectively. It can't be diminished to a value that equals the natural environment previously - before the location was populated. Decreasing polluted stormwater run-off is a responsibility of everybody (not only the government) and it will pay-off by creating a livable environment for humans. If we don't make this investment and make it mandatory, our living quality will decrease and the value of our environment will drop over time. People will eventually move to healthier places, but these places are limited. We only have one earth.

Considering that an extensive green roofs with a 4 inch depth can retain 50% or more of the annual rainfall, they are the most efficient “direct on source” solution. If these extensive green roofs are engineered, installed and maintained properly, there is no pollution in the reduced, delayed or remaining run-off and for sure substantially less comparing to an impervious area on the ground. Comparing to other on-source stromwater BMP’s (e.g. pervious pavements) the costs of extensive green roofs are minimal – although still an investment for the building owner. Green roofs can be perfectly combined with any other stormwater BMP what increases the efficiency.

Official numbers show that the imperiousness of residential properties is around 30% and commercial land at around 65%. The implementation of extensive green roofs on commercial properties is typically cheaper because the roof areas are bigger and easier accessible.  Green roofs on large scale commercial buildings (warehouse belts around cities) will reduce the run-off dramatically and in addition will reduce the heat island effect by lowering the air temperature that is transported to the surrounded city.

If these commercial owners would choose integrated vegetation and solar (PV) systems, the costs of the green roof installation and maintenance could be off-set in less than 10 years and there would be no additional costs that increase the product of this company.  Since this environmental step is an investment, these eco-conscious companies would also reduce their tax on profits in the short term. However, reducing short term profits doesn't seem popular in the current economic environment and as long as there is no eco-rating of these companies. In this case LEED is counterproductive.

Water is the number one source for life on earth and any on-source reduction of run-off from the production process of goods or impervious areas will increase the living conditions tremendously, avoid expensive battles for clean water, and allow the human population to grow healthy and protect the native environment.




The Economics of Green Roofs from the Perspective of the Commercial Client

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, January 07, 2013

 A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Extensive Green Roofs

In 1994, Fritz Hämmerle published an analysis on the economic benefits of extensive Green Roofs for the very first in the international Green Roof magazine Dach + Grün. Nearly 20 years later, it is now undisputed that extensive green roofs have numerous positive effects on the environment and the physical properties of buildings. Nevertheless, today only a small amount of extensive Green Roofs have been installed in North America and this is mainly due to the high initial costs of construction and the commitment to proper long-term maintenance.

The lastest cases study (2013, Jorg Breuing) about the economics of extensive Green Roofs in the USA is now available for download.

Download the entire case study as a PDF (107KB) exclusively at our Resources Page.                                         http://www.greenrooftechnology.com/case-studies

Most Economic Green Walls

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, August 25, 2012

 Paris Green Wall

 

Some decades ago Patrick Blanc, French botanist working at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and specialized in plants from tropical forests created and introduced a unique design for a vertical garden with real plants (Vertical Garden, Green Wall or Mur Végétal). His simple system or other much more sophisticated systems are based on a consistent water and nutrient supply comparable to horizontal high tide/ low tide (Ebbe/Flut) systems in super-efficient nurseries. These systems often include artificial light and heat/cooling for sustainable growth.

Without being a horticultural expert Patrick Blanc was able to start a new trend utilizing horizontal plant propagating systems applied to the vertical as living art. Maintenance and operational costs of all these wall planted systems are very high and so the environmental benefit is certainly questionable. Typically in less than 10 years costs for maintenance and replanting increase the cost for installation without considering the high consumption of energy and water. 

Today when you fly in to Paris Airport Charles de Gaulle you will see multiple, small green walls - very attractive, lush green with an appealing biodiversity. Closer investigations discovered that these walls the next step of green walls that are super-efficient and extremely low cost for installation and maintenance. The systems at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris don’t need any artificial lights, they are completely disconnected from any power and water source and they are very efficient dust collectors. The amazing biodiversity has potential for the highest LEED rating.

Here are a few plants identified:

  • Attractiva plasticifolia (grown out of recycled content)
  • Fakefolia polychloridenses (PCB senct)
  • Metatrashus recyclisa (never green invasive)
  • Ripoffera myclientus `Variegatus´ (native)
  • Hidensia polyestertonia (forever green)

 

Good art reinvented.

Dr. Phil O. Dendron, Bel Air,  August 26th 2012,       

Upcoming Case Study Announcement: The Podium Roof Garden at Toronto City Hall

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

By Andrew Cole Yanders

 

Photo by Jorg Breuning

The focus of this academic exercise will identify a few of the leading psychological tendencies that drive up the costs of green roof installations.  In a previous article we highlighted an impractical design that led to a “snowballing effect” of errors and costly mistakes.  During the course of a green roof design and green roof specifications, decisions are constantly made that affect the final installation cost as well as future maintenance expenses.  In any green roof design, it should be the goal to keep project costs for installation and green roof maintenance as low as possible without sacrificing the function.  Experience, practical designing and resourceful engineering can make a dramatic impact on reducing the average market cost of installing a green roof.

Instant green with pre-vegetated mats or tray systems are always much more expensive than built-in-place. Instant green requires much more maintenance to adapt the plants to the location or keep them in perfect conditions.

The City Hall in Toronto has already begun to loose the originally designed pattern of the tray system in the first year.  The main cause for this is due of the lack of experience in maintaining this system. Judging by the transformation that has already taken place, the green roof will convert to a meadow style green roof in the next two years even when maintenance efforts are drastically increased.

A monolithic or built-in-place, seamless semi-intensive / extensive green roof on the City Hall of Toronto could have been installed for approximately half of the costs of the current modular system and would have had the same visual aspect today but with much less maintenance, no irrigation and less fertilizer.

A fraction of the cost (approximately $1,000,000.00), more water retention and no irrigation needed an in-place system would be much more environmentally friendly.  A monolithic or built-in-place system would be a highly efficient extensive, semi-intensive green roof according modern green roof technology.   

Saving taxpayers money for the installation and the savings for required maintenance over the next decades should be the priority of responsible and experienced designers and planners.  With the saved money – just from the installation - the city could have installed another 40,000 ft² green roof and which could have retained additional 614,295 gal of rain water per year that doesn’t need to be processed expensively in a treatment plant.

As soon as the Case Study is complete it will announced on our blog and available for download on our Resources page.

Click here for an emailed copy the case study upon it's release 

What is the difference between “Pay-if-Paid" and "Pay-when-Paid?"

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, August 30, 2011
By Jorg Breuning

Recently I read an interesting article in the BusinessCredit of the National Association of Credit Management regarding “Pay-if-Paid" and “Pay-when-Paid” clauses in contracts.  Parallel to this article the topic was discussed in the “Construction Advisory Today”.

In the green roof industry there are good opportunities for people to start a new company or to switch jobs. Once in this new industry many find themselves caught in a shark tank. The sharks (prime contractors or general contractors) identify fresh blood immediately and bargain for the lowest possible price because of the desperate need for references.  This is common practice in the construction industry and there is nothing to complain about.  However it is also still common practice that the sharks try to make you sign a contract with a “Pay-if-Paid" or “Pay-when-Paid” clause.  Roofing manufactures or roofing companies especially stick to one of these clauses like a bug smashed on the windshield.

Once the subcontractor has signed a contract with “Pay-if-Paid” clause he might soon feel like a bug smashed on the windshield.  In other words if the prime or general contractors do not get paid, the subcontractor doesn’t see a Penny.  The subcontractor carries full risk when problems such as insolvency somewhere in the “food chain” occur.  The subcontractor also has no realistic chance to solve any payment problems on a higher level and so the little fish will be swallowed by the sharks.  Thankfully many States discovered this serious problem with “Pay-if-Paid” clauses and have outlawed the use of this clause.  Whether it is legal or illegal in your State don’t do it.  It is an unjust rip-off and doesn’t hold any responsibility for the prime or general contractor.  To prevent a “Pay-if-Paid” agreement the subcontractor may contact the prime/general contractor’s client and notify them that this bad practice can be solved elegant and quickly.

“Pay-when-Paid” – according to my knowledge – is legal in all States.  In a “Pay-when-Paid” contract there is a realistic chance that you will get money after a reasonable period of time.  This looks like a safe contract but my experience has told me that most GC’s take advantages of the situation “reasonable period of time”.  All payments will typically come later – much later than expected.

The guaranteed payment with a “Pay-when-Paid” clause appears to be the only advantage in this agreement for a subcontractor.  However the subcontractor must still add costs to his proposal that consider delays of payment, time spent finding out whether the GC is paid, and to pre-finance materials over a much longer time.
 
Conclusion:

Green Roof Service LLC’s division Green Roof Technology stays away from both types of contracts because this increases the costs, makes the entire construction process less efficient, and is great breeding ground for unnecessary tension between the contractors.  All things that will influence the final quality, service, and timeline are not in the interest of the investor in a “Pay-if-Paid” or “Pay-when-Paid” contract.

Make contracts with clear payment term and conditions –it is as simple as that.

Natural, Less Fat and Dirty Jobs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nothing can top a cozy evening on the sofa with some Chunky Chips Ahoy cookies and watching my favorite show on Discovery Channel – Dirty Jobs. Usually I don’t buy Chunky Chips Ahoy cookies but while at the groceries the box promised “Less fat than the originals” and that was good with me after all these Christmas food. Well, after I finished more than a quarter of the box I decided to read the label and discovered that the serving size is one cookie (yes, 1). I am not sure who eats only one cookie but I was getting curious and started some research on the web. I learned that the “old” Chunky Chips Ahoy cookies had exactly the same nutrient facts as the one I just enjoyed. However they reduced the serving size (not the recipe) and as by wonder they suddenly have less fat!

This reminded me of many misleading statements in the green roof industry. There are suppliers who sell garden-like, rich blooming and nature-like green roof systems on their web sites which weigh less than 14 pounds per square feet. Once you worked yourself through all the specifications you learn that specifically the 14 pounds per square foot green roof is only a 2 inch deep system which requires regular irrigation, periodically nutrients and supports only a few Sedum species – far away from the earlier seen rich and colorful diversity. In other words it is much less of what you thought at the beginning. In the fine print you might also find that it depends on the location, availability of materials, organic content, saturation of the media and many other things including the unpredictable weather. As an architect or designer you can get lost just before you even started with the idea of implementing a green roof - unless you don’t care.

I also like RUFFLES® Natural Reduced Fat Sea Salted Potato Chips. However during my research I also learned that there they are not even close to healthy and probably from gene manipulated potatoes of vast chemical treated fields, naturally.

rooflite® Certified Green Roof Media is no dirt and so the Skyland USA LLC guys also can’t do any dirty jobs. They have only a few products and you easily will find the information you are seeking for. Their product line and production is definitely State-of-the-Art. Jörg Breuning and Peter Philippi had the idea long before anybody in the US thought about highly standardized products so Skyland USA LLC was founded in 2004 with a nice green roof project at Swarthmore College. Rooflite® is the most preferred and reliable green roof growing media through out the US and the owners of Skyland USA are known as the most experienced professionals for green roof technology in Europe as well as in Northern America. They truly care about the quality of the product, your project and a sustainable and honest growth of the entire green roof industry.

Top Ten misleading labels in the food industry


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