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.
For eleven years, the green roof industry has been running into the issue of finding a lack of Sedum cuttings between November and May. Green roof plant nurseries are not able to produce Sedum cuttings during this time because they obviously never learned better. During this time they rather grow these plants in pre-vegetated plastic or metal boxes, sitting in a controlled greenhouse for bigger sales in late spring and leaving the clients alone later when exactly these expensive and high carbon foot print containers do not acclimate in their final destination. They call themselves green roof plant experts but hardly understand the typical life cycle of the plants they are growing.
When average temperatures drop most Sedums (most plants) store their nutrients and energy produced during the growing season in their stems and roots. The best indicator for that is the changing color of the leaves in the fall and when under stress. Once these reserves are stored in the little stems, they are extremely powerful and “programmed” for rooting - not for producing leave mass. Many Sedums root quicker in winter than in hot summers where they have to deal with high evapotranspiration because of their denser leave mass while their roots are not able to supply them with water to offset the water loss.
Utilizing Sedum cuttings on green roofs can reduce the cost for plants and planting by 90%, assuming the applicators know what they are doing. At the end, the overall costs will drop dramatically which leads into more green roofs and less subsidies from public agencies and non-profit groups. The plant pieces broadcasted in winter are most likely adapted to the conditions in their final location in less than 2-3 months and hardly require watering on hot spring days or in summer. This also reduces maintenance time and costs.
Jörg Breuning: “The lack of common sense and real expertise is the biggest problem in the North American green roof industry. My person is controversial discussed, many feel intimidated based on my experience and that I address problems directly, which are avoided by other professional or trade associations. I see myself as the stimulus in a literally growing industry.
From an environmental point of view longevity at acceptable costs, low maintenance, no supplemental watering, and the long-term health of the plants are crucial for ongoing success. Customer orientated work requires that we adjusted to nature – nature will never adjust to humans”.
By: Samantha Yurek
The University of Maryland installed their first extensive green roof back in the fall if 2008 on Cumberland Hall. Approximately 6,000 square feet of the rooftop is covered in vegetation. The Adele H. Stamp Union building also completed renovations which involves yet another two new green roofs in 2009.
Picture courtesy of UMD
Summer of 2010 brought a Rooftop Food Garden on top of the South Campus Dining Hall. Planters made from salvaged wooden pallets hold all sorts of food including cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, mint and lavender, to name a few. In addition, the space is available for individual gardening projects and other student research or coursework. In the fall of 2011, the Denton Dining Hall followed suit, when the re-opened building integrated green and cool roof systems.
Although this makes up very few of the many buildings at the University of Maryland, each green roof helps to alleviate storm water runoff, the heat island effect, and each building's heating or cooling costs.
The University of Maryland's Council on the Environment recently rewarded a grant to two graduate students, to extend on their solar energy and vegetated roof research. Read the full story by the Diamondback here.
In the future, it wouldn't be surprising to see more building constructed or renovated complete with green roof systems. The technology is available and the industry has definitely grown in the past few years.
Green Roofs & Walls of the World - Virtual Summit 2013 is striving to inform, share and create a global social media experience for learning and networking around green roofs and living walls.
Immediately after Green Roof Technology's video, a 15 minute live Q&A will take place with Jörg and Ryan. The video will touch on the benefits of a solar green roof, cost-benefit analysis, two interviews with the president of Solar Gaines, Hans Wittich and Artie Rollins, the assistant commissioner for city-wide services with the NYC Parks & Rec Building, along with much more.
If you're interested, tune into the video and Q&A session, you may register on the Summit Website.
Photo: Jorg Breuning
The German FBB (Fachvereinigung Bauwerksbegrunung e.V.) is the oldest Green Roof Association in the world and with around 120 members, probably one of the smallest. However, most FBB members are considered leaders in modern green roof technology and their average green roof experience is far over 20 years. It is an elite group that has seen everything you can imagine related to vegetation on impervious areas.
As the father of all green roof associations, this year's event was again filled with innovations, information and trends.The FBB president, Dr. Gunter Mann, pointed out that there is a huge potential for the industry to increase the annual green roof construction. In 2012, the 120 FBB members reported over 40,000,000 square feet of new construction, a significant addition compared to the previous years. The true annual new green roof construction in Germany might be doubled compared to the rest of the world. However, Germans are modest and not interested in quantity, but specifically in quality. Quality of installation, intelligent research and decent public relations are the foundation of the FBB.
In partnerships with other associations (Landscape Association, Concrete Association, Roofing Association, Association for Water Protection, along with many more) it is impressing to hear about the successful public awareness on green roofs.
The elite group at the FBB does a great, inexpensive and super-efficient job for a better and sustainable environment, mainly throughout Germany and reaching out into the world. For many decades they have been setting milestones for a growing, global industry and it is always a blessing to mingle with the biggest, most experienced and best-educated green roof professionals in the world.
Our very own Ryan Miller was recently interviewed for the Solar Power World Magazine, focusing on our Sun-Root™ System. Solar Power World is written with a focus upon Technology, Installation and Development, reaching tens of thousands of industry professionals. “Four Questions with Ryan Miller of Green Roof Technology” will be featured in the upcoming April issue of the Solar Power World Magazine. The online version can already be previewed on their website, SolarPowerWorldOnline.com!
SPW: What is the concept behind the Sun-Root System?
Miller: As a green-roof company for more than 30 years, we have seen many innovations to modern green roof technology that makes it more marketable and affordable. When you sit down with clients, they want to know how much they are spending and what is their return. The payback of a green roof lies somewhere between 15 years to 25 years in most cases, and for many building owners that is not something that excites them. So we looked for ways to shorten this payback period while still meeting our goal of increasing the world's green spaces.
Continue reading here at SolarPowerWorldOnline.com!
Ornithoport in Bonn
Airports are plentiful in our world, but a unique concept involves creating airports specifically for birds. An exhibition on the roof of the Art and Exhibition Hall over the summer of 2012, highlights this common area as a destination point for birds. To aid this bird airport (ornithoport), nesting boxes and feeders were installed, as well as approach and departure structures, complete with flashing airport signals and safety announcements. All together this presentation is not only an awesome art piece, but probably the best landing facility for birds from all around the world. The curator of this project, Professor Res Ingold explains, "In our case, it is an artistic project with scientific backing."
Founded in 1992, the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany has played an important role in the community of Bonn, Germany. Designed by the architect, Gustar Peichl, the building displays various exhibitions in fields of art, archeology, cultural history, science, and technology. Aside from exhibitions, the community center frequently hosts symposiums, conferences, performances and concerts. One of the more attractive aspects of the building is the intensive rooftop garden, which is often site for sculpture displays. This vegetated rooftop is a nice addition for relaxing with a fantastic view of the surrounding city. In the summer refreshments are served at the beer garden, wildflowers brighten the landscape and the air is busy with buzzing honeybees. Multiple honey bee colonies call this rooftop garden home. In 2012 these little magnificent creatures produced 1,200 pounds of honey! Accurate daily monitoring of the productivity of the honey bees is accessible online in German, French and English.
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.
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.