Search
Back to Home Page
Home   |   Contact Us Ph: 443-345-1578

Green Roof Technology Blog

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.




Sun-Root™ System Press Release

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


Today Green Roof Technology announces to become the
Premier Supplier of Solar Green Roofs in America


BEL AIR, MD--(Marketwire - February 07, 2013) -  Green Roof Technology, a design and installation firm specializing in green (vegetated) roofs, announced today the completion of an exclusivity agreement with German green roof manufacturer Optigreen. Per the agreement, Green Roof Technology will become the exclusive North American supplier of the Sun-Root™ system.

The Sun-Root™ system is being hailed as the latest achievement in sustainable technology. The Sun-Root™ creates the first ever fully integrated Solar + Green Roof combination. The weight of the green roof holds the entire system in place, negating the need to drill into the roof membrane to support the solar panels. The cooling effect from the vegetation dramatically increases the efficiency and output from the solar panels.

"Partnering with the largest green roof supplier in the world is an outstanding accomplishment for our firm," states Jorg Breuning, founder of Green Roof Technology. "The North American market leans heavily on Germany for new and innovative green roof products and this agreement supports our vision to supply the market with high quality products at a competitive price."

For more information about this system and to see a short video of how it all comes together, please visit our website at:

http://www.greenrooftechnology.com/solar-green-roof.


Cool Roofs are not Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, January 17, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

 

In Physics class we learned basics about thermodynamics and about thermodynamic equilibrium. In simple words the content of a black coffee mug “adjusts” faster to the surrounding temperature than in a white coffee mug assuming the material and material thickness of the mugs are the same.

Exposing these mugs to the sun light the black mug will convert the electronic energy (sun light) into heat faster and no light or shade cools it faster assuming the ambient temperature is lower. The physics behind converting light into heat is called radiation-less transition. White (or bright) colors reflect the (sun) light more effective than black. 

Any macroscopic or microscopic body on our earth is exposed to these physics properties including all particles in the air of which can be plentiful in polluted cities. While the sun light enters in to the earth's atmosphere, all bodies (particles in the air) receive portions of the sun's electronic energy and convert them in to heat. For example, on a high mountain we experience much more sunlight, or electronic energy, because the air is "thinner" or has less particles in which the light has to travel through. On a beach the light intention is also very high and this is caused by the reflection of the light off the the water and sand. Sunburns on the beach are of high risk because of the consistent wind, we don't experience the transition from light into heat on our skin as fast. No living organisms can reflect the light 100% effectively, but they can actively reduce the consequences (heat) by using techniques such as evapotranspiration.

Roof Surface Temperatures
(a sunny day in May, air temperature around 72ºF)

Reflective roofs can't reflect 100% of the light either, but they are good to a certain degree (see roof temps above). However while reflecting the light back in to the atmosphere, this reflected light will meet all the particles (bodies) again and substantially increase their temperature. It is well proven that less than 5% of sunlight is reflected back into space once it's in our atmosphere.

White roofs relocate the transition point of light into heat from the roof into the atmosphere or surrounding bodies (e.g. buildings). They simply don't eliminate the problem of increasing temperatures (heat island effect) caused by human settlements and they don't decrease the environmental foot print of structures. In addition, the white surface has a slow thermodynamic equilibrium. It takes a long time to to heat up in the winter (when heat is necessary) and cools down slower during summer nights.

The kingdom of plants were the only organisms over millions of year who developed a super-efficient mechanism to reduce the heat transitioned from the sun light. It is called evapotranspiration - powerful, miniature AC units powered simply by solar energy. These super little AC units are found naturally on Earth, but can be practically placed anywhere.  By using this naturally occurring phenomenon and installing green roofs, the outcome will go further beyond any man-made machine or material.

In many countries where insulation requirements are more intense than in North America, it is questionable whether reflecting roof material makes sense to start with. From a global environmental perspective and understanding the basic science of physics, reflective roofs are just relocating the heat issue caused by human development. It is similar to building a chimney higher at a coal power plant so not to pollute the air, when in fact the wind will just carry the pollution toward a different city.

Sometimes I wish all LEED™ professionals would have more common sense and follow these laws of nature and their own environmental gut feeling - it is simply better living under a tree canopy rather than under a polar glacier. 

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

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.

 

 

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

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.

Common Sense

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, December 20, 2012

By: Jörg Breuning



Recently we have been receiving more and more calls regarding performance issues on extensive green roofs. Most of these roofs have been installed between 2-5 years ago by various green roof companies or supplied by different manufactures. Common complaints include dying plants, drainage system failure, growing media erosion and waterproofing leaks. Especially pre-vegetated systems (planters, trays, modules) mostly don’t meet expectations or even minimum requirements for green roofs. More often than not, green roof failures are the result of simple design or maintenance mistakes.

Many failures start within the design. A poor design leads to a snowballing effect of problems, growing and gaining velocity with every movement forward. Failures also occur during the construction phase when inexperienced installers claim a certain expertise because of a prior job, a way-back education or simply because they once watched a green roof installation. 

But problems can arise even sooner. We also noticed that many initial design and construction decisions are made ‘democratically’ or as a team consensus because no one person wants to carry the full responsibility on their own shoulders. Often these decisions are wrong and unrealistic. Physics, biology and chemistry are natural laws and cannot be compromised, even if done democratically.

Engineers must work within the parameters of reality and the best course of action is to always to use common sense.

In most cases things could be so easy if people would just use their own common sense and experience instead of believing all the nonsense they find on the internet.

Our commitment is to common sense, never nonsense. 



Green Roof Research in North America

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, December 03, 2012

Green Roof Research in North America By Jörg Breuning

 

I am always amazed how much funds, intellectual energy and resources are put into research of extensive green roofs without the consideration of feasibility and without considering the demands of the plants.  Especially in research common sense should be the starting point of any qualified discussion. This raises also the questions, why are extensive green roofs in Europe –in particular Germany – are so successful?

It is solely successful because extensive green roofs according modern green roof technology are a cost efficient (and beautiful) tool to manage stromwater issues. Period. All other highly market benefits or positive “side effects” are generated by the system for free because these are only consequences of successful implemented nature. Focusing on the side effects and improving them will compromise and eventually reduce the main purpose of an extensive green roof by increasing costs for designing, engineering, implementing and maintenance.

In the academic world Liebig’s law of the Minimum should be applied in any step of the discussion and research. However understanding the limiting factors – including limiting economic factors – requires a tremendous amount of experience, historical data and common sense. The lack of these factors and the lack of time seem the limiting elements but justified by many unique human properties like vanity, self-promotion and economic restrains. On the other side (consumer side) the humans are also part of nature and it is natural that any of their decisions are made accordingly. If an idea doesn’t fit into this process (controlled by the scarcest or limiting resource) we walk away from it, like plants will “walk away” if their minimum requirements are not met. With the disappearance of plants on an extensive green roof we lose the purpose and the investment.

It is common sense that plants cannot walk away as fast as humans so their disappearance might take 2 decades or more which is still much less than the lifespan of extensive green roofs – the lifespan we promote.

For example measuring and promoting building insulation properties of a thermal mass or heat sinks like extensive green roofs was developed as a selling instrument of the industry (like reflective roofs). Trying to improve that will consequently compromise the main purpose to the negative. The end of this research will find out that it is most efficient and probably 10 times cheaper just to increase the buildings insulation on any surface of the building. It will also perfectly benefit when energy prices will continue to super-proportional increase or when we like to build our settlements that they last longer than just two decades – or when we want that the building has the same lifespan as an extensive green roof.

As I brought modern green roof technology to North America from Europe I expected a higher understanding of common sense and of Liebig’s law since it seemed to work in the social and financial world. Investing the research funds in actual extensive green roofs according proven modern green roof technology (e.g. not pre-planted boxes) would benefit the environment, industry and building owner much more and would help to start an entirely new research generation in 10-15 years from now.

When it comes to living technologies going back to the roots sometimes helps or simply is a necessity.  


Follow Us!

RSSGreen Roof Tech Blog
RSSGreen Roof Plant Blog


Recent Posts


Tags


Archive

Latest Blog Posts
  1. 101 Common Sense of Intensive Green Walls Green Team at Green Roof Technology, 24-Sep-2018
  2. Celebration 20 years of Integrated Green Infrastructure Green Team at Green Roof Technology, 12-Jul-2018
Facebook   Twitter   LinkedIn   Google+   YouTube
Go To Resources Page