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A History of Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

By ~ Andrew Cole Yanders

One of the life’s great pleasures is the act of discovering an idea in a book that fundamentally changes the way you see the world.  This dynamic relationship between your life and the world of ideas is where creativity is sparked and dreams are made.   Often times you do not even understand what you are looking at but you recognize that it is different and fundamentally how things should be.  Today we are inundated with ontological debates, and possibly no more so than in how we view the structures we live and work in.  The image below of a classic Norwegian cabin speaks to my unconscious sense of how things should be.  Albeit a crude dwelling, it is awesome because of that fact.  Looking back into history for examples of how we used to strive to live in harmony with nature can provide the spark of inspiration we all need to find modern solutions to our most daunting challenges. 

  

The classic sod roofs of Scandinavian homes have many of the essential benefits modern green roofs have today such as insulation and stormwater control.  Well designed and constructed sod roofs have proven to last centuries.  We hope that 100+ years from now, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will look upon our green roofs the same way we look at these awesome Norwegian sod roofs.

Here at Green Roof Technology we are proud to house the largest green roofs archives in the United States.  Because our history with green roofs began way back in the mid 1970’s in Stuttgart, Germany, we have had the privilege to collect government and trade publications for almost four decades.  We thought the rest of you would enjoy taking a peek back in history too.

In the early 1970’s, Germany was the epicenter of a revitalization of roof top gardening.  Technologies and techniques were created to waterproof large flat roofs and shield them from root penetration.  Intricate irrigation systems were devised to support large woody perennials.  Roof gardens became a status symbol of wealth and prosperity during an age of rapid urbanization.

The next evolution in green roofing began in the 1980’s when light-weight extensive roofs were developed.  Popularized by their low costs and huge environmental benefits, the bird’s eye view of many German cities quickly changed in the subsequent decades.

Pictured below are a few covers from our collection and one page from a 1984 publication by the Baden-Wurttemberg government outlining intensive and extensive green roof systems.

For more green roof information take a look at our Resources Page. 

 

 

Cities Alive - Philadelphia 2011

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, December 12, 2011

By Kat Harrold

 

Photo ~ Kat Harrold

Last week the North American Green Roofs for Healthy Cities conference was held in the rapidly becoming emerald city of Philadelphia.  The conference was a very rich event in terms of contacts and the latest and greatest in developments in the green roof and green wall industry.

This year brought some new technology with us to show off one of the best solutions for combining solar and green roofs.  The black plastic component resembling as shark fin that took center stage at our booth is one of the latest developments in drainage boards world wide.  The drainage board feature a built stand for the solar panel allowing the weight of the green roof to ballast the solar panel stand.  By utilizing this set up one can take advantage of the stormwater benefits of the green roof as well as the energy producing benefits of the solar panel.  The other added benefit of this set up is that the green roof keeps the solar panel cooler preventing it from over heating and allowing it to produce energy more efficiently during the cooler months.  This new development was very popular this year and we look forward to the promotion of solar green roofs in the future.

Aside from the trade show there were also very high quality networking events and informative lectures taught by some of the industries finest.  One of my personal favorites was a lecture about green roof mapping in Germany by Professor Manfred Kohler.  By using ideas from this lecture, if we could map and stay current with green roofs being built in North America we could better monitor the health and performance of these roofs to truly document and take advantage of their stormwater benefits.  This could also be very useful in trying to create green ways for migratory birds.

Over all it was a wonderful conference and the solar drainage board made it back safely despite the wind's best efforts!

Can't wait to see everyone at the 10th Cities Alive conference in Chicago!

 

 

 

NY Green Infrastructure Symposium

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, November 22, 2011

By Kat Harrold GRP

 

Last Thursday the Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry hosted the 2011 Central New York Green Infrastructure Symposium.  The best and the brightest professionals, researchers, and government officials poured into the symposium to share ideas and learn about green infrastructure applications and regional workforce development.

Joining the discussion was our fearless leader Jorg Breuning.  As a guest lecturer Jorg presented a wealth of knowledge covering common mistakes to avoid with green roof design, construction and maintenance.  He also busted a few myths about green roofs as well.  A download of this presentation can be found on our Resources page under Modern Green Roof Technology.

Over all it was a very informative and productive symposium.  It was also a real treat being able to see old friend Charlie Miller who gave a wonderful opening keynote presentation.

Green Instance Magazine

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, November 21, 2011

By Andrew Cole Yanders


 

 

It’s been another busy week at Green Roof Technology.  Earlier this week a Green Roof Evaluation Case Study was posted for download, highlighting the necessity of a diligent maintenance program and the damage that can occur when one is not administered. 

Today we are excited to announce the upcoming release of the first issue of our quarterly magazine: 

GREEN INSTANCE, The International Review of Living Infrastructure.

The magazine is hitting the press this week and will be delivered to leading architects, urban planners, landscape architects, building owners, general contractors and facility managers around the world.  The limited first printing will also be available at our booth at CitiesALIVE 2011, hosted in historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from November 30th to December 2rd

Following CitiesALIVE 2011, we will post GREEN INSTANCE for free download on our website.

If you wish to receive a hard copy of GREEN INSTANCE please email andrew@greenrooftechnology.com.  Availability is limited.    

Green Roof Time at Penn State

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, November 17, 2011
Green Roof Tech Rookie Recalls His Time at One of the Best Green Roof Research Programs in the US

Photo courtesy of Centre Daily Times

On a sunny but cold Tuesday morning I stepped into the Tyson Building for the first time.  I was returning to Penn State two years after completing my undergraduate degree.  The basement hallway was warm and inviting but in my palms was a cold sweat.  Re-entering the classroom was like walking into a strange country.  I crossed the threshold and took a seat next to the prettiest girl in class; some old habits never go away.  I relaxed into the typically first day pre-class conversation and waited for Professor Berghage to arrive.  A few minutes later in walked a tall, stalky man with a long grey ponytail wearing blue jeans, a vintage LL Bean shirt and of course a toothy smile.  Horticulture 497A: Green Roofs, Rain Gardens and Living Walls consisted of no more than 15 students, most of who were already familiar with Dr. Berghage and were all apt to calling him simply ‘Rob’.  I realized within minutes that this class, this time in space, was a foreign country from all the other class rooms I ever spent time in at Penn State.  Gone were the slightly awkward, poorly dressed but all too clean-cut professors from my days as an economics student. 


Photo Courtesy of Andrew Cole Yanders

After a period of introduction to green roofs the class moved to a nearby classroom in Headhouse l.  Rob continued to discuss the myriad components that go into a modern green roof and passed examples around for all of us to inspect.  This is a trend in Dr. Berghage’s teaching style I came to greatly appreciate, theoretical explanations then immediate tactile experience.  The following week we began discussions on media and our week’s lab time was spent creating and testing media with varying air-space porosities.   The varying medias the class created were then placed into experimental hanging boxes in the greenhouse and covered with sedum album cuttings.

University Park campus is lush with green roofs with more coming with each new building Graham Spanier is incapable of saying no to.  Stepping onto the roof of the Forestry Building, Penn State’s first green roof, was my first experience with a completed green roof.  It was hard to even call it spring yet, but the roof looked wonderful to me, vibrant and full of life.  We toured more roofs throughout the semester and charted installation progress on others.  Special interest was made to watch the the ground level intensive roof being built on top of the new nano-fabrication laboratories in the Millennium Science Building.               

As a class we spent considerable time evaluating the two major green roof systems on the market in the United States today, the modular system and the built-up system.  We constructed two experimental boxes for each system and fill with an FLL approved media.  The boxes were hung and fitted with lysimeters.  Naturally we determined evapotranspiration rates as well as time to peak flow rates at varying degrees of inclination.

Several weeks of the semester were also dedicated to the study of rain gardens.  Anyone who has spent any time at University Park during heavy rain storms knows to wear their wellies.  The Biggler River comes first to mind.  Suffice it to say Penn State has a problem with storm water.  Decreasing amounts of green space coupled with increasing roof areas are compounding the problems on an already over-stressed infrastructure.  The difficult job of trying to alleviate the problem falls on the shoulders of Lawrence Fennessey, Penn State’s Stormwater Systems Engineer.  Dr. Fennessey took the class on an afternoon long tour of the entire campus, which is mind-blowingly huge, pointing out all of the challenges that need to be met and the ingenious solutions that have been implemented.  Porous pavements, curb cuts, infiltration gardens and bioswales are only a few examples of the techniques Dr. Fennessey and the rest of OPP have used.

When I returned to university for the Spring Semester 2011 I wasn’t one hundred percent certain what wanted to study.  I knew I wanted to do something ‘green,’ to study biological systems.  I talked with department heads of both Agricultural Engineering and Molecular Biology expressing my desire to study algae and biofuels.  They set me up with a defined academic path, which I began to pursue, but time, money and ultimately my desire to remain at university became an issue.  With green roofs I found a perfect outlet for all my aspirations.  Today I could not be happier; I am working with biological systems and also fulfilling my artistic passion for landscape design.
        

Lancaster School District Green Roof Report Card

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

By Andrew Cole Yanders

 

Photo By ~ Kat Harrold

Last week, Andrew and Kat traveled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania by request of the School District of Lancaster and LIVE Green Lancaster to tour and evaluate three green roofs in the district.  The report card was not good.  Parent-teacher conference bad.  We have made available a detailed school-by-school evaluation of each roof, containing a diagnosis and recommended treatments. 

To find out more about the diagnosis and recommended treatments visit our Resources page.

We are Expanding to Canada Eh

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, November 09, 2011

By Kat Harrold

 

Photo by Jorg Breuning

Green roofs are blooming in Toronto and so are we.  With the help of our newest member Patty, we will be opening a new office in the fair city of Toronto. 

Patty Jordan is the powerful and creative force behind our new branch in Toronto.  As the current owner of Alive in Colour Decorating Services, Patty has a real eye for design and style with the business knowledge to get it all done.  

Her ability to assess business requirements and create innovative solutions to improve organizational performance. Being a native to Canada and having worked in public policy will also be an invaluable asset as we move into this new territory.

Be sure to stop by soon to find our more about the new endeavor in a world where even the sky isn't the limit!

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Patty Jordan

 

Easy as ABC - Bronx Week 2

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, November 07, 2011

By Kat Harrold 

Photo By ~ Kat Harrold

It has been a long and exciting journey as we reach the homestretch of this project.  What started out as a question of whether or not a green roof on a warehouse is structurally possible has blossomed into a its first week of construction. 

In the beginning we worked with the structural engineer and determined that the best design for the roof was to have the vegetated area cover 12’ wide sections on the support beams.  Given the unique character of the planter like beds created by this design root barrier was added to the layered system.  

After the design phase we helped the Sustainable South Bronx acquire materials for the roof and construction.  Working with Sustainable South Bronx is always a real treat for us.  Having helped train their initial in green roof installation crew, we have the joy of seeing old friends and the peace of mind knowing that the roof is in good hands.

Last week after some weather delays we were able to bring the growing media onto the roof and into its respective planting beds.  It was a dirty job but somebody had to do it.  Despite the gritty nature of the work it was visually relaxing seeing the roof begin to resemble a garden more than a roof.

This week the planting will be finished just in time for the plants to settle in and prepare for a long winter nap.
Once the roof is done a weather station as well as precipitation and temperature sensors will be added to monitor the green roof and regular roof.  

This green roof will be open to the public for educational tours.

 

ASLA National Convention - San Diego 2011

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, November 05, 2011

By Kat Harrold GRP

 

Photo By Kat Harrold GRP

Sunny skies and cool autumn temperatures set the stage for Green Roof Technology's first exhibition at the  American Society for Landscape Architects national conference.  For a conference covering everything from urban planning to garden design, San Diego was setting a shining example and keeping it classy as always.  Will Ferrell's character Ron Burgundy would have been proud. 

Tours, seminars, and awards ceremonies took center stage this year covering everything from floating islands to ecoroofs.  Next to the Expo hall, the keynote address took place.  With the end of the closing statement the Beach Boys’ “Lets Go Surfing” resonated through the hall and a tidal wave of landscape architects flooded the Expo hall.  While many visitors were from California, professionals from all over the country, and in some cases the world, were present.  This was a great trade show for Green Roof Technology as we were eagerly received as a guiding mentor for green roof design and green roof implementation.

Curious professionals weren’t the only one’s visiting our booth.  Day one of the expo fell on Halloween.  Trick or treaters, most of which were teeter toddlers or stroller bound, roamed the expo hall in search of delectable treats.  The added sugar rush also helped maintain high spirits for the adults as they trick or treated for business cards and brochures.

Over all the trade show was a great success.  Even though the attendance in the hall was a little lower than expected, the contacts were high quality for Green Roof Technology.  Discussions and concerns about the industry were very thought provoking.  With concerns everywhere about mitigating heat island effect and stormwater management, the future of green roofs looks very bright indeed.

Run-Off Quality - Extensive Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, October 22, 2011

Green roofs are vegetated soil filter where the naturally loosened root zone creates an enhanced degradation and retention of pollutants. The older the green roof the better the performance - considering the green roof was designed, constructed and maintained according the worldwide accepted FLL Guideline. Based on higher temperatures in summer the release of nutrients can be higher but will be still far below the strictest German drinking water ordinance as different studies showed in long term studies between 1999 and 2003 in Germany (W. Kolb, G. Mann, M. Köhler). However most run-off is more or less stained by humic substances that are typically caused by organic matter including releasing substances of the plants.

Since this is just a visual issue (no overall quality problem) the run-off water can be easily stored in cisterns. The water can be used for toilet flushing, irrigation, car washing and other purposes. Colored water is not recommended for doing the laundry, it might stain white fabrics. Research from Köhler (1993) and Liesecke & Borgwardt (1995) also showed that green roof have the ability to filter airborne pollutants efficiently, like lead, copper, zinc and formaldehyde.

To minimize run-off water coloration the initial organic content of the growing media can be reduced. Ideal are green roof layers with high mineral content (drainage and green roof soil). Within the FLL guideline Green Roof Technology is able to enhance the removal of pollutants and run-off coloration at the same time. Specially engineered green roof growing media will perfectly customize for our clients need and based on leading research performed in Germany over the last 15 years. 

Since extensive monolithic green roofs retain as an average 50-75% the storage of the run-off (cistern size) has to be adjusted accordingly and is typical larger than without green roof.

Data from any Run-Off Quality research done in the United States or Canada can be just used as a rough speculation. We don't know any research performed with standardized components (e.g. growing media) and further more there is no uniform standard for compost or organic ingredients going into the growing media. Without uniform and standardize research all results are only speculation. Independent research (not sponsored by manufacturers) in Germany did consider these important facts and therefore the results are useful and easy to implement on real projects.

Any kind of plastics (drainage boards, chemical substances or modular systems) doesn’t support the cleaning power as much as perfectly engineered wall-to-wall green roof systems. More and more experts starting researching on how much chemicals are released by plastic components and water proofing materials since it well know that plastic components affect sea life  - where all run-off ends up.

On request Green Roof Technology will translate any information about leading green roof research done in Germany over the last 25 years. 


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