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Only Natives on Green Roofs?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, February 17, 2014

By: Jörg Breuning

In 1999 North America discovered that modern green roof technology is more than just an exclusive garden for a few wealthy people on top of a building. Experts understood very quickly that there are unmatched advantages of bringing back nature into locations where it was before.

With this enthusiasm, a lot of environmentalists and environmental organizations started to notice various opportunities to improve, simplify or promote themselves in many ways. Some of these ideas might sound glamorous, but the bigger picture concerning nature, is often disregarded.

In a previous blog post we reported about the ridiculous reductionist research of comparing reflective roofs with green roofs. Today we want to focus on the hype of native plants for green roofs:

Many Americans call a living organism native if these organisms have been on this continent before North America was discovered by European settlers. In their naivety, they have completely forgotten how the Natives have discovered and have lived on the land hundreds to thousands of years before.

So called Native people did the same as any organism; they expanded from their original locations to secure the species. While migrating and expanding over continents, all living organisms will change their environment accordingly. Microorganisms like bacteria or macro organisms like humans follow in the same footprints in evolution. The migration of European settlers did that as well and eventually became 'native'.

For most American people (as mentioned on Wikipedia) the opposite of native is "invasive". This discrimination is completely ignorant to the fact that something must be introduced first before it is invasive, encroaching, or just simply trespassing. 

It is even a bigger discrimination and ignorance of God's creation or evolution (whichever you prefer) when these people ( a lot of them call themselves experts) tell us that approximately 1,000 hectares of Bamboo scattered across the USA are a problem for when they call native species. However, at the same time, 1,000,000 hectares (1,000 times more) of genetically modified corn is not a problem. On top of this blatant discrimination, these 'tunnel-view' educated people (including LEED™) are pointing out that roofs are an ideal place for what they deem native plants.

Rooftops might be a stepping stone environment for plants that have been in North America for many thousands of years but when we try and set them up in a new place it is like a conversation of a narrowed down selection of species and disregarding the entire picture. It is obvious that history repeats itself - there are still existing reservations for Native Americans and we all know what effort this was, how discriminating this was and how much diversity, knowledge and inspiration we have lost. We are essentially treating native plants in the same way and that has nothing to do with environmental protection.

These so-called native plants must have a so-called native environment and require all the natural players (other living organisms) to thrive.

* Jeffersonia diphylla for example depends on ants to spread and what building owners want to have colonies of ants?

* The big family of Trifolium (stamped as a weed by nurseries) requires the stiff hair of animals to fulfill their natural calling - how many deer of bears do you want on your roof?

* Or shall we shoot all the birds that spread seeds from introduced trees?

The point of this blog is that any type of nature is better than covering the ground with impervious surface areas like asphalt, concrete of ground mounted solar factories. All our environmental issues are caused by the loss of natural environments. It is also much cheaper to protect these natural environments where they are and avoid relocation into reservations (such as rooftops). Simply by reducing footprints of man-made structures and concentrating human settlements to specific location allows these so-called natives organisms to thrive and to continue their journey of evolution.

An Upstream Battle for Green Roofs?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

By: Jörg Breuning

Every now and then we find studies comparing green roofs verses white roofs. It seems like and up-stream battle for the green roof industry against the big profits that are being made in the roofing industry with reflective water proofing membranes. All manufacturers of roofing material know that a reflective membrane will sell easier and with a higher profit than a traditional black tar roof. It is cheaper in production, and with the right crew, easier to install as well. In addition, because of the environmental benefit (discovered by LEED), the pricing can be more expensive.

Covering this membrane with a green roof should increase the profits - so we think. In reality, it isn't the case because the lack of horticultural understanding and human's natural fear of nature make it a high risk factor or even a potential lawsuit. Stockholders and risk managers for large roofing manufacturers offer green amenities (because this is good for their image), but never pressure these offers. Unfortunately, for roofing companies, protecting the revenue and profits is of higher priority over the environment and real sustainable practices.

It is no secret that selected manufactures support Universities in order to preform research on reflective membranes verses green roofs. These manufacturers tell the researchers precisely what to say and do so their reputation thrives. Since research jobs are not plenty full and Universities have the same economic pressure as roofing manufacturers, the results of this research may be questionable.

In an older selective or reductionist study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the so-called scientist went a step further. Writing a paper, clearly motivated by manufacturers, they described their data as somewhat sparse - does that mean worthless?

We still try to understand the words that are used in this study:

"Somewhat" = to a moderate extent or by a moderate amount

"Sparse" = thinly dispersed or scattered

We at Green Roof Service LLC/Green Roof Technology don't need simplyfied research that says "maybe yes" and "maybe no" in one sentence without considerations of the entire picture. Many people in the green roof industry don't have a scientific backing, but it is a great gift that they have common sense and understand that bringing back nature to where it previously resided is way better than covering the earth under a white burial shroud.  

The bear in the stream catching the battling salmon can't extinguish the species - as long as the water is clean. If the water is polluted because of the lack of nature in our built up Cities, there won't be any salmon left and the bear will shortly become extinct as well. Responsible research and researchers can help keep our waterways and neighborhoods clean - or address a topic holisitc.

See also our blog post: 

White Roofs are Better than Green Roofs!


The Green Edge: How Commercial Property Investment in Green Infrastructure Creates Value

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, January 25, 2014

By: Samantha Yurek

According to the EPA, green infrastructure is simply the title given to an approach using environmentally friendly techniques to manage stormwater. This can include multiple efforts such as green roofs, permeable pavement, rain gardens or even planting more trees. It is well known that green infrastructure aids in decreasing stormwater issues, and ultimately creating a healthier environment and more livable neighborhoods. 

This past December, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a study on how investing in green infrastructure creates value for commercial properties. The environmental benefits have been obvious, but how can green infrastructure help YOU out??


Picture: First Blue Roof and Green Roof combination in the US

The NRDC explains that "Commercial properties with well-designed green infrastructure can reap the rewards of higher rents and property values, increased retail sales, energy savings, local financial incentives (such as tax credits, rebates, and stormwater fee credits), reduced life-cycle and maintenance costs, reduced flooding damage, reduced water bills, reduced crime, and improved health and job satisfaction for office employees."

If interested in reading the full article you may visit the NRDC official website.

White Roofs are Better than Green Roofs!

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, January 24, 2014

By Jörg Breuning

According a study from prestigious researches at LawrenceBerkeley National Laboratory, One Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, CA 94720, United States and School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, reflective roofs have a higher value for building owners than Green Roofs.

Julian Sproula, Man Pun Wanb, Benjamin H. Mandela and Arthur H. Rosenfeld developed a study that clearly explains the monetary benefits of reflective roofs v.s. Green Roofs v.s. traditional roofs. In their reductionist research, the outcome for green roofs is not good.  In a press release they stated:” The researchers acknowledge that their data are somewhat sparse but contend that their analysis is valuable in that it is the first to compare the economic costs and energy savings benefits of all three roof types.” It isn’t the first time – I have seen many worthless studies before…  

I am anchored in the Green Roof Industry since 1980, I roll my eyes and shake my head about counterproductive statements and studies like that. In the yellow pages they would have found somebody who could have told them differently and how to spend the generous money from the industry (other than green roof industry) much better – actually in building a Green Roof. Even when building a Green Roof doesn’t help the building owner (according their study) it would have helped the environment.

Bringing back nature into a location where nature was before is simply the best you can do!

My advice: Don’t start covering your Green Roofs or entire nature with a white piece of plastic – just don’t believe every written word on the internet or commercial reductionist research – Use your gut feeling and think out of the box!

This blog post represents the opinion of Jörg Breuning. If you have another opinion please feel free to contact me.  

Here is a link to the Study.

Sustainable Green Trends Workshop

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

On Tuesday, December 3rd, Jörg Breuning and Bill Foley will present at a Sustainable Green Trends Workshop at the Holiday Inn in East Windsor, New Jersey. The topic: Planning, Implementing and Maintaining a Green Roof System for Sustainable Projects. The session will start at 1:40 pm, directly after the complimentary lunch and will last until 5:40 that evening. 

The Sustainable Green Trends workshop is one of many programs held by DPC Associates in order to promote sustainable building practices in the northeast. 

Green Roof Collapse in Latvia

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, November 26, 2013
By: Samantha Yurek

On Thursday November 21st 2013, an evolving green roof collapsed over top a Latvian supermarket. The market, open to the public at the time, was under construction because of a green roof and recreation area being installed for an adjacent residential building. The rooftop that buckled only covered one area of the market, however fifty-four people have been pronounced dead since Saturday and many more hospitalized. 

The cause, although not completely pinpointed has been blamed on the overall green roof construction. The additional weight on the structure by the various green roof materials and growing media could have been exacerbated by the recent rain events. A current investigation is underway to determine if proper precautions and guidelines were followed throughout the planning and construction processes. 

As explained in a previous blog post: The First Steps to Planning a Green Roof, checking the structural integrity of any building should always be the first step in the planning process. Not only should a green roof to have a long lifespan, it should also not put anyone in danger.  

Akron University Green Roof Sees Season's First Snow

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Located on top of the Sydney L. Olson Research Center, Akron University's first green roof is an 18,000 sf extensive green roof with over 15 varieties of perennial plants.  After its first full growing season, the plants are well established and ready for a winter nap.  Initially planted in October 2012, we established this roof without ever irrigating and only lightly fertilizing at a rate of 5 g / m2 (0.0164 oz / ft2) pure Nitrogen.  As you can see from the pictures below, the green roof is growing in very nicely and is home to a variety of insects.

Back in mid-September:  Nearly 1 year of growth. 

Unterm Regenturm: Under the Raintower

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In 1992 Jörg Breuning, Green Roof Service LLC and Thomas Heuman, Heuman Gartenanlagen provided consulting services to Hundertwasser's architects, Springmann and Associates. It was quite an effort the contemporary artist and the City of Plochingen to develop an entire block of the city's historical district. This city has been around since the year 1146. 

From the outside the historical buildings still remain the same and all facing to an intensive greenroof courtyard in the back. This courtyard and the backside of the buildings received an artists' distinguished signature in 1993. Efficient and gorgeous, the entire courtyard resides on a two story parking garage and grocery store, meanwhile the lush green environment above creates a different feeling. Hundreds of various plants decorate the landscape with paving materials snaking their way through to make perfect paths. The sloped roofs facing the courtyard are also fully or partially greened. Approximately fifty green roofs occupy the colorful, wavy historical buildings.

This particular construction of modern green roof technology underlines the artist's inspirations as well as supports diverse vegetation. The structure is a magnet to tourists and a true landmark of the region for over twenty years and well worth a visit!

Cities Alive Annual Green Roof and Wall Conference

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, September 27, 2013

October 23rd to the 26th San Francisco will be alive with Green Roof Professionals. Our very own Jörg Breuning will be featured in a lecture series at the Cities Alive Annual Green Roof and Wall Conference. The topic, Design with Maintenance in Mind, will highlight four sub-topics - one of which Jörg will be explaining the how the Solar Garden Roof System works, specifically highlighting the very first project installed on Randall's Island in New York City.

Green Roof Pest Control and Maintenance

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Insects, spiders and other arthropods on green roofs are not uncommon.  Actually, long term studies show that arthropod colonization on green roofs, whether one-story tall or 20-stories tall, mimics ground level colonization, sometimes with even greater diversity.  Arthropods are a vital component for any healthy ecosystem and their diversity in an ecosystem keeps pesky and damaging arthropods in check. 

However, infestations on green roofs do occur.  Last Fall, we helped Swarthmore College diagnose and treat a white grub infestation on one of their green roofs.  By recognizing the infestation signs early, the college’s professional horticulture team was able to control the grub problem through organic pest control methods.

Recently, a red spider mite infestation was reported in a school in the UK with a 12-month old green roof.  The infestation on the green roof was allowed to go unchecked for so long that the bugs made their way into the school via air ducts.  When children began complaining of bites the school had to close down for several days to fumigate.    

Naturally, all green roofs are susceptible to infestation.  Red spider mites are a common household and nursery pest.  Spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions.  Being aware of their preference for hot, dry conditions and the effect they have on infested plants is vital information all professional green roof maintainers must possess. 

It is important to remind installers that all nursery plants arriving on a project site should be checked for possible disease and pest infestation.  Green roof installers and maintainers must be able to recognize the early signs of infestation and know how to control their populations first through non-chemical methods and finally with a targeted plant-based, non-toxic pesticide if necessary.

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