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Extensive Green Roofs and Irrigation

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Thank you for all the comments on the blog post:

Irrigation on Extensive Green Roofs

 

We believe a lot of people in North America agree with the comment that in some areas Green Roofs can't thrive without irrigation. We at Green Roof Technology don’t disagree nor agree. Allow us to bring the discussion into a fundamental perspective:  

Before you built a structure, you have to remove nature or simpler living plants that nobody watered before. Modern green roof technology is able to mimic this type of environment and allows to promote exactly this drought tolerant and hardy vegetation. With a little more understanding of this technology, it is even possible to increase the plant varieties or the plants density.

Nevertheless  the attractivity might not meet the expectations of us (humans). Our picture in mind of a roof garden is a lush green vegetation form that is created with plants that please us (humans), that are not poison or dangerous. In some areas we can achieve this goal by utilizing resources that haven’t been available at this location before the structure was built.

By using natural resources (and water is the most valuable) we start changing our environment (we take water away from somewhere – from plants somewhere) just for our own comfort. Understanding that and the value of water should create an awareness to green roof professionals or engineers to design modern green roof technology in a way that no water or super highly restricted amounts of water are utilized.

Unfortunately, the irrigation industry and most of the green roof designers grew up in an environment where resources are endless. With that said the current waste of water on green roofs is simply not acceptable to me and in these cases green roofs are an environmental nightmare - just for our pleasure (and cash) and that things look “nice and green”.   

When I drive around in neighborhoods in San Francisco in the morning, my car is being washed by all the sprinklers and nobody has a problem with that…..

Simple and efficient technology is here since many decades but not in the interest of the industry, nor “re-invented” in the US or there is a lack of common sense – maybe it is a combination of all.

Most issues I am confronted with, are a result of high tech irrigation that is just not doing what it is supposed to do, there is not the right app, poorly designed and installed, too complicated for facility people etc. or simply drains the budget of building owners over time this water costs are going up.

Let’s discuss further and email us directly: info@greenroofservice.com

 

Comment by Jure Šumi ((LinkedIn):

 
Interesting input Jorg. Yes, extensive roofs should be self-sufficient where they can be. But in my mind this is not possible in really arid areas like Jim is saying. With our partners in Abu Dhabi we are now investigating what plants should be used there, where top temperatures are regularly reaching 120 F in summer months (with no rain for years). If you use local plants that are surviving in desert than they are surviving only due to the fact that the roots are extremely long and go deep in to the ground to find some moisture (not possible on the roof). Limited irrigation is still needed but the roof needs design with minimised ET, so also irrigation is as low as possible.

Maybe another thing to consider. Yes or no irrigation is also a question of what someone wants from green roof. Nice look is one aspect, stormwater managment is another. We should not forget Energy efficiency. According to our investigation and perfromance tests, evaporation has big effect on energy efficiency in the summer due to cooling effect. If moisture in the green roof system drops below certain level, the cooling effect is limited. So to have best energy perfromance of the roof, than you need irrigation.

 

Response Jörg Breuning:

Thank you Jure.

My starting point of thoughts about irrigation on extensive green roofs goes back to a fundamental point and only a handful people make these considerations.

Humans are capable to replace nature with a manmade structure on any location on Earth and they make it suitable for people to live there. In these fundamental thoughts, I expect that humans are also able to create this lost part of nature on top of these structures.

I agree this is not always cheap and not everybody is blessed with creativity or experience. Nevertheless, it is possible and it is our responsibility if we respect nature.

The rooting depth of plants is certainly a key element - it isn’t a road block. It seems it is the preferred excuse that we don’t need to feel responsible in what we re doing and that we don’t feel guilty.

I also think it using water for cooling buildings in an open system (what any green roof is) is considered - in my world - using elementary, limited and precious resources for our convenience. In the case that producing water (in dessert states) for the wasteful irrigation of plants (to make our close environment nice) might be a problem to justify to more than 100 million people that have no access to dependable water resources.

What I am saying is, that growing plants even in areas where plants would hardly grow can be done with extremely low impact on natural, precious resources at costs that are lower in the short or long term. The current hype for green roofs can create significant drawbacks in 15 or 20 years from now to building owners if the costs of water continue to rise. Keep in mind a 20 year old green roof is not even the half of the life span of a green roof (at least that is what I know from experience).

Professionals need to start thinking long term and not for quick profit, they should disregard fancy fashions or get away from desperate LEED point collecting terms if they seriously respect nature. 

Jörg Breuning

 

Picture: Deep rooting plant on roof with hardly any soil and never intentially planted (in Texas at the border to Mexico).

SRWA Conference 2014

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Sunday, October 19, 2014

Next Generation of Sustainable Buildings

 

Baltimore, MD / Hershey, PA --- The Sustainable Roofing and Waterproofing Alliance (SRWA) hosted its fifth annual fall conference from October 8-11, 2013 in Hershey, PA. The event brought together a global audience of architects, roof consultants, green roof experts, building design professionals, contracting firms, and building owners. This unique program featured in-depth educational courses and hands-on demonstrations designed to inform and advocate for advanced green building practices.

Enhanced moisture control of super insulated, high performance buildings envelopes in each climate zone on Earth is the key for long-lasting, low-impact and healthy buildings. Proper solutions will maximize the payback of investments for building owners and drastically reduce the environmental footprint of building structures at the same time.

The speakers at the SWRA Conference paired common sense with decades of scientific research and developed best management practices for any building envelope application.

“With over 200 attendees from 19 countries around the world the fifth SWRA conference set a new milestone for building professionals”, said Jorg Breuning, Green Roof Service LLC – Green Roof Technology, “vegetation on top of buildings are the ultimate transition from manmade structures to the natural environment.”

Effective, economic design and maintenance principals of modern Green Roof Technology was presented and discussed by Jorg Breuning. With over 34 years of experience, Jorg Breuning demonstrated that thinking outside the box or a ridged modular grid will separate the wheat from the chaff.

The SRWA team led by Samir Ibrahim, Director of Design Services at Carlisle did a phenomenal job to make this conference happen. 

Mineral Wool on Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Sunday, September 21, 2014

 Green Roof Innovation

 Mineral Wool on Green Roofs

 Green Roof Technology Reveals Latest Study about Mineral Wool on Living

Since their first commercial production in 1871 (Georgmarienhütte, Germany), mineral wool found its way in many applications like thermal insulation and soundproofing. Mineral wool, mineral fibers are typically referred to synthetic materials like fiber glass, ceramic fibers and stone or rock wool.

Two main types of mineral wools are on the market – water repellent (Hydrophobic) and water adsorbent (Hydrophilic). For horticultural purposes, only the hydrophilic type is useful. Many patents were granted for simple Hydroponic systems or the germination of seeds with mineral wool in the early 80’s.

In modern green roof technology the first green roof systems came on the market around 1985 in Germany at a time as the German green roof industry gained tremendous momentum. As a lightweight solution with high water retention, mineral wool seemed an ideal material. The higher costs and the higher carbon footprint - comparing to lightweight aggregates – were argued with easier installation and higher water retention.

Extensive research over more than 5 years at the University of Geisenheim and on numerous buildings confirmed the high water retention properties. However, in the mid-run these tests also revealed that the performance and the health of the vegetation were far below conventional green roof systems with standardize green roof components. Mineral wool manufacturers and green roof system suppliers stepped away from the idea of using mineral wool as a growing component for green roofs.

“Today we can see a revival of mineral wools in the green roof industry,” says Jorg Breuning, CEO, Green Roof Service LLC,” in countries with hardly any green roof experience, mineral wool is getting rather popular with potentially fatal results in the mid and long-run.” 

Especially in the United States, the market is growing rapidly for mineral wools on green roofs, disregarding existing studies and without extensive long-term tests. It isn’t even proven whether certain fibers can cause health problems, leach out chemicals or whether these components can be recycled when the green roof doesn’t perform anymore.

In 2012, the lack of performance of mineral wool as a vegetation carrier resulted in a major green roof restoration at Amsterdam International Airport. 90,000 square foot of green roof – built with mineral wool - had been taken off and replaced by a standardized green roof system. At this point, this was the largest green roof restoration in the history of mineral wool on green roofs. Costs that could have been avoided.


Doing it right in the first place.

Green Roof of the Year 2014

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, September 09, 2014

 

Green Roof of the Year 2014 – 30 Years and Counting

The second oldest Green Roof Association* in the world, FBB (Fachvereinigung für Bauwerksbegrünung), awarded a prize for Green Roof of the Year 2014 to a 30 year old Green Roof on the Allianz Insurance Company in Stuttgart, Germany. Oldest Green Roof Association DDV (Deutscher Dachgärtner Verband).

The roof is one of the first projects where Jörg Breuning, CEO at Green Roof Service LLC / Green Roof Technology was substantially involved in the realization. Allianz Insurance Company decided in 1981 to build their local headquarters in the heart of Stuttgart. At that time the office building was already a big step forward for urban development in many regards. Along with very advanced, environmentally friendly technologies it was also one of the first buildings to achieve the split between living green working space and luxurious living in downtown of a large City. 

The Green Roof is generally assembled around the building and on different levels. Most people in the offices have a view into the green spaces.  Some areas of the Green Roof are accessible for coffee breaks and, on the highest floors there is usable garden space for the Condominium owners. The top floor even offers extensive lawn areas as playgrounds for kids.

All Green Roofs together measure over 21,000 sf. This inner city oasis utilized an advanced Optigreen Green Roof Systems with fully automatic high tide and low tide irrigation system in the mineral drainage layer. The plants “decide” when they need irrigation; no drop of water is wasted or can evaporate before reaching a plant. Neither a person nor electricity is needed to operate this fully mechanical system and it leaves enough room for precipitation to fill up the water storage under the plants. This green roof represents a smart combination of Blue Roof and Green Roof as Green Roof Service LLC / Green Roof Technology is still doing it on projects today. It is a foremost and 100% accurate irrigation system far beyond most irrigation systems that are operated by sensors, electricity, Apps, tubes, pipes or other highly vulnerable and expensive equipment  we see every day on projects in North America or around the world.  

The entire depth of this highly efficient Green Roof technology is approximately 18 inch and has allowed lawn, perennials, shrubs and small trees to grow for over 30 year without replacement or  changing out the growing media. 

Green Roof Service LLC / Green Roof Technology is proud of this Award and we are pleased to offer more information about it. We offer Green Roof tours for anyone interested in this kind of technology.

This has been a landmark project for more than 3 decades and we congratulate all who are part of this Award!

*Note: Oldest Green Roof Association in the world: DDV (Deutscher Dachgärtner Verband).

Green Roof of the year Green Roof of 2014 

30 years Green Roof / 2014  

 Picture 2013 Optigreen

Green Roofs, Green Infrastructure in Lancaster, PA

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Going Green Will Save Lancaster in Controlling Storm Water

Release Date: 03/04/2014
Contact Information: David Sternberg, 215-814-5548 sternberg.david@epa.gov

-New EPA Report Documents Savings-

(LANCASTER, Pa. – March 4, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report today that found green infrastructure can be a cost effective solution to controlling stormwater while providing numerous economic benefits. Using the City of Lancaster as a case study, EPA sought to quantify the economic benefits associated with utilizing green infrastructure for controlling wet weather pollution.


Mayor Rich Gray

“Cities like Lancaster are leading the way in creating cost-effective and innovative solutions to the stormwater challenges we face today,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “By keeping rain water from coming into contact with pollution in the first place, green infrastructure improves water quality while making communities more livable.”

The report estimated that within the combined sewer system (CSS) area, Lancaster’s green infrastructure plan will reduce gray infrastructure capital costs by $121.7 million and reduce wastewater pumping and treatment costs by $661,000 per year. It will also provide approximately $2.8 million in energy, air quality, and climate-related benefits annually.

These benefits exceed the costs of implementing green infrastructure, which were estimated to range from $51.6 million if green infrastructure projects were integrated into already planned improvements to $94.5 million if green infrastructure projects were implemented independently.

"The City has invested more than $25 million over the past decade in ‘gray infrastructure’ improvements to increase the capacity of the City’s wastewater system,” said Lancaster Mayor Richard Gray. “In spite of this investment, a significant amount of untreated combined sewage continues to overflow into the Conestoga River and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. Green infrastructure will help reduce the volume of storm water entering our wastewater system and, at the same time, transform the City into a more sustainable, healthy community.”

Unlike single-purpose gray stormwater infrastructure, which uses pipes to dispose of rainwater, green infrastructure uses vegetation and soil to manage rainwater where it falls. By weaving natural processes into the built environment, green infrastructure provides not only stormwater management, but also flood mitigation, air quality management, and community revitalization.

In 2011, the City of Lancaster released its comprehensive green infrastructure plan. Developed with the assistance of city, county, and state agencies, the plan identified opportunities for adding green infrastructure throughout the city within 5-year and 25-year timeframes; estimated the water quality benefits and articulated a series of policy, outreach, and technical recommendations for implementing green infrastructure in the city.

Because of the plan and the city’s interest in understanding the added benefits of green infrastructure, EPA selected the City of Lancaster to serve as a case study for calculating the additional environmental, social, and economic benefits.

“Valuing multiple benefits of green infrastructure ensures water management investments by the City will help beautify, provide a safer, healthier and more prosperous community,” said Liz Deardorff, Clean Water Supply director at American Rivers.
“The results of this study affirm that green infrastructure has multiple benefits for both large and small cities needing to reduce pollution and ensure clean water.”

 

Lancaster, like hundreds of other cities across the country, has both a combined sewer system (CSS) and a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4). While the CSS collects both sewage and stormwater and conveys flows to a wastewater treatment plant, the MS4 collects only stormwater runoff and discharges flow directly to receiving streams.

The report summarized how installing green infrastructure in the CSS area could reduce gray infrastructure capital investments and associated wastewater pumping and treatment costs; as well as how installing green infrastructure in both the CSS and MS4 areas could produce a range of environmental benefits across the city.



A copy of the report can be accessed at this link:
http://owpubauthor.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/gi_csnortheast.cfm

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!

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

Teaching Sustainable Design

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

DPC Continuing Education, Inc has recently released their 2014 Future Green Trends Workshop schedule. These workshops focus mainly on rainwater design, green energy, green roofs and green materials.

Next up will be at the Holiday Inn in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey. Held on Wednesday February 19th.   

And following February will be March 12th, at the Hilton Garden Inn, located in Troy, NY.  

Our very own Jörg Breuning has been a guest speaker in the past during these workshops and will be appearing again. Workshops dates to be announced. 

For an extended schedule or more information, you may visit the official DPC 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. 


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