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Green Roofs Don’t Work or People Don’t Work ?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, May 22, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

 

Information spreads like wildfire in today's world; between the internet and numerous social media sites. It has become extremely easy to access relevant information anytime, anywhere. This is a fantastic technological advancement, with one weakness. Anyone can "publish" anything. 

Since the internet makes everything very easy to spread any kind of information around the globe in seconds, it seems that the quality of information provided to the public dropped at accordingly the same speed as it's distribution. Some people jump to conclusions; they are quick to talk and other are quick to responds via text and in most cases these are not the same people. I get the impression that one group is too lazy to write and the other group too lazy to think. They have a desperate need for attention - I like to call it Recognition Deficit or RD for short, which unfortunately results in misleading and false information to the reader. Many people in the audience often find it necessary to then add their own opinions and re-post the article, making things even worse.

An excellent example of RD was recently posted in the American Scientific. I believe this certainly affected their reputation in the scientific world and hopefully leads to better supervision of the people who have permission to post. Their article was copied and pasted onto numerous other websites, regardless of the comments left on the original page. In this instance, RD wasn't the only symptom, a combination of ignorance and laziness was also thrown into the mix.

Modern green roof technology is a well-established technology around the world. If some researchers think that there is room for improvements, they should consider previous research from around the world in addition to what might be sacrificed along the way. Focusing on one aspect of the issue won't work in a complex ecosystem. There are no defining traits of complex ecosystems, where Mother Nature undergoes consistent changes. Having a tunnel view sometimes helps, however we can't afford to lose the bird's-eye perspective of the decades of experience and hands-on professionals.

To all the skeptics out there, let's make a long story short:

Green Roofs do work, but many people don't!

Green Roofs and Stormwater Fee

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, May 17, 2013

Green Roofs Can Reduce Stormwater Runoff, Reduce Stormwater Fees!

By: Rebecca Gullott

Not many Marylanders are happy about paying the new stormwater fee or “rain tax” as it has come to be known. The county imposed fee is based on the amount of impervious surface such as rooftops and driveways on each property (cost-by-cause principle). In Howard County alone there are over 19,000 acres of impervious surfaces that contribute to pollution of local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. 19,000 acres are almost 30 sq miles or 11% of the counties size- more than double the size of all water ways in the county! No wonder that Stormwater runoff is responsible for over 20% of pollution into the bay.

Those wishing to lessen their stormwater fee can reduce the impervious surface area on their property through smart design and management practices. Howard County is providing instruction and incentives for citizens to do just that. Howard County Stormwater Management Division has partnered with several organizations including the University of Maryland Extension to help citizens take control of their environmental impact. Rainscaping workshops will be offered this summer to show residents how to plant and maintain rain gardens and native species; as well as compost waste and use rain barrels to collect roof runoff for use in lawn and garden irrigation or car washing. Howard County is offering free rain barrels at the Alpha Ridge Landfill select Saturdays April through September. Other Maryland Counties have similar programs so check your county’s website to see what offerings are available.

Property owners can receive credits for on-site improvements that reduce impervious surfaces. Whether it’s establishing a rain garden in the yard or incorporating planted areas or green roofs into the company’s parking lot, these incentives may encourage citizens to take control of their environmental impacts. These changes may help to reduce the need for future stormwater fee increases and promote a healthier Chesapeake for years to come.

The possitive impact for the environment by implementing cost-by-cause fess is very effective in many other counties and States in the US and over decades in Europe.

Ryan Miller featured in Solar Power World Magazine

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ryan Miller was recently interviewed for the Solar Power World Magazine, focusing on our Solar Green Roof Sun-Root™ System. Solar Power World is written with a focus on technology, installation and development, reaching tens of thousands of industry professionals. "Four Questions with Ryan Miller of Green Roof Technology" is featured in the May issue of the Solar Power World Magazine. The online version can already be viewed on their website.

Here is a snippet of the article with Ryan:

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 look for ways to shorten this payback period while still meeting our goal of increasing the world's green spaces.

If interested, please learn more by watching a video of the solar panel green roof combination.

The Solar Boom

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek

 
Photo Credit: The Solar Foundation

It is obvious the solar industry has been growing steadily, but an ongoing study by the Solar Foundation has uncovered to the extent in which the industry has expanded thus far. Solar workers now outnumber many of our larger occupations in the United States. Currently, we have more solar workers than coal miners in America, and the industry hasn't seized growth yet. The Solar Foundation released an interactive map naming the top three states with the most solar jobs as California, followed by Arizona and New Jersey. Most of these jobs are listed as installation positions, but others include manufacturing, project development, sales and distribution.

The new integrated Sun-Root™ System can help achieve both clean energy production along with additional benefits of a green roof. The Sun-Root™ System is the most advanced system solution that considers both enhanced water storage for the green roof plants and optimized evaporative cooling for solar panels.

 

Irrigation on Extensive Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, May 02, 2013

By: Jörg Breuning

The main purpose of an extensive green roof is stormwater retention and delaying stormwater runoff amongst many other added values.
 
Above: An Irrigated Green Roof 

In the last decade, I've seen many green roofs where the intended plants never really flourished. I estimate that in the US at least 50% of the green roofs are not performing to their fullest potential. This can be observed by simply looking at the most obvious of indicators, the plants themselves, regardless if they were planted on purpose or somehow found the space to take root.  Most of these less healthy extensive green roofs are pre-planted boxes, or commonly known as modular systems. Not only are these systems much more costly, the mid to long term results are often far below systems that are assembled in place and at the time of installation.

I know that the transition from being a common nursery-grown plant (including pre-planted boxes) to the extreme environment of a rooftop poses severe challenges. Green roof plant nurseries typically have "great" advice and recommend the installation of temporary or more permanent irrigation systems. This advice is defeating the purpose of an extensive green roof and shows that asking self-appointed experts can cause a spiral of failures. Since many green roof installers lack the proper horticultural knowledge, they may not be able to identify problems by simply looking at the indicators (the plants). This could cause the problem to gain momentum. In addition, the false conclusion that technology (Google search, Apps, synthetic growth media or sophisticated soil moisture control devices) can fix the problem supports my theory of less experienced or misinformed green roof professionals. They rely heavily on technology to fix any issue and miss the big picture. Nature has the ability to take care of itself, as long as the appropriate design, materials and plants are used in addition to being familiar with the immediate climate.

Green roof designers and green roof professionals must understand that less is often more when it comes to extensive green roofs. No building owner wants to irrigate their roof in short, mid or long terms. There is no need to make a green roof more complicated by using multiple synthetic or plastic layers. LEED™ certification supports using gray (recycled) water for green roof irrigation; but what is the point of watering an extensive system when it's main purpose is to retain stormwater? Common sense and experience are the only two things that will aid in planning the perfect green roof.


Above: An Unirrigated Green Roof

Implementing irrigation on an extensive green roof is a clear sign of not understanding the basic principles of horticultural techniques or the laws of nature. Irrigation reduces the water retention, increases the nutrient pollution in runoff and requires higher fertilization application. Irrigated extensive green roofs are not environmentally friendly, not economically feasible and have hardly any payback for the building owner.

I tell my clients if they have an offer or design for an extensive green roof that includes irrigation - be cautious!

 

Lancaster Green Roofs Receive a Little More Green

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, April 25, 2013

By Andrew Yanders


E. King Fire Station after receiving 70 lbs. of Sedum Cuttings.  Five varieties of cuttings were spread that day and 6 varieties of   herbaceous plugs

Last week I traveled to the City of Lancaster to oversee the install of 155 lbs. of Sedum cuttings on the Dewatering Building and E. King Street Fire Station green roofs.  Both green roofs were installed earlier this year during the winter months.  The Dewatering green roof was installed January 22nd through the 25th and just under two months later Fire Station green roof was installed. 

There is a common misconception that green roofs cannot be constructed and vegetation planted during the winter months.  Actually, we believe installing green roofs when spring is just around the corner is ideal.   The weather may not be to the likely of many fair-weather green roofers, but for those who are willing to brace the cold and wet, the payback for the client is well worth it.  By establishing the vegetation in its new soil media prior to the start of the growing season, plants are able to jump start their growth and the first 2 months of the growing season can be equal to more than 6 months of growth if the same plants were planted later in the year.  Unfortunately, too often vegetation (in this case the Sedum cuttings) is not available until the spring when it is more advantageous for the nursery.

It was so cold the week we installed the Dewatering Building’s green roof that the growing media and Sedum mats arrived frozen solid.  The growing media had to be defrosted overnight inside the garage portion of the building and the Sedum mats that could not be unrolled were left out in the sun for one day.  Despite being completely frozen prior to install, the health of the Sedum mats was not compromised at all. 

There is one detail that must be given special attention when planting during the winter months.  When planting plugs, it is critical that they are planted as deep as possible.  If this requires loosening or removing a portion of the bottom, so be it.  But if they are not planted deep and the soil well compacted around them, then plugs will migrate up out of the soil during periods of freeze and thaw.  This can happen to the extent that a plug becomes completely removed from the soil, exposing the root system to the elements, and often results in the plug withering and dying.  Plugs are not cheap and a negligent planting technique is a waste of the client’s money. 

 

The color of the Sedum mats on the upper portion of the Dewatering Building's green roof has changed from mostly reds to a variety of lush greens.  New growth is abundant.  

Preparing the soil for Sedum cuttings is critical.  Because the soil was installed several weeks prior, the top layer of the soil needed to be loosens and leveled.  This increases the contact area between the soil and the cuttings, promoting more abundant rooting.

Even though there was a light rain while spreading the cuttings, we still watered the green roof.  We wanted to ensure there was uniform moisture throughout the roof, but also the moisture helps to hold the cuttings in place until they begin to root out in a few days.  

First Steps to Planning a Green Roof

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, April 23, 2013

 By: Samantha Yurek

Happy Earth Week! Hopefully everyone has taken some time out of their busy lives to lend a hand to our beautiful planet we inhabit. Whether it is picking up some litter, planting a tree or deciding to go all out and look into acquiring a green roof! Here are a few things you should have a good idea of before you leap into the planning process.

1. How sturdy is your roof?  Adding growing media and plants to your rooftop adds weight to your structure. Make sure your roof can handle some extra weight first. Find out the materials and structure of your building.

2. Is your roof sloped?  A slight slope is perfectly fine, but anything steeper than 15 degrees, the roof might become a slide for the plants without additional constructive design.

3. How much are you willing to spend?  Implementing a green roof is an investment for the future. Simple extensive vegetated roofs usually cost around $10-$15 a square foot (pre-grown planter boxes or modular systems are more expensive). Many local programs will help pay for green infrastructure, based on the environmental benefits. 

4. What type of green roof are you looking for?  A simple meadow-like area, not accessible and mainly for the environmental benefits (extensive) or an intensive roof, complete with recreational room and the potential for larger plants such as trees.

5. How are the sunlight conditions?  The majority of green roof plants enjoy direct sunlight to flourish. If the building is situated in a heavily shade area, the green roof plant selection becomes limited.

6. Do you want an integrated solar green roof?  The Sun-Root™ System is the newest of technologies, a fully integrated system and an ideal symbiosis of PV panels and an extensive green roof. It is easy to install and will not penetrate the roof. The entire system has the potential to pay back within 5 years and also meets stormwater requirements in all cities of North America.

 

Do your homework first before deciding on a green roof, our website is a great starting point to increase your green roof knowledge. If you're interested in a green roof or have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us, we would be happy to help you get started today!

Green Roof Technology Partners with Anacostia Watershed Society

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, April 19, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek


Photo Credit: Anacostia Watershed Society

Green Roof Technology has recently partnered with the Anacostia Watershed Society; an organization dedicated to keeping the Anacostia River clean and healthy. Through our partnership we hope to achieve a common goal to increase green spaces and to protect our Anacostia River watershed which runs through our nation's capital and into Maryland. Since 1989, the Anacostia Watershed Society has been the first organization dedicated to protecting the Anacostia River.

ThAnacostia Watershed Society had recently put forth a Green Roof Rebate Program, aimed to encourage residents and building owners to reduce their stormwater runoff on-site and decrease the burden on the District's Combined Sewer Overflow. Available for residential, commercial and institutional properties, this rebate program will reimburse you with $5 per square foot of green space implemented on the property.For most commercial green roofs, that rebate can reduce your overall costs dramatically.

The District Government's Green Roof Rebate Program is administered by the Anacostia Watershed Society and encourages to contact us to see if they are eligible. Feel free to check out the Anacostia Watershed Society homepage here.


Photo Credit: Anacostia Watershed Society

Extensive verses Intensive - Which Would You Choose?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, April 16, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek 

A lot of thought goes into the design process when starting a green roof project. One of the biggest questions involves the type of green roof you want; extensive or intensive? This decision will dictate everything that will need to happen for your green roof to become a success. Let us take a quick look at the differences between intensive and extensive green roofs.


Extensive Green Roof: Swarthmore College of PA, Photo Credit: Green Roof Technology

Extensive green roofs are considered the simpler version because the roof structure is usually equipped to withstand the little bit of extra weight. With only a maximum of 6" of growing media and mostly ground cover covering plants, and extensive roof is certainly of a lower profile. The plants consist mainly of sedums and other succulents, herbs, grasses, mosses and low-growing perennials. An extensive roof is mainly for environmental benefits and and occasionally accessible to the public. Extensive green roofs can be excellent combined with Solar panels what increases the environmental benefits and increases return of investment substantially.


Intensive Green Roof: The Ledge Restaurant in Boston, Photo Credit: High View Creations

Intensive green roofs on the other hand can become quite extravagant. The roof must be very sturdy in order to hold foot traffic, deeper growing media and larger plants. The plants found on an intensive green roof range from shrubs and perennials to larger trees. Accents such as ponds and recreational spaces are a possibility. An intensive green roof is a busy and more expensive system with more potential for greater designs and biodiversity.

Stormwater Fee Looming Overhead

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, April 11, 2013

 By: Samantha Yurek


Photo Credit: The United States Geological Survey

The Chesapeake Bay is the heart of Maryland. Not only does it fuel our economy and recreational activities, with over 64,000 square miles it is home to over 2,700 different species of flora and fauna. It is an important resource that should be cared for adequately.

Excessive runoff is a huge culprit of transporting trash, chemicals, nutrients, along with other things that end up polluting the bay. With storm season lurking around the corner, Maryland is trying to prevent these mini flood events from polluting the Bay even more.  To mitigate for these rushing stormwater events, stormwater fees  will soon be added to everyone's quarterly water bill. There is no avoiding this fee that will essentially be paying for the impervious surface area one has on their property. Residential properties won't have such a heavy fine, but businesses may have to start paying a pretty penny. For example, take a look at any mall, the entire property is a combination of roof and blacktop.

The stormwater fee may be something you worry about, but there are ways to reduce the fees.  Planting trees, implementing rain gardens, and most importantly, adding vegetation to your rooftop are all proven ways to earn credits toward reducing the cost of the fees. Let's strive to keep Maryland beautiful; the Chesapeake Bay thanks you.


Photo Credit: Green Roof Technology


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