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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

Living Green in Airports

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Incheon International, Seoul

Photo: penny_7b /Flickr


Seoul's massive airport is a popular destination for connecting fliers headed to other parts of East Asia from the Americas and Europe. Thanks to its comfortable transit seating areas, expansive duty-free shopping mall and airy main terminal, Incheon earned the highest overall score on the 2012 Skytrax customer satisfaction survey. Incheon also is one of the world's most family-friendly airports. Not only does it have a children's play area, but also childcare lounges and nursing rooms. Older kids might enjoy spending some pent-up energy at the Ice Forest, a large skating rink in the airside terminal.  
 
Other bonuses: This is one of the few airports in the world where you can get free access to a computer and Wi-Fi. Incheon has an impressive seven gardens in the passenger terminal and one in the transportation center. Finally, a free cultural center features exhibits on Korean culture and traditional dance and folk music performances.

Photo: penny_7b /Flickr

10 airports where you'll welcome a layover at mnn.com

New Optigrün Edging System Type SKL for Extensive Green Roofs

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Thursday, March 28, 2013

Optigrün International AG (1-800-627-4955) recently released a completely redesigned green roof edging system.  Created from 3.5 mm recycled ABS (with UV stabilizers of course), the new edging system uses hinge and click connections.  The 3-point connection system is quick and makes laying perfectly straight edges a breeze.  

The Type SKL edging system is available in 8 cm & 12 cm heights.  The edging system consists of two types of pieces, 1100 cm lengths and 300 cm corners.

The versatile and easy to ship system can be designed for numerous applications such as separations, terminations & drainage channels. For more information and purchase opurtunities in North America please contact us at Green Roof Technology.

Ideal for roof slopes up to 5°.

Picture: Optigrün / Green Roof Technology

Green Roof Industry - learning by (not) doing?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Sunday, March 24, 2013

For eleven years, the green roof industry has been running into the issue of finding a lack of Sedum cuttings between November and May. Green roof plant nurseries are not able to produce Sedum cuttings during this time because they obviously never learned better. During this time they rather grow these plants in pre-vegetated plastic or metal boxes, sitting in a controlled greenhouse for bigger sales in late spring and leaving the clients alone later when exactly these expensive and high carbon foot print containers do not acclimate in their final destination. They call themselves green roof plant experts but hardly understand the typical life cycle of the plants they are growing. 

When average temperatures drop most Sedums (most plants) store their nutrients and energy produced during the growing season in their stems and roots. The best indicator for that is the changing color of the leaves in the fall and when under stress. Once these reserves are stored in the little stems, they are extremely powerful and “programmed” for rooting - not for producing leave mass.  Many Sedums root quicker in winter than in hot summers where they have to deal with high evapotranspiration because of their denser leave mass while their roots are not able to supply them with water to offset the water loss.

Utilizing Sedum cuttings on green roofs can reduce the cost for plants and planting by 90%, assuming the applicators know what they are doing. At the end, the overall costs will drop dramatically which leads into more green roofs and less subsidies from public agencies and non-profit groups. The plant pieces broadcasted in winter are most likely adapted to the conditions in their final location in less than 2-3 months and hardly require watering on hot spring days or in summer. This also reduces maintenance time and costs.   

    

Jörg Breuning: “The lack of common sense and real expertise is the biggest problem in the North American green roof industry.  My person is controversial discussed, many feel intimidated based on my experience and that I address problems directly, which are avoided by other professional or trade associations. I see myself as the stimulus in a literally growing industry.

From an environmental point of view longevity at acceptable costs, low maintenance, no supplemental watering, and the long-term health of the plants are crucial for ongoing success. Customer orientated work requires that we adjusted to nature – nature will never adjust to humans”. 

Modular Office Farming – Hybrid Office and modern Green Roof Technology

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

Now that rooftops have been discovered to be a potential area for urban farming, many people believe this this is the solution for providing healthier and locally grown produce.  They believe in this place despite its over average air pollution, lack of natural symbiotic opponents, high costs for water, poorly nutrient retaining soils, high labor costs and no machinery.

Yellow PepperHowever and completely disconnected from all the above mentioned disadvantages food can also grow in the inside of any building.  Modern green roof technology implemented in old yogurt containers to act like a modular system and can easily find a place close to a light source.  Depending on the system, they require less than once a week watering.  The water could even be recycled cold coffee (no sugar), tea or flat sparkling water before it is dumped into the sink.  Instead of sieving out of the tea leaves or coffee grounds these waste products can be supplements to regular plant fertilizer.  The run-off of these simple systems is zero since nobody wants water puddles in the living room, office or conference room. The results can be remarkable and some additional vegetables for lunch are always good.

The systems work without high tech, with fully recycled and recyclable materials, comes without an App, no power outlet and any other gimmicks.

The fresh green of the plants creates a nice living and working atmosphere, keeps the humidity in the comfort zone and additionally cleans the – already filtered – air.  In our office peppers and pineapple are the favorites.  

 

 

Green Roof Service LLC/ Green Roof Technology 

Your Green Roof Technology team is able to develop low maintenance concepts for plants far beyond yogurt container solutions in private-, professional- and public environments. Furthermore, we design individual service packages concerned with the maintenance, health of plants and plant arrangements. From European studies we know that a better professional environment increases the motivation of people.     

Bildnachweis/Picture: GMH/FvRH


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