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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.


Single Source - Multiple Problems

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, January 10, 2014

By: Jörg Breuning

2013 was another very successful year for green roofs and the green roof industry. However, at Green Roof Service LLC/Green Roof Technology we discovered a trend that might affect the industry in the long run. 

The quality of green roof installations didn't improve as much as the industry grew. We have received more calls about poorly installed or poorly functioning green roofs than ever before. Most of these (green) roofs were installed in the last two to three years and the lack of proper engineering and maintenance has caused issues. These issues are time consuming to fix, require replanting, and the installation of additional growing media or even a permanent irrigation system (even in a wet year like 2013!).

The majority of these under-performing green roofs were under a Single Source Warranty and so our first response was: "Go back to your warranty provider." For green roof owners, this was typically the start of a long odyssey. Odysseus never gave up- but with all the issues presented, my clients were quick to give up because the Single Source Warranties are well-phrased and manufacturers are more likely to argue than take action. Arguing with a piece of paper, written by attorneys, twisted and tweaked by companies' legal departments is an uphill battle. No wonder these numerous stranded people decide to call us.

If the client would have taken his money to the bank, rather than spending it on the warranty (typically $1-$3 per square foot) things could have been much easier and cheaper. On top of that, our costs for designing, engineering and overseeing the installation and maintenance would have saved additional money and no problems to start with.

 

In any construction process we are meticulous with our details, quality of materials, craftsmanship and maintenance. We also offer low bureaucratic, simple and efficient solutions to make your green roof last far beyond three decades. Our green roofs wouldn't need any artificial irrigation, and will prove to not cost as much initially, as well as having the potential to be paid back in less than seven years.

It is our goal for the future to support the growth of the green roof industry (and the plants), one by one making our clients happy. Only happy clients can help us - and the green roofing industry.

Yamato Cockroach Found in NYC High Line

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Periplaneta japonica, otherwise known as the Japanese cockroach or Yomata cockroach, was recently found in the United States for the first time.  Exterminators working on the High Line in New York City found the unusual insect around stones and planting material.  Many of the ornamental plants installed on the High Line were imported from Asia and it likely that the some of these plants were infested with eggs or nymphs of the Japanese cockroach.

The Japanese cockroach,  unlike the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, is adapted to cooler northern climates.  It has a flexible univoltine or semivoltine (one or two year) life cycle, depending on the timing of its hatching, and is unusual in being able to spend two winters as diapause nymphs before reaching maturity.

Nymphs have been observed in the wild hibernating in sub-freezing temperatures during winter months in snow-covered habitats. Overwintering nymphs were able to survive laboratory supercooling experiments in the -5 °C to -8 °C temperature range, enduring twelve hours of tissue freezing, as well as recover from burial in ice.

The Japanese cockroach is primarily an outdoors species, though some populations are adaptable to living indoors in houses and buildings where food is stored, prepared, or served.  This is in contrast to the American cockroach that is not adapted to living outdoors in the winter and will immediately move indoors when the cold weather begins.  

source Wikipedia

Cool Roofs Might Increase Air Pollution

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, November 25, 2013

Cool Roofs Might Increase Air Pollution

Picture: welt.de

Approximately 35 years ago I learned in horticultural chemistry class how plants utilize the energy of sunlight.  This process is called Photosynthesis and is an everyday example of Photochemistry, a sub-discipline of chemistry or the study of chemical reactions that proceed with the adsorption of light by atoms or molecules.

Other examples of Photochemistry are the degradation of plastics and the formation of Vitamin D with Sunlight.

  Skin aging: caused by 80% of the Sunlight

Over the last half century, it has been well studied that heat and sunlight have a tremendous effect on air quality.  Both, and independent from each other, heat and sunlight can transform the atoms and molecules in the air around us into other chemical combinations that are often harmful for human health.  The same photochemical transfer occurs also with most other particles and substances in the air and increases the chemical cocktail in the air we breathe substantially.

In a recent study of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) it was confirmed that at night – without the energy of sunlight – nitrate radicals naturally help cleanse the atmosphere.  Acting as a “janitor” of the night sky, the nitrate radical scrubs away air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds that would otherwise form smog and ozone.  The cleansing compound only works nightshifts, however, since sunlight destroys the light-sensitive molecule.  The study suspects that the street lights in cities reduce this cleansing effect.

It doesn’t take much to understand that Cool Roofs or Reflective Roofs multiply the light energy in the air, reducing not only light-sensitive molecules but also converting most other atoms, molecules and particles in the air into potentially more harmful chemical combinations.

This can be proven by many simple observations:

  • Photovoltaic (PV) elements increase their output with higher light intensity because of the energy in the light (more photons from sunlight increase the electromagnetic interaction).
  • The human skin reacts on intense sunlight with a photochemical reaction (often ending in skin cancer).
  • Sunlight changes the composition of most natural of man-made materials – typically degradation.
  • Plants change their appearance when exposed to excessive light – often they die.
  • Plants “suffocate” when exposed to sunlight 24/7.

Sunburn on plant leaf.

Nowadays numerous studies (typically sponsored my manufacturers) focus only on the surface temperature making everybody believe that cool roof, or so called reflective roofs, are environmentally friendly because of the lower surface temperature.  Isn't it worth to look at the bigger picture of what happens when reflecting sunlight off of roof tops – i.e. polluting the air with additional sunlight?  I am not suspecting that they were paid to ignore this dramatic effect but it shows to me that the responsibility of researchers is in some cases is questionable.  My countryman Albert Einstein would have said: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

"Cool Roofs" or  "Fool Roofs"?

Installation of reflective roofs requires additional protection for workers.

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. 





Meet Jorg Breuning at ASLA 2013 Annual Expo

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, November 06, 2013

American Society of Landscape Architects is holding their annual meeting and expo this year in Boston from November 15th until the 18th.  

On Monday, Nov. 18th at 8:00 am, Jorg Breuning and Rob Tilson will hold an education session titled "Solar Panels and Green Roofs Fully Integrated - The Smart Future Development." 

The collaborative presentation between Green Roof Technology and Tilson Group will showcase two of the leaders in the green roof industry pushing the boundaries of their field.  

The benefits of combining green roofs with solar panels is well documented.  The two technologies have been used together for many years, beginning in Germany nearly 30 years ago when both technologies were only first being developed.

Over the decades both technologies have advanced greatly.  Today, fully integrated green roofs with solar panel systems, known as Solar Garden Roofs, have been developed that maximize the two technology's beneficial synergistic effects.  

The Learning Objectives of Jorg and Rob's discussion are as followed:

1) Learn about an integrated technology that combines renewable energy with vegetated roofs, multiplies benefits and significantly reduces cost.
2) Understand the key elements and flow chart evaluation of whether this technology fits a project.
3) Acquire extensive product knowledge including weight, size, potential power output, maintenance, and warranties.
4) Compose proper specifications for construction and define the intersection of the different tasks with lessons learned from past project successes. 

You can take a sneak peak at Jorg's presentation by downloading a pdf on our Resources page -- available here.


One Size Fits All

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, October 30, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek

Or does it?  We're not talking about baseball caps or a pair of mittens here. Green roofs are a living system that on their own should thrive heartily in the environment in which they reside. Not all green roofs are similar, nor should they be. Diverse climates call for various approaches in construction a green roof to handle precipitation efficiently. The vegetation for any green roof should reflect local climate and growing conditions.

Uniform systems will most likely work out fine, but depending on the region, may need constant maintenance to uphold the health of the green roof. At this point, the question is if the green roof is actually doing its job. A green roof is supposed to thrive naturally, as a part of the ecosystem. It defeats the purpose when an irrigation system is put in place or the green roof is over maintained to avoid natural diversity.

Each green roof should be unique in a way that works most efficiently for that particular location. Here at Green Roof Technology we strive to create a living space that will thrive under specific conditions. There should be very little need for additional time, effort and money once a green roof has been put in place.

Designing for Resiliency in an Age of Uncertainty

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Resiliency was the motto of the 11th Cities Alive conference held in San Francisco last week. With more than 100 speakers, the conference demonstrated once again that modern green roof technology and living architecture are essential to address resiliency by adapting to urban environmental changes and climate change. Large scale extensive green roofs without permanent irrigation or solar garden roofs are the most sustainable solution for reducing the continuously mounting costs of disasters that are weather or climate related.  

The conference disclosed many new details about cutting edge designs and it is now time to see how these can be implemented, how effective and how economical they are. Especially in cities where we created habitats for ourselves with asphalt and concrete. The conference showed refreshing trends for more natural environments. It isn't known whether rooftop farms (urban farming) are a solution, but these efforts create awareness, recreation and educate about living organisms and the importance in reducing food waste.

In different presentations, the combination of solar (PV) and extensive green roofs were marked as the most efficient roof top addition with the highest payback for the owner and the environment. Our solar garden roof fits perfectly into this future trend.

Great conference and great people, thank you GRHC.

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.


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