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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!

 

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

Education & Green Roofs - A Learning Experience

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, April 03, 2013

By: Samantha Yurek     

                 
                                                     Photocredit: The Calhoun School

The Calhoun School in NYC is a great example of a school utilizing green roof space to form environmental curriculum and promote a hands on learning experience. Back in May of 2005, renovations presented the perfect chance to retro-fit the building with a brand new intensive green roof. The green roof wasn't simply installed for environmental benefits; these renovations created a unique opportunity for outdoor science classrooms and an herb garden in the heart of an urban space. 

Implementing intensive green roofs, extensive green roofs or educational rooftop farms within urban schools would be a great learning tool as well as a benefit to the environment. Besides the obvious positive environmental aspects (stormwater mitigation, insulation, urban heat island relief, etc.) this green space can be used as an outdoor classroom, gardening space or for research.

Incorporating environmental education into an elementary cirriculum is beneficial for two main reasons. Learning to respect the environment at an early age is relatable to environmental ethics later in life. An environmentally friendly routine during childhood makes it more likely that these habits will continue down the road. And spending secondly, spending time outside improves self-esteem, motivation, reading ability and imagination, along with calming capabilities and decreases stress levels.

In the current age of technology, it is easy to spend the majority of your day staring into a glowing screen considering our dependence on computers, smart phones, TVs and e-readers amongst others. Children especially spend a significant amount of time with electronics as companions, inside and outside of school. I may still be in my early twenties, but within the past decade trends have quickly changed; my childhood was spent outside, no internet, no cable, and no smart phones, unlike today. The consequence of a lack of time spent outside has been researched in depth by journalist and author, Richard Louv. He has deemed this phenomenon as Nature Deficit Disorder, and explains the issues associated with a lack of nature in childhood in his book "Last Child in the Woods," published in 2005.

Intensive green roofs can bring a whole new set of opportunities right into the classroom. Hands on experiences, the potential for learning about and growing fresh food, and an on-site outdoor classroom are a few worth mentioning.

New Optigr√ľn 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”. 

Green Roofs & Solar: Double Your Benefits!

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, March 04, 2013

Green Roofs & Walls of the World - Virtual Summit 2013 is striving to inform, share and create a global social media experience for learning and networking around green roofs and living walls.  

 

Join Jörg Breuning & Ryan Miller on Thursday March 7th at 1pm Eastern time as they discuss the benefits of combining solar power and vegetated roofs!

Immediately after Green Roof Technology's video, a 15 minute live Q&A will take place with Jörg and Ryan.  The video will touch on the benefits of a solar green roof, cost-benefit analysis, two interviews with the president of Solar Gaines, Hans Wittich and Artie Rollins, the assistant commissioner for city-wide services with the NYC Parks & Rec Building, along with much more. 

If you're interested, tune into the video and Q&A session, you may register on the Summit Website

 

FBB Green Roof Symposium 2013

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Photo: Jorg Breuning

The German FBB (Fachvereinigung Bauwerksbegrunung e.V.) is the oldest Green Roof Association in the world and with around 120 members, probably one of the smallest. However, most FBB members are considered leaders in modern green roof technology and their average green roof experience is far over 20 years. It is an elite group that has seen everything you can imagine related to vegetation on impervious areas.

As the father of all green roof associations, this year's event was again filled with innovations, information and trends.The FBB president, Dr. Gunter Mann, pointed out that there is a huge potential for the industry to increase the annual green roof construction. In 2012, the 120 FBB members reported over 40,000,000 square feet of new construction, a significant addition compared to the previous years. The true annual new green roof construction in Germany might be doubled compared to the rest of the world. However, Germans are modest and not interested in quantity, but specifically in quality. Quality of installation, intelligent research and decent public relations are the foundation of the FBB.

In partnerships with other associations (Landscape Association, Concrete Association, Roofing Association, Association for Water Protection, along with many more) it is impressing to hear about the successful public awareness on green roofs.

The elite group at the FBB does a great, inexpensive and super-efficient job for a better and sustainable environment, mainly throughout Germany and reaching out into the world. For many decades they have been setting milestones for a growing, global industry and it is always a blessing to mingle with the biggest, most experienced and best-educated green roof professionals in the world.

Bravo!

 

Four Questions with Ryan Miller

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

 

Our very own Ryan Miller was recently interviewed for the Solar Power World Magazine, focusing on our Sun-Root™ System.  Solar Power World is written with a focus upon Technology, Installation and Development, reaching tens of thousands of industry professionals.  “Four Questions with Ryan Miller of Green Roof Technology” will be featured in the upcoming April issue of the Solar Power World Magazine.  The online version can already be previewed on their website, SolarPowerWorldOnline.com!

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

Continue reading here at  SolarPowerWorldOnline.com!


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