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Making Progress with Green Roof Maintenance?

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, August 03, 2015
 
Making Progress with Green Roof Maintenance?

In the last decade in North America, we've seen many Green Roofs where the intended plants never really flourished. We 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.

The most performance/maintenance deficits on extensive Green Roofs we discovered on thin-layered systems (below 3 inch), pre-planted boxes (often called modular systems or hybrid systems), Green Roof Systems from roofing manufacturers with ineffective components, single source warranty-systems, or design intents without consideration for the needs of plants. 

Advertising Green Roofs Green Roofs, Problems
As advertised and the final product (sloppy work all around)

Because of their immense marketing efforts, these systems are not only much more costly (whether thin or thick), they were also hardly designed or engineered with maintenance in mind – or simply not designed with common sense. For these manufacturers revenue seems all what matters and references that look good on the first day for some pictures to post on Social Networks.

Often Planners and Engineers want to have the least work with the “unknown” territory Green Roof and hire an intern to google all the information they are looking for or much more likely, the nice colorful advertising with long-term warranties baits them.  Sometimes people fall in love with systems that seems innovative, new or that promise the most LEED points. It is all so convenient but nothing really helps the plants to grow.

 
As advertised and the final product

At the time when it does not work anymore, everybody pushes the “Old Maid” to others since the decisions were made democratically among all participants and because the building owner trusted the experts he ends up with the “Old Maid” and an additional bill that can go into the millions.


There are many reasons for building owners to question things in the process and to ask for a third party advice e.g. experienced Green Roof experts. The costs for advice are typically only a percentage  of potential savings before construction and likely save expensive repair, renovation or rebuild in the first 5- 6 years.

Our advice: Don't play cards - ask for advice. 





The Best Green Roof System

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Saturday, August 01, 2015

The main purpose of an extensive Green Roof is stormwater retention and delaying stormwater runoff amongst many other added values.

Above: An Irrigated thin layered Green Roof System – without irrigation it would be dead.

In the last decade in North America, we'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 thin-layered systems, pre-planted boxes (often called modular systems or hybrid systems), Green Roof Systems from roofing manufacturers with ineffective components, single source warranty-systems, or design intents without consideration for the needs of plants. Typically these systems much more costly (whether thin or thicker) and the mid to long term results are often far below systems that are assembled in place with common sense.

 

Thin-Layered system with irrigation - doesn't work and doesn't retain much water

We all 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 permanent irrigation systems. In some areas this might be helpful when operated correctly but in all cases this advice is defeating the purpose of an extensive Green Roof (water retention). In almost all cases any type of irrigation caused a spiral of failures and it is wrong to irrigate extensive Green Roofs in areas with limited water for the cause of just having a green roof (Green Washing). Most company sponsored experts don’t see the entire picture or they only see the short term profit and commission (“Mow-Blow-Go”).

If a problem occurs and since many Green Roof system developer lack the proper and specific green roof 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 hardly experienced or misinformed green roof professionals. They rely heavily on technology to fix any issues 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 location and climate.

Thin layered, super lightweight systems or systems with “innovative” components are just by physics not meant to retain “more” stormwater for the plants or they retain too much water for specific plants. As a matter of fact the costs for retaining stormwater in thin layered systems are extremely high comparing to a standardized extensive Green Roof with a thickness of 4-6 inch (depending on location). Besides the initial costs the lack of water retention (don’t forget all studies are done by the companies!) won’t support any significant bio diversity plus the operational costs (because of the required irrigation) are tremendous over time. Typically these Green Roofs never pay back with they are not utilized for “Green Washing” purposes in advertising.  

Irrigated extensive Green Roofs and/or thin layered, super lightweight systems (below 25 lbs/sf) will increase the nutrient pollution in runoff, require higher fertilization application, have hardly any tendency for self-healing, and may increase the pressure of unwanted plants and have a high risk for failure. Irrigated extensive Green Roofs are not environmentally friendly in most loactions!

Green roof designers and green roof professionals must understand that certain advertising, studies, White Papers or project references are all assembled by specific manufacturers and their goal is to make money – unfortunately on the back of a very advanced technology and on the back of their clients.

When we advise our clients they get the full picture because we have seem all solutions in the last 35 years, we have tested them and we are currently working millions of square feet where these systems require upgrades, reinstallation or massive repair (around 20 million in damage so far).

We also help our clients doing it as efficient as possible and to get their money back from prior failures through warranty claims and sophisticated lawsuits. This might help to standardize the function of Green Roofs and helps to get the black sheep out of the market. The building owner has a right that things are done right from the beginning.

Never irrigated in the last 10 years.

First Garden Bridge for Pedestrians in North America.

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Friday, February 20, 2015

Modern Green Roof technology combined with a Blue Roof to minimize artificial irrigation, to maximize water retention and enable visitors to cross a busy four-lane highway without leaving the lush greening of a park.

 

The Garden Bridge at Universal Studios in Orlando is the first of its kind in Florida. Designed by Miles Architecture Group Inc., Libra Design Group and Green Roof Service LLC, the green bridge creates an innovative connection of Universal City developments. Selected ground covers, shrubs and trees escort pedestrians almost without notice that they are crossing over a busy highway. The distinctive landmark project is engineered with people in mind.

The Garden Bridge at Universal Studios Orlando project is approximately 3,000 sf (145' x between 18 and 25' wide). The bridge is designed to pond water in the granular drainage area to increase the water retention (a blue-green roof combination, Patent hold by Optigreen - 1978 and the first time introduced to North America by Jorg Breuning in 2001).



Unique projects require unique solutions. Keeping the costs for the structure low, the trees are located above the bridge's pillars. The walkway gently winds up to the bridge and over and is easy accessible for the handicapped or service carts.

The project was possible with an outstanding waterproofing solution by ALT Global. ALT Global meets the FLL requirements for root resitance.


 

This innovative green roof project is a master piece of teamwork between architects, structural engineers, landscape architects and green roof professionals with an open mind, environmental leadership and common sense.

Like us on Facebook with more information and news:

 

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.

Uneven Water Supply for West

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Tuesday, July 15, 2014

 

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2014 -- The final water supply forecast for this year shows the West divided into a wet north and dry south while snowpack has already melted in much of the region, according to data from the USDA National Water and Climate Center (NWCC).

Washington, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies through the rest of summer, according to the forecasts. Far below normal streamflows are expected for the southern parts of Oregon and Utah, southwestern Idaho, California, Arizona, New Mexico and western Nevada.

Many of these areas are in the nearly 500 counties across the country experiencing drought, 57 of them in California alone, according to USDA disaster designations.

This year saw near-record low snowfall in parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico and the southern parts of Utah and Oregon. Even with some May precipitation, those areas remain dry.  The biggest change this season was in the Washington Cascades. At the beginning of February the snowpack was about half of normal, but it recovered and most of Washington will have a near normal water supply from snowmelt, according to the Center. 

Spring snowmelt is well underway, according to NWCC hydrologist Cara McCarthy. “A lot of our SNOTEL sites have already melted out, especially those in the southern half of the West,” McCarthy said.

Colorado had mixed weather during May. “They had winter and summer all in one month: snowmelt, snowfall, snowmelt,” said McCarthy. Heavy precipitation combined with snowmelt, causing flooding in parts of the state.

Forecasters monitor conditions all year, but June is the final forecast of the season. “These are snow-based water supply forecasts,” McCarthy said. “Typically by July there won't be enough snow left on the ground (to measure).”

In Western states where snowmelt accounts for the majority of seasonal water supply, information about snowpack serves as an indicator of future water availability. Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm into spring and summer. USDA scientists analyze the snowpack, air temperature, soil moisture and other measurements taken from remote sites to develop the water supply forecasts.

The NWCC water supply forecast is part of several USDA efforts to improve public awareness and mitigate the impacts of climate change, including drought and other extreme weather events. Through the creation of the National Drought Resilience Partnership, launched as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan, federal agencies are working closely with states, tribes and local government to develop a coordinated response to drought.

Since 1939, USDA has conducted snow surveys and issued regular water supply forecasts. View information by state.

Source: USDA


In dry years most Therophytes like
Asteriscus aquaticus are able to flower as very small plants and produce seeds that are able to survive evon more unfavourable seasons.

Green (Roof) Washing

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Baltimore (I-Newswire) June 25, 2014 - Baltimore, MD. Green Roof Service LLC - Green Roof Technology offers the most reliable and cost efficient vegetated roof solutions to meet all challenges of growing vegetation on impervious locations. With efficient and ingenious solutions Green Roof Service LLC - Green Roof Technology successfully designed and engineered multi-million square feet of green roofs across Europe and North America since 1980. Their custom tailored design is even installed on 5 Celebrity Cruise Ships sailing around the world under permanent changing climate conditions.

"I have seen everything", says Jorg Breuning CEO at Green Roof Service LLC, "but what currently happens in the United States can be devastating for an entire industry". Green Roof Service LLC receives weekly calls from clients with green roofs that are not performing as promised.
All of these underperforming green roofs are designed and installed with a lack of experience at any stage of a project or they were compromised in the engineering or construction process.

Especially permanent installed irrigation on extensive green roofs (shallow, light weight functional roof for stormwater retention) is causing increasingly problems with maintenance and operational costs. "Permanent irrigated extensive Green Roofs should not get any incentives from Government, State or Cities", suggests Jorg Breuning. "They don't reduce the stormwater issues of human settlements and they require high amounts of nutrients that can also pollute our water ways."

Irrigated extensive green roofs are often recommend with expensive pre-vegetated green roof systems that are delivered in metal or plastic boxes (often called trays or planters) and then simply placed on a rooftop. "With these solutions and additionally combined with irrigation, sustainability goes literally down the drain," warns Jorg Breuning, "this is green (roof) washing for quick bucks".

Green roof Service LLC - Green Roof Technology introduced low impact modern green roof technology to North America based on experience and common sense. Their clients truly manage environmental issues without using precious resources, at incredible low operational cost and without any risk of failure.

 

MD Bill 207

Green Team at Green Roof Technology, - Monday, March 31, 2014

MD HOUSE BILL 207

Today I we received an email by the USGBC requesting to oppose the MD House Bill 207. In the last decades the USGBC grew dramatically. Beside their originally great intention, LEED increased the costs of buildings super proportionally to the benefits for the environment.

In our opinion it is now necessary to naturally develop sustainable practices, solutions and technologies that can be much easier adopted and implemented by environmentally conscious people. With very simple tools (“rain tax”, higher taxes on energy, and responsibility for costs to reduce the negative environmental foot print of buildings etc.) the government now has a great opportunity giving back to builders and building owners the freedom of making their own decisions without the overwhelming pressure and costs from LEED.

Bill 207 helps to increase environmental consciousness of all American individuals and gives them back their freedom and responsibility in making their own decisions.

What is described as a setback by the USGBC is just a desperate reflex and fear of losing revenue and influence. USGBC must learn this lesson and USGBC has to prove that they are still competitive once Bill 207 passed.  

If the USGBC can’t take this as challenge they are worthless to start with.  

We support MD House Bill 207

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

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.


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. 






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