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I’m a GRP – thanks to NYC, a gracious host!

on May 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm under

Green Roof Professional DesignationI did it – I finally took my (GRP)  Green Roof Professional exam from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, passed, and am now part of the Class of 2009-10, the first year since the launch!

Of course you passed, my friends said, you’ve been at this since the late 1990’s, been called the “Queen of Greenroofs,” the Audubon Society said I was the “Dean of Greenroofs” several years back,  and Paul Kephart from Rana Creek  once told an audience in San Francisco that I  had a PhD in greenroofs!   I quickly thanked him for the educational upgrade, but explained  really I just have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture…

Hold on, while it wasn’t that hard, it also wasn’t that easy – I didn’t quite  ace it, and it took some studying of the four Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ courses – well, really three (I didn’t study Green Roofs 101 – I did teach it, though,  for one stint during the introduction in Portland, OR,  in 2004 along with Patrick Carey, Haven Kiers, and Wendy Wark, pictured at right).   But that’s the point of the exam – to ensure a certain level of  comprehension of the philosophy and application of greenroof methodology and  technology, which also means to know your basic understanding of the combined black and green arts, and to know when to call in a seasoned professional in  one of those  particular  halves when necessary.

Even though I’ve been at this for over ten years with several greenroofs designed under my belt (plus writing about them, speaking, compiling the Projects Database with 1,028 profiles so far, etc.), I felt it was very important to receive my GRP designation for many reasons.   (I became a LEED AP in 2004 for similar reasonings.)   I had planned to take it here in Atlanta  last June, 2009 at the inaugural exam held during the 7th annual  Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference (now Cities Alive) and said so when I interviewed Jeff Bruce, but didn’t because I missed the registration deadline!

In any case, I took a look at all the cities offering the GRP exam this year and jumped at taking it New York City on Friday, April 30 because it’s  such a great town and we have friends there.    Aramis and I  had great hosts in Wendy and Chris Wark – Chris is our new “Energy Editor” and they’re long time greenroof compadres.   To welcome us, we had dinner at their place the night before and since Wendy is now  a director at Metro North Railroad, and she promised us a special late afternoon “insider”  tour of Grand Central Station, after my morning GRP exam at Pace University.

There were about 30 of us taking the exam, and all went smoothly.   Since we had the afternoon free, we roamed a bit, first exploring New York’s historic South Street Seaport next to the Brooklyn Bridge at the tip of Manhattan.    Most important for us, though, was to visit the Ground Zero site, pay our respects, and see the construction progress.   We started at the beautiful St. Paul’s Chapel.   Opened in 1766,  it’s Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use – a place where George Washington worshiped and 9/11 recovery workers received round-the-clock care, and lingered at each of the memorials to the  victims of that horrific day – personal mementos, photos, and messages to lost ones.   We  also visited  the Ground Zero Museum Workshop  alongside a throng of international visitors, where we  reflected at rare, heart-pulling  images of the day  and  the models and plans of the new Freedom Tower and more.

Wendy then showed us the  bustling, beautiful and  massive Grand Central Terminal,  revealing seven little know secrets about its Beaux-Arts architecture and past…Did you know that the four-sided brass  clock in the center of the information booth in the main concourse holds the four largest opals in the world?   Drinks  at MAD46 were next – a trendy  rooftop lounge (of course!) followed by dinner at Guantanamera,  a wonderful  Cuban restaurant.

On Saturday Wendy, Chris, Aramis, and I  spent our last day in the Meatpacking District  touring the much publicized 1.45-mile (2.33  km)  High Line, which was packed with people sightseeing, pushing baby strollers and wheelchairs,  and even some taking in the  sun in  the extremely hot sunshine.   I found the High Line to be an extremely successful example of public space:  interesting  regenerative design in the form of  ecological reuse of a former urban blight.

Originally constructed in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets, it was abandoned in 1980.   But today the High Line is an elevated  public park owned by the City of New York and operated under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.  Designed by the landscape architecture firm of James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro with planting design from Piet Oudolf and engineering design by Buro Happold, the first section opened to the public in June, 2009.

“The park welcomes visitors with naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and with new, often unexpected views of the city and the Hudson River. Pebble-dash concrete walkways unify the trail, which swells and constricts, swinging from side to side, and divides into concrete tines that meld the hardscape with the planting embedded in railroad gravel mulch. Stretches of track and ties recall the High Line’s former use. Most of the planting, which includes 210 species, is of rugged meadow plants, including clump-forming grasses, liatris and coneflowers, with scattered stands of sumac and smokebush, but not limited to American natives.” ~ Wikipedia

Although I found the site’s modernist  hotel to border on hideous, I loved the High Line’s  overall design – its honesty to its railroad past – and the planting  flow of this linear park spanning 22 city blocks, which in effect is a very large greenroof!

Which brings me back to the reason for this post – to let you know I am a proud GRP, and if you are involved with our industry or are considering entering, I highly recommend you pursue this course of study and sit for the exam – even if you, too, have been doing this for over 10 years (or more!).

Thanks to the Warks and to NYC!   Speaking of New York City, look for our second installment of  Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World WebTV series in about a month or two.   Sponsored by Green Roof Blocks, we’re highlighting the fabulous Cook+Fox Architects Corporate Offices  and their 8th floor penthouse greenroof in Manhattan!

As usual, happy greening! ~ Linda V., GRP