By Caroline Menetre
Hi all – Linda and I have just returned from Green Living Technologies‘ Professional Installer Certification Training in New York City this past weekend, January 15-17, 2011.
We were guests of George Irwin, Chairman / CEO Green Living Technologies LLC (GLT). George is also known to most of you as the Green Wall Editor here at Greenroofs.com. George wanted us to see firsthand how their green roof and green wall training can benefit underprivileged youth and under-served adults getting into or returning to the work force, providing practical hands-on experience resulting in green collar jobs. And as designers ourselves as well, we really wanted to learn more, too.
Part of the GLT Institute, the training certification is backed by the future degree track diploma being developed by The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education for the new Hunts Point High School for Sustainable Community Initiatives in the Bronx, New York City. This four-year high school degree track centers on green technologies including a base curriculum around the GLT technologies. Supported by the New York Department of Education as part of a CTE (Career Technical Education) program, the GLT Training is the precursor to its core curriculum, and aligns with New York State and National Learning Standards.
This course was obviously also developed to meet the preliminary objectives for professionals to become a Certified GLT Installer, and provides the intellectual property and know how to receive more advanced hands-on supervision for their patented products.
So far, GLT has trained over 750 representatives around the world and in seven countries. George says the certification course is unlike any other green roof or wall training available since it encompasses extensive knowledge about all aspects of green roofs and walls – waterproofing, urban agriculture, edible walls – and provides hands-on learning, continued support, and much more.
The training was held at the Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School and led by George. His dynamic personality and commitment to learning, developing, and teaching the latest technologies in the field are a direct testament to the success of his company. Their recent project with Impacto Verde (their licensed South American manufacturer and distributor), is the Hotel InterContinental in Santiago, Chile, which boasts the world’s largest modular Green Living Wall at 17,000 sf (maybe the world’s largest overall? I’m not sure).
Green Job Training
The certification was attended by industry architects, landscape architects, designers, general contractors, landscape contractors and installers, educators from the U.S. and abroad, and also about 30 students, including several from Discovery High School in the Bronx, NY.
Part Bronx activist and part youth advocate, these students are fortunate to have Steve Ritz of Discovery High School as their classroom teacher. The Teacher/Administrator says, “Green is the new black!” The older ones were the first student class to have graduated from this GLT course last year, and are now helping with the younger group.
Mr. Ritz’s enthusiasm for the program – and passion for teaching his students – is infectious, and it was inspiring to hear him speak on the opportunities and rewards of the program. The success of his classes is what has has propelled the GLT program into the core degree track for the new Career Training School in the Bronx, to open later in 2011.
We learned that Steve met George on the set of Good Morning America last June when GLT products were featured along with Steve’s outstanding students. Their innovative public-private partnership started when George later taught a 40-minute class at Discovery High School.
This led to a GLT-funded scholarship program that took the students from the Bronx to Boston for formal training with GLT affiliate Cityscapes, Inc. Following their graduation from this intensive training, they returned to the Bronx extremely excited! After receiving their certifications from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., the students and faculty had the opportunity to meet New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and celebrity chef Rachel Ray, who praised their work and commitment. The best part is that while the students are growing fresh organic vegetables they had grown from seeds in their classroom using GLT walls (and taking them home), they’re actually getting paid real living wages as installers while learning practical job skills outside a traditional classroom setting.
Hands-on and More Hands-on
Friday centered on greenroofs and their different systems and options, and the highlight was the mock installation of the GLT modular panel greenroof system. All the young people (and anyone else who wanted to participate) formed groups of five and collaborated to ensure safety, preparation of the job site, good communication skills, and quality control while installing the green roof materials.
On Saturday we covered a lot more material on greenwalls, and then received more hands-on work. We placed the proprietary growing medium (GLT bioSoil) into several stainless steel greenwall units, and then planted them with a variety of vegetable seeds including different types of lettuce, radishes, carrots and chives. This edible greenwall will be placed in Steve Ritz’s classroom in the Bronx as part of their urban crops learning – they not only cook their freshly grown vegetables for the school cafeteria on special events, they also sell their harvest at the local farmer’s market and then reap the profits, too.
Steve incorporates GLT’s philosophy of “zero miles” – from farm to table with indoor and outdoor edible walls for growing fresh fruits and vegetables in urban environments. The new GLT Mobile Edible Wall ® (MEW) Urban Food Production Units (pictured at left) and commercial A frames are designed to advance urban food production and edible wall technology, and work great in schools because they are on wheels and can be rolled from classroom to classroom as needed.
But the day’s highlight was the actual hands-on installation for the greenwall at the school where attended the class – the Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School. Everyone gathered around as George took us through the installation process, step by step. The students eagerly participated and took turns wearing safety goggles, measuring, using a level, pre-drilling, drilling and installing the modules. The easy drip irrigation that is part of the modular system had been discussed previously, but here it wasn’t necessary because this greenwall will be hand watered from the top, with excess water falling into the catch basin at the base.
These GLT greenwall units were donated by GLT and pre-grown at Parker Nursery and have a selection of gorgeous tropical plants. A total of six units were installed to create this living tapestry, and the end result was fantastic. What a great sight to see when you come through the school lobby!
On Monday, we heard from Tom Walsh, GRP, of Parker Nursery and Parker Urban Greenscapes, licensed GLT distributor, who spoke to us about many important items to consider about design and maintenance – from water needs to plant health, he covered variables such as irrigation, plant selection, light, temperatures, and a rigorous maintenance schedule.
We met such great people from all over, who all share the same passion in this exciting field. Here Linda and I are proud to be pictured with some new friends – all great professional, inspiring, talented women in their own right. Below we are from left to right: Lynn Torgerson, Liz Holloway, Caroline, Linda, and Naomi Person at Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School:
Some extra-curricular activities of the conference weekend included some excellent New York food (of course) at nearby restaurants, and a great evening out after class on Sunday at a neighborhood jazz-supper club with George and friends. We saw the fantastic KJ Denhert and her band at Smoke, below.
It was great to meet Mike Bucci and Angela DiPrima-Bucci, too, the talents of G-Space, a Philadelphia architecture and design/build firm. Perhaps you have seen their spectacular PNC Bank greenwall in our 2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World Calendar™ – featured this month for January. They shared stories about the trials and tribulations of erecting the 10-story high green wall in Pittsburgh – the largest in North America at the time in 2009, at 2,380 sf:
Also we enjoyed the visiting after hours with Chris Wark, Energy Editor at Greenroofs.com, and his lovely wife, Wendy. On Saturday, Linda and I enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres with them in their beautiful Manhattan home and then out to dinner afterwards. Below is the incredible view from our gracious hosts’ apartment.
They even took us up on their rooftop for equally spectacular views of the city, below. There’s nothing better than having New Yorkers show you around their city, and hearing all their great stories about the area – things you could never know as being just the occasional tourist to the city. It was such a treat to meet them!
Our flight was soon after our final half-day class on Monday, but Linda and I crammed in a quick trip to the NBC Experience Store to see that much talked-about green wall that Steve Ritz’s students had installed last November (visit NBC’s Green is Universal website for more information). It was beautiful, and I’m glad that we had just enough time to see it before heading out to the airport. (I rather liked that greenwalls took precedence over shopping in NYC.)
See this fantastic YouTube video from NBC – it’s all about corporate and personal passion and commitments, showing Steve Ritz’s for his students, George Irwin’s for this private-public relationship, and NBC’s overall belief that Green is Universal! You can see the students (many of whom who were in our class) installing the NBC Experience Store greenwall, too.
All in all, it was a wonderful learning experience – really invaluable information that I feel very fortunate to have been a part of, and I’d like to personally thank George for that. Also, we’d also like to thank Steve Ritz and his wife Lizette (great lady!) and the students for their hard work in making everything run smoothly (and feeding us). Great City, Great People, Great Training Event!
And finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to Linda and Aramis – not only for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had because of them – but also for their friendship. I first interned with Greenroofs.com a couple of years ago during my career change, and since then have continued to work with them occasionally as a marketing and design contributor, and also working with Linda on several local projects.
I’ve learned so much from their dedication to sharing everything there is to know about the industry through their invaluable website, and through them, I’ve also met the best people in the industry, and acquired some great new friends along the way. So thanks, guys!