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SURE: Urban Ecology is Gaining Ground

By Christine Thuring Research Editor
PhD candidate, University of Sheffield
September 29, 2014

Photos Courtesy of Christine Thuring Unless Otherwise Noted.

After 15 years working on green roofs, my PhD research has brought me full circle to reconnect with my background in plant ecology.  This has become especially clear through the two most recent conferences I’ve attended, both either hosted or co- hosted by the Society for Urban Ecology (SURE).  These gatherings unite all sorts of disciplines and seem to characterise the future that everyone talks about: trans-disciplinary, cross-generational, action-oriented, philosophic, inclusive, collaborative, and so on.

What is SURE?
The establishment of a scientific and educational society dedicated to urban ecology is timely in many ways.  Since the 1970s, pioneering urban ecological research from Berlin alongside the first computer-powered research in classic ecology have brought us to a place in which new theories are supported and the grip of old paradigms (e.g., balance of nature) is loosened.  It seems judicious, to me, to commit more rigorous efforts towards understanding the ecology of cities (cities as ecosystems, even!), given that we are in a period of unprecedented species extinctions and accelerating urbanization.



The MENA Region’s Drive Towards Green Possible with the Living Architecture of Greenroofs and Greenwalls

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA, LEED AP, GRP Publisher & Editor
Sky Gardens Design Consultant
May 19, 2014

The edited version of this article was originally published on May 7, 2014 on Expotrade Global and in the Expotrade Middle East blog.  This is the original.

Dubai pool with a greenwall.
Photo Courtesy of Green Living Technologies International (GLTi).

Imagine Dubai and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region's hot, barren roofs and façades helping to cool the desert environment by sprouting to life with building integrated greenery.  A mirage?

Not at all.  Despite its harsh climate, the proverbial asphalt jungle - or more aptly the concrete jungle in the Middle East - can be enhanced with vegetation on roofs and walls when you take some key points into consideration!


Reporting on the 2012 Integrated Habitats Design Competition - Ecosystem Services Come to Town

By Christine Thüring
December 3, 2012

On Monday October 15, the London Natural History Museum hosted a unique conference exploring the integration of nature into the built environment for climate change adaptation.  The Integrated Habitats Design Competition (IHDC) conference unites and looks at how investors, insurers, developers, planners, ecologists, designers and communities can all play a significant role in working with nature and natural systems and providing ecosystem services in urban environments...


Reporting on the 3rd World Green Roof Congress 2012 – Urban grey to urban green (Copenhagen)

By Christine Thüring
November 13, 2012

Hosted by the city of Copenhagen - supported by the Danish Ministry of the Environment, the Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, Realdania, GI, and TFI Group, in September 2012 the World Green Roof Congress brought some of the world’s leading practitioners to Copenhagen, Denmark, to highlight the need and potential for green infrastructure in transforming urban grey to urban green.  With support from the Danish Ministry for Climate, Energy & Building and the Lord Mayor, plus Copenhagen's ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2025, this city served as an impressive backdrop illustrating how green roofs can serve as a solution towards sustainability goals...

Green roof at Copenhagen International Airport.


Reporting on the 2nd International Green Roof Congress 2009 – Bringing Nature Back to Town

By Christine Thüring
June 20, 2009

All Photos Courtesy Christine Thüring unless otherwise noted.

Flying over the new part of town on the Zeppelin NT - greenroofs galore!

From May 25 – 28th 2009, representatives from five continents came together to celebrate and discuss green roof technology in the municipality of Nürtingen (~30 km south of Stuttgart).  The 2nd International Green Roof Congress 2009 was jointly hosted by the International Green Roof Association (IGRA) and the German Roof Gardener Association (DDV), with patronage from the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs.

Delegates attended the 2nd International Green Roof Congress from 40 countries!  Map Courtesy IGRA.

Compared to the first event in 2004, this second congress featured speakers from 10 countries and drew 270 delegates from 40 countries.  Simply walking the exhibition or meandering through a coffee break was akin to moving through an international airport.  While English was the primary language, countless accents were undeniably present and many original languages rang out in communicative chorus.  When recalling the diversity of professions in attendance (architects, roofers, botanists, developers, academics, planners, etc.), and combining this with the internationality of the assembly, one gains a sense of how exciting and significant green roof technology has become, if only in cross-linking boundaries and cultures and overlapping disciplines.

The Municipality of Stuttgart; Photo:

European and Eurasian presence extended across the full geographic range, from Ireland and Spain, through Israel, Macedonia and Serbia, and everything in between.  Asia/ Oceania sent representatives from China, Thailand, Singapore, India and Australia, while the Americas sent professionals from Chile through Brazil, up through Montserrat and Puerto Rico, the U.S. and Canada.  In short, the congress lived up to its name, unlike any green roof gathering to date!

Coffee break and a time to catch up with old friends!  Photo Source and Courtesy: IGRA.

IGRA 2009: Program (May 25-27, 2009)

In the classic tradition of European conferences, the K3N Stadthalle in Nürtingen was an elegant and perfect-sized venue for the congress.  Comfortable conference rooms and excellent catering set the atmosphere indoors, while the neighbouring park and terrace café made fresh air a nice treat.

On May 25th, IGRA offered two excursions for the experientially inclined.  Both excursions were booked out, with 70 people touring Stuttgart region (in a double-decker bus) and 50 people visiting projects along the Rhine to the German solar capital, Freiburg.  A perfectly sunny day (perhaps even a tad hot) blessed the excursions, as the following two days of presentations would present thunder storms and cooler temperatures.

One of many green roof/ solar installations in Freiburg.

That evening, all congress participants united for a catered reception hosted by the Mayor of Nürtingen. The Kreuzkirche, a church renovated in the 1980s and since used for cultural events, is associated with the K3N town hall across the park.  Welcoming speeches were made by the Mayor, IGRA president Roland Appl, and by President of the German Roof Gardener Association (DDV), Reimer Meier.

The Congress Venue, the K3N:
Kunst. Kultur. Kongresse. Nürtingen;

The Kreuzkirche; Photo:

The congress took full advantage of the facilities at K3N (Kunst. Kultur. Kongresse. Nürtingen), with a big hall hosting the sessions on green roof architecture, and two smaller conference rooms for concurrent workshops: policy measures, and planning/ installation.  Simultaneous translation was available for all sessions with special headsets (while adrenaline-pumped translators steamed up their booths at the back of the hall).

Congress participants.

Session: Green Roof Architecture

The Green Roof Architecture presentations introduced successful and idealistic realizations of living architecture, whetting participants’ appetites and boosting the creative enthusiasm in the room to a nearly perceptible buzz.  Indeed, perhaps as a blinking bumblebee perceives its first flowering meadow of spring, the diversity of projects was so abundant and colourful that intellectual and creative thirsts were quenched to euphoric bliss.

Emilio Ambasz, acknowledged pioneer in the field of green architecture, inspired the audience with his concept “The Green over the Grey.”  Photo Source and Courtesy: IGRA.

A masterpiece of green roof architecture: Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall (ACROS) in Japan. Photo Source: IGRA,
Courtesy: Hiromi Watanabe.

The unique visions of architect Emilio Ambasz, accompanied by his own fables, made not only for a poetic presentation but also a dreamy keynote later that evening.  From Copenhagen, the Mountain Dwellings, which “combine the splendours of the suburban backyard with the social intensity of urban density,” has won many awards including “world’s best residential building.”  Other stunning projects included FiftyTwo Degrees in Nijmegen, Fusionopolis in Singapore, Zaragoza’s International Exhibition, California Academy of Sciences, and many more.  Experts on passive house design and solar building design  illuminated the abundance of solar energy that is freely available.

Workshop: An international comparison of funding and support for green roofs

Congress participants broke into two groups for the afternoon of day 1.  In the policy meeting, municipal representatives from various cities presented their programs, experiences and lessons with regards to green roof support and programming. German cities included Düsseldorf, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Munich, and Berlin, while international representation from Linz (Austria), London (UK), Portland (USA), and Copenhagen (Denmark) rounded the session off.  Lively discussions were enhanced by an unexpected power outage caused by a thunder storm.

Workshop: Planning, Installation and Maintenance

With input from experts each certified with lifetimes’ worth of practical experience, this workshop covered the basics with regards to green roof planning, installation and maintenance.  From the essential basics on waterproofing, to tips in plant selection, the workshop also granted essential plant information from a nursery, as well as installation and maintenance experiences from Germany and the Netherlands.

IGRA Awards 2009

For exemplary municipal engagement in promoting green roofs, the cities of Düsseldorf and Copenhagen received the IGRA Municipality Award. As the first large German city to conduct a comprehensive mapping program for green roofs, Düsseldorf has identified more than 730,000 m² green roofs.  Read more about this in Katja Holzmüller’s article "Climate protection, naturally – green roofs in Düsseldorf: financial support and quantitative analysis of aerial photographs."  Dorthe Rømø received this same award for Copenhagen, for having introduced green roofs as a new initiative with opportunistic basis in the momentum from the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, which will be hosted in the Danish capital in December 2009.

Ho Wan Weng, Managing Director of ZinCo Singapore Ltd and green roof consultant of the project “Fusionopolis Phase 1” received the IGRA Award on behalf of the JTC Corporation; Photo Source and Courtesy: IGRA.

The roof gardens of Fusionopolis serve as the green lungs and social pockets for the office and lab staff; Photo Source: IGRA;
Courtesy: ZinCo Singapore Ltd.

For the IGRA Architecture/ Construction Award, architecture firm Donnig + Unterstab of Rastatt was distinguished for establishing a new model for school buildings: a passive house design, this school in Neckargemünd features an extensive green roof and three large-scale photovoltaic facilities.  From Singapore, Jurong Town Corporation (JTC) was also distinguished for its project “Fusionopolis” which features intensive green roofs on the 5th, the 17th/ 18th and the 21st/ 22nd floors, with the highest roof garden at approximately 80 m altitude.

Zeppelin Excursion

In his forward, the patron of the 2nd International Green Roof Congress, Wolfgang Tiefensee (Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs) stated that “The way in which we design our cities plays a key role in making our society sustainable.”  The vision of human activities in harmony with nature may seem like a dream of the future to many.  On the very last day of the congress, however, IGRA demonstrated the living truth of this vision.  On May 28, 2009, from the quiet levitation of a Zeppelin, the congress’ final green roof excursion showed how urban districts with green roofs can blend into the surrounding landscape.

Our Zeppelin Route from Friedrichshafen to Ravensburg; Image Source: Google.

At a consistent altitude of 300 m, a happy group of green roof professionals (max. 12/ flight) floated quietly above the idyllic patchwork landscape of Lake Constance’s north shore.  Of the panorama windows inside the gondola, several are operable to permit photography without Plexiglas scrapes or glare.  In fact, Zeppelins have been used for the special niche for aerial photography since the early 1930s.  Research missions of difficult and/ or vast landscapes (like the Arctic or great deserts) benefit tremendously from the excellent maneuverability and propulsion of airships, not to mention minimal vibration, quiet propellers and a gondola with great layout flexibility.

Our Zeppelin showed us a green world from above.

Back in 1895, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin received Patent No. 98580 for the first “dirigible airship with several lifting bodies arranged in series bow-to-stern.”  His Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, established in 1908, still exists today; one of its subsidiaries, Luftfahrzeug Motorenbau GmbH, was the precursor of Maybach Motorenbau GmbH, today’s MTU.  At the height of its popularity, in 1929 the LZ 127 embarked on a round-the-world trip with four stopovers (Tokyo, Los Angeles, Lakehurst NY, and Friedrichshafen, Germany).  During the 1930s, the LZ 127 offered very popular and constantly booked out passages from Europe to South America.  Before the tragic Hindenburg accident in 1937 in Lakehurst NY, the LZ 127 had traveled 590 accident-free trips covering a total of 1,700,000 km.

Unlike its technological forefather from the adventuresome turn of the century, the Zeppelin NT (New Technology) is filled with non-flammable helium, and has powerful engines with swiveling propellers, state-of-the-art avionics and fly-by-wire flight controls which enable maneuvers similar to those of helicopters.  The rigid framework of the Zeppelin NT, also different from the original design, comprises triangular carbon-fibre frames and three aluminum longerons braced by aramide cables.  All the main components of the airship, including gondola, empennage and engines, are mounted on this rigid structure.

Flying high above the North Shore of Lake Constance.

This excursion was peaceful yet exciting at the same time.  Passenger exchange is carried out as a dynamic balancing act: while the Zeppelin sits lightly on the ground, its tail moving in whichever direction the prevailing winds push it, two passengers quickly disembark so that 2 new passengers can board.  Once in flight, the landscape below is close enough to physically sense its different qualities (e.g. air quality of forest vs. town vs. shopping centre) yet far enough for the “model” effect, where cars look like toys and people like ants.  Along the route from Friedrichshafen to Ravensburg, we passed over orchards, forests, farms, towns, shopping centres, etc.  We saw residential developments that have been entirely covered with green roofs, or which were built in the 1970s or 1980s and are being renovated one green roof at a time.

In Summary

Overall, this 2nd International Green Roof Congress was a tremendous success (see the International Green Roof Congress 2009 "Green Roof Visions Perfectly Transferred" Press Release here).  The program and quality of participation aside, its organization was excellent, from flawless excursions to secure coat check.  For participants staying near Stuttgart airport, an awkward location for public transit, the congress kindly arranged a special shuttle service.  The food was also very good, even for the vegetarian audience (which is remarkable in this land of meat and potatoes): many Swabian specialties were complemented by nice salad buffets (including asparagus cocktails!), beautiful dessert spreads, and lots of fresh fruit and juices throughout the day.  From the ubiquitous logo, it was clear that the event’s biggest sponsor was ZinCo GmbH, and the majority of presenters used ZinCo systems for their projects.  Nevertheless, any exclusivity or specific jargon could be easily tuned out given so many other superlatives comprising the event.

The proceedings from this congress are stunning not only in the thoroughness of documentation (all papers available in full length, English or German), but also in the quality of the colour print and binding.  Proceedings are available under, specifically here, for €39.80 plus shipping and handling (ISBN 978-3-9812978-1-2).

For green roof professionals, such conferences strengthen our sense of community, enhance our knowledge, connect people, refresh our visions, and sometimes even present magical glimpses of those visions manifest.  The vision of a world which, from above, is covered with photosynthesizing plants and solar energy harvesters may be inspiration enough.

Now consider the proof from the IGRA congress that so many and various interest groups and sectors agree with this shared vision; moreover that the idea of rooftop greening is so effectively spreading to other parts of the world!  I would hazard to guess that all 270 participants from the 2nd IGRA congress returned home inspired, motivated, encouraged, and stoked to be part of this exciting movement.

Please drop us a line below with your comments!

Greenroofs aside, in Nürtingen you can stroll along the Neckar River or visit narrow alleys with medieval backdrops
and picturesque corners.  Photo Source: Wikipedia.

Christine Thüring

Love the Earth: Plant a Roof!

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, LEED AP, Publisher/Editor
May, 2008

See our 60-second video "Love the Earth: Plant a Roof!" we made on May 19 and 20, 2008 for The Sundance Channel's The Green "What's the Big Idea? Contest, which made it as a semi-finalist, here.  It's also posted on GreenroofsTV, of course!

You can read all about it in my blog post of May 30, 2008 here.


Commemorating a True Greenroof Pioneer, Leader, and Friend in Dr. David Beattie

By Christine Thuring, Student Editor; Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, LEED AP, Publisher/Editor; and Ed Snodgrass, The Plant Editor
March, 2008

Dr. David J. Beattie

Publisher's Note:  A memorial service was held for the late David J. Beattie, retired Associate Professor of Horticulture who died in February, on April 5, 2008 at N                         ew Covenant Baptist Church in State College, PA. Pastor Gary Finn, Berean Baptist Church officiated.

Note:  Dave's wife, Kris Beattie, says any memorial contributions can be sent in his name to: Voice of the Martyrs, PO Box 443, Bartlesville OK 74005.

Please add your comments so that we may celebrate Dave's life and times in Forums!  Send us photos for posting here, too - email:

From the Editors

Christine Thuring:

In Memoriam: David J. Beattie

The green roof family has lost one of its respected elders.  Dr. David J. Beattie will be remembered as a pioneer of the green roof movement in North America.  Indeed, the North American green roof industry owes its fundamental growth and advancement to Beattie's insight, pursuits and commitment.  As his last graduate student, I'd like to pay tribute to the person, advisor, colleague and friend who was David Beattie.  Further to lauding his accomplishments and achievements, I'd like to recall his person.

In 2000, David Beattie established the "Penn State Center for Green Roof Research" with the collaborative support of Dr. Robert Berghage.  As the first dedicated green roof research facility in North America, the Center is physically represented by nine replicated research buildings at the Russell Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, PA.  Affectionately known as "Beattieburg," the buildings continue to provide green roof performance data for the east coast climate and have contributed directly to the development of green roof programs in New York City.  In 2006, the year after his retirement, Beattie was awarded the first-ever 'Excellence in Research Award' at the 4th annual Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Conference, Awards and Trade Show.

As an advisor, Dave warned about findings that might be "statistically relevant but practically useless."  He was quick to identify vital information gaps, and knew how to translate their bridging and fulfillment through science.  As a classic horticulturalist and well-published author, he was diligent in reminding us that growing medium is singular, while growing media is plural.  Pity the ears of the grammatically correct when hearing terms such as "mediums" or "medias" or, heaven forbid, the careless misuse of either!

David Beattie was a friendly, fun-loving man with an endless supply of archaic proverbs and ridiculous jokes.  His guttural laugh could often be heard echoing down the halls of Tyson Building, where he was a professor of Ornamental Horticulture for 30 years.  Yet his fun-loving nature did not in any way compromise the rigor of his scientific inquiry, the strictness of his procedure, the integrity of his guidance, nor his determination for progress.  Even when his illnesses caused him pain and frustration, his good nature brought an untouchable lightness to his plight.

David was well-traveled, and his good nature easily transcended cultural and language barriers.  He welcomed his international students to the comforts of home; his familial log cabin in Potter's Mills helped ease the strains of culture shock and newness.  My first memories of Pennsylvania recall the calm warmth and generosity of his family home, nestled within the gently rolling Appalachian mountains.  He will be sorely missed by all whose lives he touched, and by the movement he helped to build.

Boston 2006: Dave receives the first Excellence in Research Award and Christine presents her Master's thesis at the 4th annual Green Roofs for Healthy Cities conference awards and trade show.

Christine and her advisors, Dave Beattie & Rob Berghage in Basel, Switzerland, 2005.

Linda S. Velazquez:

The entire greenroof community is still in shock and mourning the loss of Dr. David Beattie.  As Associate Professor of Ornamental Horticulture he was the founding Director at Penn State's Center for Green Roof Research.  His important and invaluable research has been continued since Dave's retirement in May, 2006 by the very able hands of Dr. Robert Berghage.

Everyone will miss Dave's casual style and extremely good sense of humor!  He loved telling jokes and stories, and we invite you to share your own in Forums, so that we can all commemorate his life and contributions to our industry, and perhaps let the Beattie family know how much he was appreciated on a professional level.

Photos from Dr. Rob Berghage:


Dr. Dave Beattie & and friends at Penn State's Center for Green Roof Research. Photos Courtesy Dr. Rob Berghage.

Ed Snodgrass:

The green roof community lost one of its pioneers this past weekend.  Dr. David Beattie passed away after a long and courageous battle with cancer.  He was living in retirement in Grants Pass, Oregon after leaving Penn State University.

Dr. Beattie started the Center for Green Roof Research at Penn State.  Since its inception the Center has been an invaluable resource for those in the green roof field.  The Center was imbued with Dave's spirit of enthusiastic curiosity and integrity.  Dave was a personal friend and valued colleague; he will be sorely missed by all in the green roof field.

The Green Roof Plant Family, Emory Knoll Farms (spring 2005): Dr. Dave Beattie, Ayako Nagase, Dr. Shazia Husein, Sarah Murphy, Ed Snodgrass, Christine Thuring, Dr. Rob Berghage, and Joerg Breuning;
Photo Courtesy Ed Snodgrass.


Dr. David J. Beattie; Photo Courtesy Dr. Rob Berghage.

Photos from Dr. Christy Boylan, Dublin, Ireland:

Dr. Beattie in Newgrange, Ireland Dr. Boylan, Dr. Beattie, and Kris Beattie

Left: Dave found a green roof in Ireland at Newgrange; Right: Dr. Christy Boylan says, " Here's Dave & Kris and I."
Photos Courtesy of Dr. Christy Boylan.

Please read Dr. Boylan's post of March 15, 2008 in Forums, under General Greenroof Discussion, "Mourning the Passing of Dr. Dave Beattie."

Roland Appl, Technical Director of ZinCo GmbH, sent us some photos of Dr. David Beattie when he spoke at the International Green Roof Congress 2004 in Nürtingen, Germany:

Photo Courtesy of Roland Appl, ZinCo

Dr. Dave Beattie speaks to us about Penn State's work at the International Green Roof Congress in Nürtingen, Germany in September, 2004; Photo Courtesy Roland Appl.

Photo Courtesy of Roland Appl, ZinCo Photo Courtesy of Roland Appl, ZinCo

Left: Dave entertains a full conference room; Right: Dave doing a great job.
Photo Courtesy Roland Appl.

Photo Courtesy of Roland Appl, ZinCo

Always in the thick of things, here's Dr. Dave and friends when we visited Hundertwasserhaus, Plochingen, on the ZinCo Green Roof Tour. You can see Aramis Velazquez, Kelly & Trish Luckett, Randy Sharp and Roland Appl, among many others; Photo Courtesy Roland Appl.


Editorial Commentary:
Coming on Strong into the New Year

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, LEED AP, Publisher/Editor
March 13, 2006

Hello, readers,

As we are about to enter Spring, 2006 (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere!) I hope you are growing and prospering as individuals and as part of our ever expanding greenroof community.  The twining tendrils and tender buds on the Carolina Yellow Jessamine vine outside my front door exude the promise of Springtime and remind me of why I chose landscape architecture: the ability to design the built environment with nature, pure and simple.

As publisher/editor of I would like to share some of our happenings and musings.  2005 was a banner year for us in many areas, creatively, and most notably in that our readership more than doubled!

Update of May 6:  All the great press we have been receiving lately must be contributing to this phenomenon - for the one week period ending April 29, received 11,629 unique visitors.  "Unique visitors" is the amazing part!

Update of April 3:  Actually, we just created a new world record as 7,041 unique visitors visited last week!  Normally we have been averaging about 5,500 unique visitors per week, so interest is definitely on the rise.

Compare some of our traffic stats year over year from 2004 to 2005:

2004 Year-end            Totals
User Sessions       122,739
Page Views       313,028
Total Hits    3,726,870


2005 Year-end            Totals
User Sessions      169,380  
Page Views      508,838
Total Hits    5,637,678


Year over Year     Change % Change
User Sessions       46,641   38.0  %
Page Views      195,810  62.6   %
Total Hits    1,910,808  51.3   %

Our numbers through February 2006 are already higher than above by over 10% - we're currently averaging 6,339,606 total hits per year - click here for more info.

Source:  WebTrends Data Summary Report provided by InterLand, Inc.

On the editing front in terms of guest articles, it's been all about the students so far this year.  We have posted a Student Thesis from Australia regarding the Optimum Green Roof for Brisbane, Student Green Roof Plant Trials from Emory Knoll Farms in Maryland, and a brand new Preliminary Survey of Plant Species from students from Carleton College in Minnesota.  Whether a student, professional, or do-it-yourselfer, send us your ideas for your guest feature - we look for varied perspectives from around the globe and from multi disciplines, too.

While continuing with the ever popular "Ask Ed" Q & A Plant Column from Plant Editor Ed Snodgrass, we've added occasional columns from four more contributing editors and greenroof professionals: The Architecture Editor, Patrick Carey, writes "A View from the Sky Trenches" which, if you've read any you'll know, is full of unabashed opinion and criticism, and actual insight with important, hands-on information from this Seattle architect.  From our Design Editor, northern California-based landscape architect Haven Kiers, we offered her inaugural "Chic Sustainability" column, which highlights the innovations in cutting edge greenroof design while trying to sway certain preconceived notions.  Greenroof consultant Ralph Velasquez is our ASTM Editor, and submits the "ASTM Task Force Updates" after he returns from the American Society for the Testing of Materials green roof task force meetings.  Greenroof product manufacturer Kelly Luckett has been our most prolific contributing editor with his "Roving Exhibitor" column - we've had seven articles from him!  And Christine Thuring, our Student Editor, continues to provide her occasional ramblings from goings on in The Student Forum as well as sending out her Student Forum Newsletter.  Stay tuned for much more from all of them.

For those of you following my own "Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture" column, you have noticed it gradually morphing from a monthly column to a bi-monthly one, to the present "occasional feature."  I've heard from readers still waiting for my Part II of my last one on Chicago and the state of Illinois - and this is the deal: I simply haven't had the time required for the in-depth background research necessary at my disposition. Here's a challenge to all of you: If you are on top of greenroof projects, policy, etc. in your neck of the woods, why not be my co-contributor, or better yet, a Guest Traveler when visiting other parts of the world?  Send me ideas, photos; let me know.  In any case, I am finishing the Basel, Switzerland column, and who knows, I may even get to update Chicago one day, too.

In 2005 I concentrated my efforts in the following areas: writing papers and articles; editing; designing greenroofs again; and growing The Greenroof Projects Database.  I also peer-reviewed papers for both the Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show and the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo held last year in Atlanta (I just did the same for both for their 2006 conferences, too).  Count presenting papers in Washington, D.C. and Switzerland, and you'll have to admit I've been busy!

Speaking of The Greenroof Projects Database, we currently have about 270 projects posted in various stages of completion, but that is, of course, just a drop in the international bucket.  You can now Submit a Greenroof Project in English and Spanish, German very soon, hopefully with more options to follow.  If you are interested in translating the form into another language, please let us know. 

We are a small company, the amount of work here is great, and I need all of the greenroof industry to step up and submit your projects - this is a free, open, community resource and your input will be credited.  I hope to continue collaborating with new and old advocates through partnerships, and we will be announcing some marketing opportunities soon regarding The Greenroof Projects Database, as well as offering new benefits for new and renewing customers in The Greenroof Directory.

We have some other new exciting features coming up that we expect will open further dialogue, so if you haven't already signed up to receive our free newsletter, do so on the top of the Home Page to stay up to date.  Our Mission here continues to be to provide open, unbiased information from all corners of the greenroof world, big and small.  We'll leave policy and politics to others; think of us as your information partner.

It is wonderful to see how our industry/community/market continues to flourish as the public becomes more aware of the multiple benefits of organic greenroof architecture, and of the numerous international leaders in the field who are promoting greenroofs through projects, seminars, conferences and more.  As always, we look forward to your commentary and input on how to make even better.

Continued success in 2006,

Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, LEED AP


An International Call for The Greenroof Projects Database

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, LEED AP, Publisher/Editor

Presented on September 16, 2005 at The World Green Roof Congress, Basel, Switzerland

The greenroof industry is well established, documented and supported in Germany, and we know the estimated millions of square meters of greenroofs here.  But exactly where are they, who designed them, and when?  How many global greenroof projects are there?  The problem is that there are few documented case studies accessible from one place.

With so many greenroofing companies, organizations and information sources, it is easy to understand the confusion and lack of a cohesive resource.  We at have compiled our “International Greenroof Projects Database” serving as the information database and clearinghouse for the greenroof movement worldwide at the individual, community, and market levels.  As an independent resource, we do not represent any group or company and embrace an open source philosophy of information sharing, and do not charge for project submittals or access.

Why do we need a comprehensive global reference for greenroof projects?   The need to catalog, present, and maintain case studies in one central location with free access offers many benefits to students, researchers, designers, public policy people, governments, and the market.

What are the public and private benefits to an information service of this magnitude?  Learning from one another, promotion of the industry and networking are encouraged through information sharing...                                           >>more


European Airport Greenroofs -
A Potential Model for North America

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, ASLA Associate, LEED AP, Publisher/Editor

Updated July 10, 2005
Copyright © 2005, LLC, All rights reserved. 

Photo Copyright and courtesy ZinCo International

NOTE:  This is the updated version of Linda’s paper presented at the Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities 2005 in Washington, D.C. Additional information and photos were submitted after the original paper went to publication on the Conference CD, e.g., project examples from Pittsburgh Corning Europe, optima, Phoenix Benelux, Fraport AG Frankfurt Airport Services, the King County International Airport and subsequent commentary from the USDA. This paper also includes new graphics from Linda’s PowerPoint presentation.

Benjamin Taube, former City of Atlanta Environmental Manager, contributed to this paper with photos and information pertaining to the Atlanta airport.


Airports occupy and consume huge areas of land mass, destroying ecosystems and creating massive urban heat islands of impermeable, hot surfaces. For example, the area of roofs and pavement at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) is estimated at over 70,500,000 square feet, or 1,619 acres! When compared to surrounding undeveloped areas, ATL infrared imagery, provided by NASA, clearly shows up to over 55°F thermal variations between the terminal, concourses, runways, parking decks and lots, cargo and other airport support buildings. The resulting loss of natural greenspace greatly impacts stormwater management, loss of habitat and biodiversity, creates noise, air and water pollution, and on a large scale, contributes to global warming.

In addition, we know how the numerous ecological advantages of extensive greenroofs could help mitigate each and every one of these environmental problems. Yet airports, as a unique development type, also offer their own particular set of construction design prerequisites and issues that are not applicable to a typical urban environment – in particular, security and safety concerns.

Specifically, stormwater infrastructure engineering must immediately provide fast and efficient drainage to all paved surfaces. And the recreated natural areas of runways and surrounding fields are designed to avoid attraction of birds, which many times get drawn into jet engines creating a potentially hazardous and life threatening situation.

Even given greenroofs’ ability to reduce stormwater infrastructure concerns, to date airport authorities outside of Europe have been hesitant to consider vegetated roofs mainly for fear of attracting birds. However, many airports in Europe have successfully constructed greenroofs atop parking garages, hangers, and even terminal buildings, without increasing their yearly number of “bird strikes.” Bird and wildlife hazard statistics and accompanying industry support will be identified. This paper will attempt to examine the impacts of using a greenroof within airports as well as address some of the potential barriers to greenroofs, in particular the real danger of attracting birds.

To make the case for the implementation of airport greenroofs worldwide, greenroofed buildings will be reviewed at the following international airports, offering insight as to local motivating factors or market drivers; the resulting ecological, aesthetic and economic benefits; and their specific design considerations including appropriate system and plant types, and other elements necessary for a safe yet green environment:

•           Schiphol International Airport, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (AMS);

•           Frankfurt International Airport, Frankfurt, Germany (FRA);

•           Kloten International Airport, Zürich, Switzerland (ZRH)

Bird and wildlife management techniques and design considerations will be discussed, along with “Lessons Learned” from our successful European airport greenroof counterparts. Finally, using the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport - “the World’s Busiest Airport” – as an example, we will present a design scenario of how Atlanta’s largest urban heat island could be significantly mitigated by incorporating greenroofs.  We aim to help further airport greenroof interest by encouraging continued research into these international examples of sustainable design and development...

Download the PDF - this is lengthy!

Editorial Commentary: Our Year in Review and a Look Ahead

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, ASLA Associate, LEED AP, Publisher/Editor
January 1, 2005 - Updated 1.10.05 with WebTrends info and more stats

Happy New Year to all!  Interest in the green building market in general with the USGBC's (U.S. Green Building Council) continued acceptance of their voluntary and newly updated LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program and greenroof technology specifically have truly increased by leaps and bounds within the past five years or so, and especially within 2004.  As publisher of, I measure these huge numbers from news articles written in both print and online, new upcoming events, greenroof related organizations and actual built projects and those on the boards.  From our company's perspective, has experienced huge increases in email inquiries, journalist interview requests, new advertisers, and of course, unique visitor counts and total hits to the website.

Who and What is
All this activity makes me realize how important it is for us to remain open to new ideas and people, and to continue to encourage interaction among this international group without restrictions of membership, access fees, censorship, or elitism.  In fact, we aim to be
the information database and clearinghouse for the greenroof movement worldwide at the individual, community, and market levels.  And so, welcome to our portal! 

With so many new readers, here's a quick 411 on us:  Founded in 1999, we are the "International Greenroof Industry’s Resource and Online Information Portal."'s goal is to offer objective, one-stop shopping for the latest greenroof news about new articles, projects, events and organizations from around the world with direct links to the source addresses.  And as the # 1 internet presence, we are the place that people visit from around the world to stay up to date, as news here is posted as soon it is received, sometimes even several times daily.

Along with providing current news and event access, offers a variety of original features and exclusives, including my Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture column and Recommended Readings; Guest Feature Articles; the Ask Ed Q & A Plant and Horticulture Column; JobLinks; ResearchLinks; The Student Forum, including The Student Directory and more; The Greenroof Directory of Manufacturers, Suppliers, Professional Services, Organizations & Green Resources, The Greenroof Projects Database and Greenroofs 101, a website within a website.

Complete background information on the earth friendly technology of organic greenroof architecture can be found under Greenroofs 101, including FAQ's; Concept (Introduction, History, Extensive Greenroofs, Intensive Greenroofs, Underground Parking Garages, Why, and Conclusion); Advantages (Ecological, Economic, Aesthetic, Psychological); Components (Waterproofing, Insulation, Drainage, Filter Fabric, Growth Media, Plant Material, and Water Storage & Irrigation); How-To's; Industry Support; the Annotated Bibliography; Plant Lists (European Plants, Plant Lists for the U.S.); Applications, and Issues.  And as a matter of journalistic principle, we do not publish "advertorials" or feature original stories that are overly product-oriented.  We do publish stories about people, projects, perspectives and market issues.

So if we do not charge a subscription fee to all this information, how do we make money?  Simple - through advertising revenues from The Greenroof Directory, Banner Advertising, and The MarketPlace.  Advertising is just that - separate, and not part of our content.

Our Year in Review
  While we would never claim to have a complete archive of greenroof articles, we continue to compile a comprehensive library.  Notice the total number of NewsLinks articles posted from 2003 to 2004:

2003:  78
 2004:  236

We want to encourage you to continue sending us news reference resources, both print and online, new and old, for inclusion in the NewsLinks Database.

Upcoming Events:  Again, these figures represent only those companies and organizations who send us notices about Conferences, Seminars, Workshops, Symposiums, Radio Interviews, Classes, and related public happenings:

2003:  30;  Countries Represented:  4;  U.S. States Represented (including D.C.):  10
2004:  59;  Countries Represented:  6;  U.S. States Represented
(including D.C.):  15

Note:  Although is international in scope, the highest number of events posted on come from the U.S., followed by Canada.  This may be due to the fact that we here in North America are in the infancy stage in terms of the learning curve, and therefore are more likely to be offering more learning opportunities, but most likely it is because people simply aren't submitting a comprehensive number of event notices from Europe and beyond.  Within the United States, New York City events lead the way with by far the highest total number.  Send us details on your Upcoming Events.

The Greenroof Directory:  We officially launched The Greenroof Directory in third quarter 2003, having evolved from our previous format's "Market Studies" (International and North American) to include the present five categories of Manufacturers, Suppliers, Professional Services, Organizations & Green Resources (free). The Greenroof Directory is one of our most commonly visited areas of the website, as readers can search The Greenroof Directory database by category, company name, specific city or country or contact name.  We currently have 91 sub categories and can customize any to accommodate customer needs.

International customers (not including Green Resources) come from 10 countries including Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Greece, Mexico, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland.  U.S. customers (not including Green Resources) are represented from 24 different states.

Green Resources:  The Green Resources category of The Greenroof Directory is basically a sub-directory, as it includes six categories of its own - Educational, Governmental, Media, NGO/Private, Non-Profit, and Professional.  We currently have 128 links in Green Resources. Traffic Analysis Statistics:  When analyzing website traffic, there are a number of measures that are used to report on activity and volume of visitors.  The three most common measurements of website activity are Total Hits, Pages Views, and User Sessions or Unique Visitors to a site.  Simply put, Total Hits is the total number of files that are requested from the server.  Pages Views, or Page Impressions is the number of pages viewed. User Sessions is the number of unique visitors who visited a website during a certain time period (NetIQ).  See our activity below and notice the increases; for example, in 2003 we averaged over 200,000 hits per month, and that number jumped to over 310,000 in 2004:

2003 Year-end            Totals
User Sessions         98,196
Page Views       266,717
Total Hits    2,426,488


2004 Year-end            Totals
User Sessions       122,739
Page Views       313,028
Total Hits    3,726,870


Year over Year     Change % Change
User Sessions        24,543     25.0%
Page Views        46,311     17.4%
Total Hits    1,300,382     53.6%

Source:  WebTrends Data Summary Report provided by InterLand, Inc.

On the Personal Side:  In June 2004 I was one of the original four facilitators for the 2004 Green Roofs for Healthy Cities' Green Roof Design 101 - Introductory Course, first presented in Portland, OR at the second annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference.  Although I greatly enjoyed working along side with my fellow trainers Wendy Wark, Patrick Carey, and Haven Kiers, I realized that this was not my cup of tea... Although I do greenroof presentations on a regular basis, I think I will leave this particular scenario to other individuals more suited for this type of educational adventure.  The program was developed by a fine group of committed people across the field, and is one of a few excellent greenroof courses currently being offered out there.

But I am very happy I took the time to hunker down to study and finally take the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) test to become a LEED™ Accredited Professional this past August.  I incurred not only a personal commitment in terms of time and money, but also of ascribing to the "putting my money where my mouth is" philosophy.

I have been trying to promote greenroofs as "the earth friendly technology of organic greenroof architecture" from a landscape architecture perspective since the website was first published in 1999, and was pleased to find out that the U.S. Green Building Council had listed as the resource or reference for greenroofs within the LEED™ program.  So I not only found it necessary to fully commit to the program, but realized it would be extremely beneficial to learn more about sustainable design from the broader construction design perspective.

Coming from landscape architecture the easiest portion for me was the Sustainable Sites section, and I really had to research and learn about the other areas.  In retrospect, these studies have definitely opened my mind and own field of comprehension in terms of architecture and this philosophy for constructing energy-efficient, healthy, and environmentally-sound buildings in general.  I've since noticed a growing number of landscape architects becoming LEED™ accredited, and would certainly encourage others to get involved because not only is green building one of the hottest trends in construction today, why are we allowing other professional sectors to design and specify greenroof schemes and products when these living roofs are a such an natural extension within our field?

Looking Ahead:  Greenroof Groups - Fragmentation of the Global Market or Local Representation?
Some "politicking" and Survivor-like maneuvering and taking of sides have unfortunately crept into the greenroof arena, creating some interesting scenarios and alliances in our new industry.  Some have deliberated that there are too many different and diverse groups, that we need more consolidation - you know, the strength in numbers theory, and that continued fragmentation of the market will only serve to dilute opportunity and information.

The problem is do we really want one international monopoly or a Greenroof Kingdom ruled by one organization to represent us all?  I believe that we do have fragmentation of the global market from local representation existent in the form of numerous organizations interested in pursuing the greenroof agenda - to name just a few: the FLL, DDV, Earth Pledge (including Greening, Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, International Green Roof Institute, D.C. Greenworks,, Ecoroofs Everywhere, International Green Roof Association, and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities - even the U.S. EPA, ASLA,  AIA, ASTM and the USGBC - not to mention the various international university research people - and is that really bad?

Regional groups will truly know their own physical needs and cultural preferences best, and promote their own resources of people and materials.  If we insist on member-only institutions too quickly, I think we risk the label of elitism, which can then encourage the prejudice of "my organization is better than yours because of whatever."

Local Workshops, International Conferences
We need to celebrate the richness and diversity of all of our ideas; the greenroof industry is simply too young for us to be nitpicking over who should run or teach what just yet.  Of course we need performance and design standards, continued testing of products and materials, and venues to hear new ideas, research and projects.

The last few years have heralded in some important milestones in terms of local workshops and seminars, and international conferences emanating from Germany, England, the U.S., Sweden, Canada, and Switzerland, for example.  Yet the importance of attending any or all of these events is in the networking, interaction and discussion of new ideas in a spirit of collaboration, not competition.  Redundancies and overlapping of products and services are always present in an emerging market, and instead of bickering, let's celebrate our common interests, investigate differences, and see what truly makes us exclusive and special.  Natural selection will simply run its course, and in due time both local and international industry leaders will emerge, and hopefully then the greenroof market can bear a consortium or United Nations of sorts, dictated by regional representation, and not just contributions from the more powerful organizations.

Have any comments?  Please email me at

Tuscan Skies Overhead

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, ASLA Associate, Publisher/Editor
October 6, 2003

Brick walls, pergolas, Italian cypresses, junipers, arborvitae, flowering vines and perennials set on a gentle hill set against blue skies... Sounds like a southern Italian villa and the countryside of Tuscany, but actually this setting can be found on the roof of your neighborhood Carrabba's Italian Grill.  Orlando, Florida was the first Carrabba's to boast one, and since 1998 every new Carrabba's has been constructed with lush Italianate roof gardens.  Currently over 70 of Carrabba's 133 restaurants in 27 U.S. states are so adorned with 14 more to open between now and December 15 - and approximately 20 - 25 more greened Italian Grills will open next year.

Carrabbas Italian Grill, Bonita Springs, FL

Carrabba's Bonita Springs, FL in July, 2003; Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

I visited the Bonita Springs, FL Carrabba's above on a hot and humid day last July and the view was truly spectacular.  The lush plantings both on top of the restaurant and at ground level refreshed the environment and provided a lovely ambience and welcome respite within an otherwise concrete laden commercial shopping area.

Carrabba's was founded in 1986 by Johnny Carrabba and his uncle, Damian Mandola.  According to the website, "Their mission was to offer guests high quality Italian dishes in warm, casual environment...High standards and the desire to treat guests as if they were in the home of good friends are the ingredients that have made Carrabba's a success."

Authentic family recipes and cozy Italian dining aside, what prompted the popular eateries to consider Mediterranean-style intensive greenroof plantings?  Around five years ago the Carrabba's marketing team sought a way to differentiate and brand their Italian restaurants, and provide a distinctive sense of place.  Evoking the desired feel resulted in recreating a bit of Tuscany on the roof, and the "second level plantings" concept - as they are referred to at Carrabba's - was conceived.  Respected Manhattan architect James Wines, known for his incorporation of nature and ecological approach, was hired to design the prototype roof garden scheme.  The rigorous research, development and testing stage took about 18 months to complete and Wines' original design was somewhat modified but basically remains true.  Over time four other basic planting plans have evolved to best reflect and adapt to local conditions, including climate and architectural requirements.

Carrabba's in Greensboro, NC

Greensboro, NC Carrabba's, October 2003;  Photo by Venture Construction

A couple of years ago they revised the size of the intensive roof garden from 1700 sf to the current 1000 sf.  The general design wraps around two sides of the restaurant, forming an L-shape planter approximately 110' L x 9.3' W, with a 4:1 slope ratio.  The growth media depths slope from 4' at the back to 16" in the front, and the trees are anchored to the back walls for support.  The "soil mix" has been engineered and adjusted for lightweight drainage properties and optimum local performance.  The waterproofing membrane consists of the Bituthene® System 4000, followed by the Hydroduct drainage core and filter fabric, from the W R Grace Construction product line.  A minimum 24-hour flood test of 4" of water covering the entire roof precede all of the plantings to ensure water tightness.  Initially a couple of leaks were reported, but minor adjustments eliminated the problem altogether, says a company spokesperson.

Carrabba's in Greensboro, NC

Greensboro, NC Carrabba's Side View, October 2003
Photo by Venture Construction

Interestingly enough, not everyone has been overly enthusiastic about the idea of plants on a roof.  Sometimes city planning commissions, developers, and design boards are a hard sell because "they don't like the look."  So Carrabba's must explain company philosophy and adjust their design.  "The prototypes can be tweaked for area building codes and city council input while maintaining equity of design," says Andi Jacobs, Carrabba's Vice President, Director of Marketing & Advertising.

Yet, local residents in Indiana restaurants and other areas, too, marvel at nature returning to the city.  Small birds and butterflies abound, and surprisingly, geese are a common sight on many of Carrabba's rooftops, with many nesting and laying eggs within the shrubs and trees.  All of the geese are protected species, so they are guaranteed a safe haven in these often otherwise barren urban areas.

Three years ago Keith Hurley, Vice President and Manager of the Landscape Installation Division of West Orange Nurseries in Winter Haven Florida, was brought in to manage the Carrabba's roof gardens nationwide, and has been voted their "Vendor of the Year."  Keith has learned that quality control is essential during his 25 years in the business, so he is on-site during every restaurant's roof garden construction, selecting, laying out and installing the plants and setting up service for local maintenance.  Also a minister, Keith sees working with Carrabba's as part of his ministry and credits the company for having "opened the doors to share my vision and mission."  Keith considers Carrabba's a family affair, having met his wife there and believes his personal attention and relationships strengthen the working environment.

Keith states that plant survivability is over 90%, due to great nursery stock, high maintenance standards and the experience of trial and error.  The five planting prototypes reflect extreme climate conditions across the U.S., and all have thrived even in the heat of Texas and the cold of Boston and Salt Lake City.  Learning from the challenge of overgrown bougainvillea in St. Petersburg, aggressive species have been replaced with more polite ones - both ornamental and indigenous to each region.  Native plants are always incorporated into the signature Carrabba's design that includes Italian cypress trees.  For example, central and south Florida roofs might also have sago palms, pigmy date palms, ixora, split-leaf philodendron, hibiscus, Texas sage, lantana, Confederate jasmine and mandevilla vines.

Carolina Nursery supplies most of the plants from South Carolina, and trees and shrubs come from local John Deere suppliers.  The roofs are all fitted with drip irrigation providing low-volume watering, and plants are selected with relatively low maintenance qualities - slow growing plants and those with shallow root systems are preferred.  Maintenance checks are performed once a month, with trimming kept to a minimum to allow for the desired free-flowing garden feel.

Carrabba's in Bowie, MD; Photo Courtesy
Venture Construction

At present, Carrabba's has no plans to retrofit any of their non-greened restaurants, but continues with the commitment to green all new ones.

The newest Carrabba's opened within the last year in Bowie, MD and the next Grill opening is expected this month in Greenville, SC, with many more in the works.

Carrabba's original inspiration drew from a combination of a desire for aesthetics and enhancing the environment, and now they are setting a great example for the rest of the business community with their particular brand of innovative ecological design with an Italian flair.  Look for great Italian food, atmosphere, and Tuscan skies overhead in your neighborhood soon.

For more information about Carrabba's and their philosophy for greening their environments, please visit or contact Andi Jacobs, Vice President, Director of Marketing & Advertising at

Modular Greenroof Technology:
An Overview of Two Systems

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, ASLA Associate, Publisher/Editor

NOTE:  This paper was presented at the First Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show 2003, in Chicago, IL.

Modular Alternatives to Traditional Greenroofs

In order to better understand modular systems and the many advantages they offer, we must address definition, application opportunities, and other reasons to consider modular greenroofs. Depending on whether the greenroof is designed as either an extensive or intensive one, we know greenroofs in general employ either a single-ply or multi-ply waterproof roofing membrane, with a root barrier if the type of membrane is organic in nature.  A single or multi-layer drainage material follows, with a non-woven, non-biodegradable filter fabric on top of the drainage layer to retain the soil media (Note: Some drainage components include root barrier material in their filter fabric).  Insulation is optional although most often recommended, and may be located either 1) above (most common) or below the roof deck; 2) above the roofing membrane (protected membrane, common in Europe) or 3) below the roofing membrane (conventional), as determined by the architect or contractor.  Finally, the engineered substrate/soil media or planting medium is determined and placed along with appropriate greenroof plants, according to the landscape architect/greenroof designer...

Download the PDF.

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