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astm task force updates archives


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Ralph Velasquez is a "Sustainability Champion" and our former Sustainable Roofing Technologies Editor and ASTM Editor.  Although his new corporate responsibilities don't allow him the time for a regular column any more, Ralph is still with us as our first Guest Contributing Editor, now writing this occasional column "Perspectives from the Green Boardroom."

In April 2008 he inaugurated his updated column "Sustainable Roofing," changing his previous editorial focus when you knew him as the ASTM Editor (2005).  He then wrote a quarterly "ASTM Update" as a member of the American Society for the Testing of Materials Green Roof Task Force (E.06.71.07), part of the sub-committee for Sustainability (E.06.71), which in turn is part of the committee for Performance of Buildings (E.06).

email: ralph (at)
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Retrofitting Office Buildings to Be Green and Energy-Efficient: Optimizing Building Performance, Tenant Satisfaction, and Financial Return,
by Leanne Tobias, [Article by Ralph Velasquez],

ASTM Task Force Updates
See the current ASTM Standards

ASTM October 2007 Fall Meetings
By Ralph Velasquez

Ralph Velasquez of IBT

Dear Readers,

It has been some time since I last wrote an article on the activities of the ASTM task force group (E.06.71.07), relative to green roofs.  I missed the last meetings (April) entirely, as I was out and about taking care of customers and making a living.  While the ASTM work is important, even critical, it is done on a totally volunteered basis and can take some serious chunks out of your schedule.  Enough whining, we all have our time constraints, you just want to know what did we get done and how can you help me?  Right.

The “big” thing on the agenda is the work that continues on the Standard Guide for Green Roof Systems and the Standard Practice for the Assessment of Green Roofs (The Guide).  The Guide is the first step in creating a document that covers the “whole enchilada,” giving the designer some direction on what to consider as they practice the art of architectural design, relative to green (vegetative) roofs.  By the way, I prefer the term vegetative roofs (VR) versus “green,” since green in my mind is something broader.  In fact sustainable roofing is even a better term for “green,” since again it better defines the various attributes of what a particular roof design can contribute to the final decision, other then just environmental impacts.  Ah, but I digress, back to The Guide.

The Guide covers the roof membrane, accessory components such as drain boards or root barriers, growing media, plants, code issues, etc.  We have made progress on the various categories, however, two of the most critical issues that continue to prove to be a sticking point are the issues of fire and wind.  As some of you may recall, in a previous article I raised the issue of wind (see below: "What's blowing in the wind?"), as have others within the industry, and we continue the debate.

Since our discourse on this subject, various stakeholders have begun to grapple with these two issues. The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) has taken a position on the issue, pressing for the fledgling green roof industry to comply with existing fire and wind standards for conventional roof systems, even though applicable testing methodology has yet to be built.  The NRCA recently submitted this request to the International Code Council (ICC) for inclusion in the mid-term meetings this past fall and the ICC passed the submission for inclusion into the code. The language will be inserted into the 2009 code approvals book, at which time various public bodies will begin to adopt this requirement.  In response, folks like ANSI/SPRI (American National Standards Institute and Single Ply Roofing Industry) and the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) have attempted to embrace the issue and find a solution to the challenges this presents.  I think more help will be needed, including from our friends @ the NRCA, who by the way have issued their new guide for VR design considerations (see Industry News for more info about the NRCA Green Roof Systems Manual--2007) .

The technical concerns revolve around issues such as wind scouring of the growing media, growing media displacement, attachment of loose-laid components and fire resistance classifications.  Challenges include how one tests for fire resistance when the roof design is in constant fluctuation, i.e.: the various states of wetness of growing media or the various types of planting material.  Sedums hold water within their structures, while grasses collect biomass over time and could present a fire hazard.  Constant changes in the wetness of the growing media, or depth or composition of the blend, coupled with plant type, irrigation, plant maturity and the like make a test method a moving target.  Some agencies such as Factory Mutual Global have issued (Sept. 2006) as a document to their customers to follow (FM 1-35), with their perspective of controlling losses.  Some of us in the roofing industry have mixed feelings about FM in the conventional roof arena and this carries over to the VR world as well.  Still, it is one way to view how to handle the twin issues of fire and wind.

I think what this entire episode has prompted, is for the green roof industry to get very busy finding the needed answers relative to fire and wind, in a specific time frame, so as not to find the industry stymied from a lack of well defined standards and the needed test methodologies that guide us to achieve the standard.  That said, I also believe solutions will be forthcoming, since our European brethren have already gone down this path and the industry is thriving, thank you very much.  This coupled with the self-interest of all interested stakeholders has and will drive us to needed solutions.

Well, the work continues, as we strive to assist everyone who wants to do the right thing and design VRs that work, and work as advertised.  Come join us in ASTM if you dare but be ready for more work on your plate, being unpaid for that work and a satisfaction that comes from making your industry and the world it impacts, just a little bit better each and every time.

Ralph P. Velasquez
Sustainable Technologies Specialist
Tremco, Inc.

ASTM Task Force Updates, 2006 Fall Meetings – What’s blowing in the wind?

By Ralph Velasquez

Well everyone, another meeting has come and gone with my green roof brethren, as we completed our meetings in late October.  While these meetings can be laborious as we mull through the details, they can also be intensively debated if an unusually important subject is on the table.  One such lively discussion took place that I would like to bring to your attention and hopefully get some input.

While our industry is moving rapidly forward and we continue to learn, there are issues that need to be addressed to protect the end user and to ensure the industry will continue to prosper.  The issue that caused such a lively debate was wind uplift of vegetative systems.

To the best of my knowledge and to the best of our task force collective knowledge, there are no current codes or guides specific to wind uplift as it relates to vegetative roof design in the US.  So, if this is true, then how does one properly design and install a vegetative roof that will not blow off or if not blow off, have displacement of the growing media or planting material?  How are issues such as building height or building location & orientation dealt with in vegetative design?  Does the soil need to be restrained?  If so, then how is that best achieved?  Is there liability to the building owner if something blows off and there are not codes in place to deal with this issue?  What about who installs the soil?  If the roofing contractor installs it, is he responsible?  Should a landscape firm install it?  Can the landscape firm get properly insured in a roofing environment in order to place the soil?  What if some of the soil or plant material goes airborne and hits a building, a window, and a pedestrian?

As one can see there are many questions and no firm answers currently.  The ASTM task force has and is grappling with numerous issues in this fledgling growth industry, with wind uplift being just one of those issues.  So what is the designer or end user to do before standards are built specifically for vegetative roof systems?  I would propose a couple of thoughts and expect many others to have the ability to weigh in on the dialogue.

First, there are many standards already in place for roof design relative to wind uplift and these should be followed.  Don’t throw out good roof design just because we are putting soil and plants above it.  The one area this may cause a problem is with loose-laid roof systems that typically depend on some type of ballast to keep them in place. Since growing media is not like typical roof ballast in many ways, then design criteria for these type of roofs should not follow the standards set for this type of design.  Aggregate based soils have different shape, size, weight and wind induced behaviors of the aggregate then natural stone ballast used in typical roof applications.  I would encourage some common sense, where we might look to guides set forth in ANSI/SPRI for ballasted applications but not takes these as interchangeable understandings or approaches when designing vegetative roofs.

Second, the designer should think carefully about issues relative to wind uplift, such as wind zone, topography, building orientation, surrounding buildings impact, edge type and detailing, building height, etc.

Third, the designer should consider the type and typical saturation condition of the growing media being used.  Wet media is heavier and typically less apt to be displaced, so if the roof is an area that would be dry much of the time and not irrigated, then wind issues might be more of a concern, then the reverse.

Fourth, the designer should consider the use of erosion control mats and how they would impact the project.  The use of a biodegradable mat in the first two years might be sufficient to allow the plants to create a more mature root matrix that would be less prone to displacement or blow-off, with an increased ability to absorb moisture, wetting the soil and making it less likely for displacement.

There are many other issues to consider and this brief column was not meant to address all concerns or even to offer the only solutions.  All I wanted to do here is raise the issue, let you know we have and for all parts of our industry to take this into their consideration so as to protect the owner and the industry from any future problems related to wind.

So go forth and change the world one vegetative roof at a time, just check which way the wind is blowing!

Ralph P. Velasquez
Sustainable Technologies Specialist
Tremco, Inc.

ASTM Task Force Updates, 2006 Spring Meetings

By Ralph Velasquez

Greetings to all of you who are interested in green roofs!  We are back from Toronto, Canada where the work continues on developing and in some cases already refining existing standards for this emerging technology.

First, if you are unaware, a new standard has been approved by the committee, made it through review and is now available to the public.  ASTM standard E2400-06, Standard Guide for Selection, Installation, and Maintenance of Plants for Green Roof Systems, can be downloaded from the ASTM website for $29.00.  Nothing is free in this world and neither is this document.  That brings to five, in the stable of green roof documents, available to assist end users, designers and other interested parties.  Click on the hyperlinks below for a Document Summary of each standard:

E2396-05 Standard Test Method for Saturated Water Permeability of Granular Drainage Media [Falling-Head Method] for Green Roof Systems

E2397-05 Standard Practice for Determination of Dead Loads and Live Loads associated with Green Roof Systems

E2398-05 Standard Test Method for Water Capture and Media Retention of Geocomposite Drain Layers for Green Roof Systems

E2399-05 Standard Test Method for Maximum Media Density for Dead Load Analysis of Green Roof Systems

E2400-06 Standard Guide for Selection, Installation, and Maintenance of Plants for Green Roof Systems

This new standard E2400-06 provides guidance for the selection criteria for plants to be used on Green Roofs. Primary considerations of this standard include: Design Intent, Aesthetics, Climate (both Macroclimate and Microclimate), Plant Characteristics (including rate of establishment, longevity, disease and pest resistance), and growing media composition. The Standard also provides guidance for the installation of plants for Green Roofs. Methods include: Pre-cultivation or direct plantings such as seeds, root cuttings and plugs. Finally, the Standard provides guidance for the maintenance of plants for Green Roofs.

Work continues on the development of the Standard for Assessment of Green Roofs.  A lot of progress has been made on this standard in the last year with many undeveloped sections now having first drafts completed.  Getting each section to have initial language built out is one of the more difficult parts of the process.  It is like trying to write a new book.  When you start the process all you have is a lot of blank pages and an idea.  Soon an outline appears, the key points hammered out, then, each and every point needs to be fleshed out.  Often along the way the outline changes, usually expanding, as you realize there is more that needs definition.

Finally, you have the first complete draft of the standard.  This is where we are in the process at this writing.  Next, each section will need to be reviewed, revised, rewritten, reviewed again, revised, rewritten and so it goes on and on until we have something we can all agree on.  This is a messy and long process that has proven successful over many generations.

There are a number of additional Standards that need to be developed and I will report more on these in my next report to you.  You may also be interested in other related Standards and Working Documents related to Sustainability under the E.06.71 sub-committee, such as Environmentally Preferred Products, Terminology, Data Collection or Sustainable Buildings.  If you are interested in work being developed in these task Force Groups check the website for published data or better yet, come join us and be part of the process.  The next meeting is in Atlanta on October 22nd - 25th, hope to see you there!

Ralph P. Velasquez

Effective July 2006, Ralph Velasquez is in charge of Sustainable Technologies with Tremco, Inc., as the Sustainable Technologies Specialist heading up their new program for sustainable roofing, waterproofing and building envelope solutions, including green roofs, photovoltaics (incl. BIPV), cool roofing and bio-based materials. Previously founding his company Integrated Building Technologies (IBT), Ralph has been involved in the roofing industry since 1978 with a wide range of roofing experience serving hospitals, schools, universities, industries, major corporations, non-profit organizations and property management companies.

Tremco Inc., located in Beachwood, OH, is a division of RPM (Republic Powdered Metals), providing "Roofing and Waterproofing Peace of Mind" to their customers since 1928. Tremco has long been a leader in the concept of sustainable roofing, with a historical focus in keeping "good roofs good", thereby improving the life-cycle of the roof assembly, forestalling replacement and reducing landfill burdens. Further promotion of this concept came with the advent of asbestos free materials, low and no VOC products, recycled content, cool roof technologies, Energy Star, LEED, Title 24 (CA) and now increased emphasis in vegetative roofs and Photovoltaic solutions.

As a major corporation with construction related activities around the world, Tremco is committed to providing building envelope solutions that will meet the customers need for value driven sustainable solutions. We are committed to building upon our past sustainable approaches, creating new mechanisms to achieve improved levels of sustainability and value for our customers.  Contact Ralph at: phone 615.251.3055, or

ASTM Task Force Updates, November 2005

By Ralph Velasquez

Dear Readers,

The fall meetings for ASTM have been concluded and the process continues.  Since our last time together the four standards that were passed in committee have now made their way through the executive chain of command of the ASTM organization.  The standards have been given a formal designation and are as follows:

E2396-05 Standard Test Method for Saturated Water Permeability of Granular Drainage Media [Falling-Head Method] for Green Roof Systems;

E2397-05 Standard Practice for Determination of Dead and Live Loads associated with Green Roof Systems;

E2398-05 Standard Test Method for Water Capture and Media Retention Geocomposite Drain Layers for Green Roof Systems;

E2499-05 Standard Test Method for Maximum Media Density for Dead Load Analysis of Green Roof Systems.

While these four standards do not a green roof make, they are the first important steps toward building a stable of documents that can used by all interested parties, when specifying a green roof system.  I would suggest you purchase these documents and become familiar with them if you are in the green roof business, as they will likely begin to show up in more specifications.

Future work continues on documents that will deal with the practice of the assessment of green roofs and the selection-installation-maintenance of plants for green roof systems.  The assessment document is of particular importance, as it has over arching impact on our fledging industry.  This work is slow but each time progress has been made.

Right now there in not much else that I can report but I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to join us the next time in Toronto, CA.  We meet April 23-26, 2006 and would welcome your voice.

Best regards,

Ralph P. Velasquez
President, Integrated Building Technologies, LLC

ASTM Task Force Updates, May 2005

By Ralph Velasquez

Dear Readers,

We are back from the “spring” meeting of the ASTM E.06 Committee on the Performance of Buildings. While the calendar said spring, the weather in Reno, NV was cold and snowing. This was great for meetings that lasted all day, since I was not tempted to go exploring anywhere. Also, since I choose to keep my hard earned money safely in my pocket and not “feed the machines,” this also bodes well for keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. Perhaps this was why we made so much progress this time and passed four new standards for green roofs.

The new standards that have been passed through the task force, sub-committee and main committee, will now make their way through the ASTM executive process and should be published for general use in 3-6 months. The four that have passed are as follows:

1) Standard Practice for Determination of Dead Loads and Live Loads Associated with Green Roof Systems.

2) Standard Test Method for Water Capture and Media Retention of Geocomposite Drain Layers for Green Roofs.

3) Standard Test Method for Maximum Density for Dead Load Analysis of Green Roofs.

4) Standard Test Method for Saturated Water Permeability of Granular Drainage Media [Falling-Head Method] for Green Roofs.

A fifth standard, The Standard Guide for Selection, Installation, and Maintenance of Plants for Green Roofs, didn’t make it through balloting and has been taken back to the task force for more revisions. In addition to these five, we are also working on: A) Standard Guide for Use of Expanded Shale, Clay or Slate (ESCS) as a mineral Component in Growing Media for Green Roof Systems and B) Standard Practice for the Assessment of Green Roofs.

Let’s take a look at one of the standards that passed. Let’s take the first one, associated with Dead and Live Loads Relative to Green Roofs. The scope of this practice is to address the weight of Green Roof Systems under two conditions. First, it will address weight under drained conditions after new water additions by rainfall or irrigation have ceased and 2) weight when rainfall or irrigation is actively occurring and the drainage layer is completely filled with water. The first condition is considered the dead load of the green roof system. The difference in weight between the first and second conditions, approximated by the weight of transient water in the drainage layer, is considered a live load. The practice does not address architectural elements that are not essential components of a particular green roof system and will require calculations by the design professional. Terminology is defined within the document for those unfamiliar with green roof system components and a procedure to quantify these weights is outlined within the standard. The significance of this standard will provide information to facilitate the assessment of the performance of one green roof system relative to another, as it pertains to weight factors

While the various documents have passed, there is room for improvements and no doubt once these hit the market, we will begin to work on various tweaks and enhancements. If you have any suggestions on future improvements, we are all ears; let’s just get these into every day use and measure their results and impact. Better yet, join the process, ante up a membership and come join the fray. Your participation in the process will only make the end results better and that is our objective.

The work continues on a regular basis in between each April and October meeting. In between meetings the “donkey” work is done and at the joint meetings we cobble together to review, debate, dismantle and rebuild the work done between meetings. This valuable process keeps the refining pot boiling until the impurities have been drawn off, with the hope that the remaining document is truly the “precious metal” we all desire. An example of this is my next assignment to build into several sections of the Standard Practice for the Assessment of Green Roofs. I will lay the foundation for my assigned sections, as others have already in other parts of the document and submit my feeble attempts for peer review. This will invite the inevitable changes and enhancements, all the time working to keep one humble from the give and take of consensus building, know as the ASTM process.

Until next time, your humble servant,

Ralph P. Velasquez, President
Integrated Building Technologies, LLC

Inaugural ASTM Task Force Updates Column, March 2005

By Ralph Velasquez

As a member of the American Society for the Testing of Materials (ASTM) green roof task force, I often get asked, What is ASTM working on relative to this emerging technology?  In addition, the market-place is asking for guidance and assistance in dealing with a multitude of issues in the design and installation of green roofs.  In discussing this with Linda Velazquez (no relation, I spell my last name with a “s,” not a “z”), the publisher of one day, she suggested that perhaps a more effective way of “telling the story” would be through the website.  I thought this was a great idea, so this is the first of a quarterly update on the ASTM greenroof task force.

First, a little background on who and what is the green roof task force in ASTM.  The Green Roof task force (E.06.71.07) is part of the sub-committee for Sustainability (E.06.71), which in turn is part of the committee for Performance of Buildings (E.06).  The group is comprised of numerous industry related individuals with a general or specific interest in green roof technology.  We have been meeting for a couple of years, continuing to increase the number and depth of stake holders involved in the industry.  As is true with all ASTM committees, the group has manufacturers, designers, related association representatives, governmental individuals and a varied assortment of hard working people trying to reach a consensus on a host of topical issues.  This process can be long, difficult, frustrating, challenging, exhilarating and rewarding, often all in one single session.  Sometimes the process is one step forward, two steps back, then forward again.  Ultimately, the process is completed and a document is agreed upon by voting members and becomes part of the ASTM stable of documents to be used by the general public.

With that brief background, what are we up to in the green roof task force?  There are a number of documents in various stages of development.  Some of those currently being worked on include: 1) The Standard Practice for the Assessment of Green Roofs. 2) The Standard Guide for Use of Lightweight Expanded Shale, Clay or Slate as a Mineral Component implanting Media for Green Roofs. 3) Standard Guide for Selection, Installation, and Maintenance of Plants for Green Roofs. 4) Standard Practice for Determination of Dead Load(s) and Live Loads for Green Roof Systems.  There are others that address drainage boards, retention components, terminology, green roof membranes, root barriers and similarly related issues.  The list seems to grow and becomes more finitely specific as the industry continues to expand, change and respond to the marketplace.

One challenge for the committee is to get an initial stable of documents built, through the peer review process, modified and voted on to become published without waiting for everything to be built at one time.  A concern of the committee is that if only one piece of the assembly is passed, that the design community or general public would perceive that this is the only way to build a green roof, when in fact this may be the furthest from the truth.  An example of this would be the issue of water retention.  There are numerous ways to achieve this, yet the ASTM committee may soon pass a document that deals only with cup type receptacles.  What this document will address is:  If you choose to use this approach to address your need for retention, then you have a document that will give you guidance in how to objectively achieve your needs.  What it doesn’t address is the other perfectly acceptable alternatives available in the marketplace.  This approach was worked on early on in the group and has had more time to get through the aforementioned process and reach publication. Nothing more, nothing less!

As the green roof industry starts to really heat up, the pressure is building for some type of standards to be built to help all interested parties.  I hope this brief overview will give you, the reader, the first glimpse into what is coming from the ASTM committee that will help address this need in the marketplace.  What I did not want to do in this introduction piece was to get into the technical aspects of the various documents and bore you to death, otherwise you might never come back to our little news corner.  To the “tech heads” among the readers, hang with me until the next time, when I promise to give you something more to chew on.

If you have something particular you would like to know about the committee’s work drop me a line and I will try to answer that question in my next quarterly update.  The ASTM committee next meets in late April, then again in October.  I hope to have an update on our work shortly after the April session.

I would love to answer all inquires individually, so if you are the only that one that reads this and emails me I will respond in like kind.  However, if there are a lot of you making inquires, don’t forget I need to make a living and I don’t make that living writing free articles for, thus the need to address it in the next quarterly posting!  Hope you all understand.


Ralph P. Velasquez, President
Integrated Building Technologies, LLC.

Ralph Velasquez is the founder and president of Integrated Building Technologies (IBT) and has been involved in the roofing industry since 1978 with a wide range of roofing experience serving hospitals, schools, universities, industries, major corporations, non-profit organizations and property management companies.

IBT is an 8(a)/MBE consulting company dedicated to the advancement of the latest roofing and waterproofing technology through correct analysis, proper design, system innovation, and project management excellence. A firm specialty is the promotion of sustainable roof designs, including greenroofs, that deliver an economically sound, environmentally friendly and common sense approach to the rigorous demands of industrial, educational, institutional and commercial roofing. Contact Ralph at:

Past Sustainable Roofing Technologies Articles

Past ASTM Task Force Updates

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