NEWS     |    BLOG    |    EVENTS     |    JOBS    |     MARKETPLACE     |     INDUSTRY     |     PROJECTS    |    TV     |    GREENROOFS101   |     DIRECTORY     |    VIRTUAL 

Back to Sky Gardens - Archives

Sky Gardens ~
Travels in Landscape Architecture

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA Associate, Publisher

May/June/July 2004 ~

Pennsylvania State Flag

Pennsylvania, U.S.  The grand eastern U.S. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a fascinating land of our nation’s history, native peoples, culture, sports, industry, food innovations, educational institutions, and the built and natural environments. 

The nearly 2,600 municipalities are home to   this state's birthplace of the Liberty Bell, Gettysburg, the City of Brotherly Love, the beautiful landscapes of the Pennsylvania Dutch country, the Poconos, the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, plus myriad native and historic sites and gardens.

Philly Skyline at Night

Philadelphia Skyline: Source: Webshots

And what a sports lover's paradise with team legacies such as the Steelers, Eagles, Phillies & 76ers.  Even notable edibles like Philly cheese steaks, Philadelphia cream cheese and Hershey’s chocolate all make Pennsylvania proud to call home.

Yet, another reason to visit and consider living in this lovely state is the fact that it is also now becoming increasingly "green building" minded with many examples of sustainable planning and design, both past and present.


Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA,  designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

One of the most famous examples of organic architecture in the U.S. is Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater located in western Pennsylvania, designed in 1935 for the Edgar J. Kaufmann family.  Fallingwater was voted "the best all-time work of American architecture" by a poll of members of the American Institute of Architects in 1991.

According to the official Fallingwater website administered by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), after the Kaufmanns died their son gave the house and land to this agency to manage since his parents believed the WPC was the most attuned to Wright's and the family's ecological ideals.  And Fallingwater is open to the public.

Also a nature lover’s paradise, Pennsylvania's 116 state parks and 4.5 million acres of public lands offer plenty of sightseeing and outdoor activities.  Beautiful natural areas abound with spectacular mountain vistas, river valleys, numerous waterfalls, and rich forests.

State Commitment to Security, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resources

Although long a place of patriots and a cradle of independence, unfortunately, we now also count Pennsylvania in remembering the 911 terrorist attacks when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field in Somerset County, PA.  A national memorial to honor the heroic passengers and crew is proposed and the crash site is to be designated a unit of the National Park System.  At the forefront of security issues provided by energy efficiency and renewable resources, in October 2002 then Governor Mark Schweiker addressed the energy industry, government and school leaders stating "that becoming 'energy-independent' is essential to protecting Pennsylvania’s security."  He added, “Remember, it’s our independence that the terrorists tried to attack on Sept. 11.  And as we find new ways to make ourselves energy self-sufficient, we strengthen our independence.” (See DEP PA News Release.)

And News Weekly Edition reports that Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty just announced on May 4 that $5 million will be available in the second year of Pennsylvania's Energy Harvest grant program to make the state a national leader in building and deploying advanced energy technology with measurable impacts on pollution reduction, environmental protection and economic growth.

Stormwater Issues

Major cities such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have been handling issues of urban development and overburdened stormwater systems resulting in CSO’s – combined sewer overflows – for years now, and various sustainable design practices are quickly gaining favor with designers, government officials and the public.  Aging sewer infrastructure coupled with a yearly rainfall average of over 45" create huge problems for the new stormwater regulations imposed by the EPA in 2003 requiring greater runoff and quality best management practices.

In fact, the Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts identified greenroof infrastructure as a stormwater best management practice in their 'Pennsylvania Handbook of Best Management Practices for Developing Areas.'"

One Very Green City

Quoted in the May 1, 2003 Environmental Design +Construction Magazine’s Attacking Pittsburgh’s Storm Water Problem article by Jim Taylor, a LEED accredited architect, “’Pittsburgh leads the nation in LEED certified projects,’ according to Gary Goodson, Deputy Director of the local Green Building Alliance.  He attributes this leadership position to the supportive role of non-profit organizations such as his own, the Heinz Endowments and Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics and to the strong interest of local architects (60 percent of Pennsylvania’s LEED accredited architects work in Pittsburgh).”

Seen below, the expansion of Phipps Conservatory will transform an unsightly Public Works yard into a new image of civic architecture and gardens within Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park, to be completed in 2005.  Three planned integrated stormwater strategies include rainwater capture with underground cisterns; a series of rain gardens of vegetated swales, infiltration, bio-filtration and ornamental ponds; and greenroofs covering approximately 15,000 sf of flat roofs, to be planted with native wildflowers and meadow grasses.

 By IKM & Anderson Illustration Associates

Phipps Conservatory, Source: ED+C Magazine; Image copyright of IKM Inc. and Anderson Illustration Associates.

Appropriately, the U.S. Green Building Council's Greenbuild International Conference and Expo was held in Pittsburgh last November, 2003.  Greenbuild brings together all the industries touched by green building, and the conference addressed "everything about green building, under one roof."  Over 5000 professionals gathered here to learn about the latest advancements in green building design, construction, project financing and building management. Various greenroof products were displayed at the Trade Show - see Past Events.

Earth Sheltered Beginnings

Charlie Miller, P.E. of Roofscapes, Inc. says the German style-extensive greenroofs were introduced in PA in the late 1990's, but we should also remember Bucky Fuller and Malcolm Wells and the influence of earth sheltered architecture. Charlie says, "There was a fad (let's hope that green roofs are not a fad) for earth sheltered buildings in the 60's.  I am sure that there are some good examples in this area.  They never caught on because the buildings required very specific physical settings and the homes tended to be dark.  The German breakthrough with using lightweight systems allowed green to be layered onto even very light and airy structures.  The effect is the opposite of conventional earth sheltered building, i.e., the vegetation can make the building appear even lighter and ethereal.  The interior can be flooded with natural light from glass curtain walls, clerestory levels, or atriums."

Charlie adds that intensive greenroofs in the form of conventional plazas over structure abound in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.  These are the type found often with mostly pavement with large raised or sunken planter areas, not true greenroofs.

PA Greenroof Leaders in the Field

Initially, it would appear the key people driving extensive greenroofs in PA have been civil and/or environmental engineers with expertise and interest in stormwater issues within the state, and university researchers from the fields of horticulture, agricultural engineering and landscape architecture.  Certainly, Charlie has been at the forefront of the movement nationwide since the early 1990’s, having parlayed his commitment to greenroofs as a means of stormwater mitigation into a healthy design/build and consulting business, with over 20 completed projects to his firm’s credit, and numerous ones in the works.  In my opinion, Charlie is most definitely considered the greenroof advocate extraordinaire, putting his money where his mouth is by devoting his time and tireless effort at length.  Personally, I cannot thank Charlie Miller enough as having provided me previously, as a student of landscape architecture, with an incredible amount of information and guidance, offered with patience and enthusiasm.  He has designed, lectured and written about stormwater Best Management Practices (BMP's) and greenroofs for a while now and is a recognized leader worldwide.

Dr. Dave Beattie of Penn State is the Director of the Center for Green Roof Research, see below, and has been studying greenroof plants, growth media, and other various elements for many years, and also is a true pioneer in terms of educating faculty, students, and the public at large.  See his webpage above for a variety of information, including publications on the theme.

Charlie Miller also recognizes Dr. Robert G. Traver, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering at Villanova University, Villanova, PA, who teaches courses in surface water hydrology, open channel hydraulics, and urban storm water management.  His research interests include mathematical and physical modeling of stream hydraulics, hydrology, and water quality. His research has been funded by Growing Greener, the EPA 319 Nonpoint Source Program, the Chesapeake Research Consortium, Inc., EPA, and PennDot. Ideas from Professor Traver's dissertation have been included in the National Weather Service's DAMBRK and FLOODWAVE unsteady flow computer models.

Greenroofs in PA

The majority of projects within the state are, of course, dominated by Roofscapes which is based in Philadelphia, with a scattering of other manufacturers and designers represented. I attempted to visit Charlie and crew for his Second Annual Professional Seminar "Green Roof Design & Construction: The State of the Art" with special guest Daniel Roehr on January 27 but Mother Nature had other plans: a huge snow and ice storm along the eastern seaboard prevented us from our planned visit to Philadelphia.  We were truly looking forward to seeing some of the area's greenroof projects and attending the - by all accounts - extremely informational seminar.  I have been trying to arrange a visit since, but have had no luck with scheduling issues - but when I do, I'll report back.

Roofscapes, Inc. - Roofscapes, Inc. was incorporated in 1997 with the mission of transferring the experience of 30 years of green roof installations in Germany to the US.  In addition to designing green roofs, Roofscapes, Inc. also administers a national network of landscape contractors who are specialists in green roof installations. Licensed members of the network receive training, access to the latest information and materials, and participate in the Roofscapes, Inc. quality assurance program. Roofmeadow™ green roof assemblies are installed by network contactors, satisfy exacting performance standards, and receive long-term warranty support from Roofscapes, Inc.

Roofscapes is probably best known for most of its greenroof projects located outside of Pennsylvania, most notably the Chicago City Hall, and for Charlie Miller's acknowledge-ment as one of the industry's early pioneers.  Here are Roofscapes, Inc.'s seven completed projects within the state so far, with numerous others in the works.  Some of the following greenroofs are available to visit upon prior arrangement with the client, and some are private with no accessibility.  Please visit the Roofscapes website for a definition of the various types of roof covers offered and noted below.


The Fencing Academy of Philadelphia, Spring View;  Photo (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved.


The Fencing Academy of Philadelphia is Charlie Miller's flagship greenroof project and was completed in 1998.  Click here for the Roofscapes Project Profile, and see also here for's case study.

The Project Profile states that the 3,000 sf greenroof "is a light-weight cover system that is intended for "retro-fit" installation on existing buildings. The maximum weight of the Aromatic Garden Roofmeadow® system, when fully saturated, is less than 15 pounds per square foot. It creates a meadow-like setting of perennial Sedum varieties that have been selected to withstand the range of seasonal conditions typical of temperate regions without then need for irrigation or regular maintenance.

Its appearance changes with seasons. In the spring fescue grass and sedge, along with Allium, Burnet and Dianthus accent the cover. During summer and fall months flowering Sedum varieties dominate."


The Fencing Academy of Philadelphia, before and after greenroof; Photos (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved.



The Life Expression Wellness Center, located in Sugar Loaf, eastern PA, is a 6,000 sf Roofmeadow® Type I: Flower Carpet greenroof atop the Chiropractic Center. Designed by Van Der Ryn Architects, the sloped and curved greenroof was designed to echo the surrounding hills, completed in June 2001.

The plants were supplied by Emory Knoll Farms and installed by David Bros. Landscaping. Click here for the Roofscapes Project Profile.

Soil Placement, Photo by Ed Snodgrass Chiropractic Center Photo from Ed Snodgrass
Left: The Life Expression Wellness Center during soil placement; Right:  Plants supplied by Emory Knoll Farms.  Both Photos Source:
The Life Expression Wellness Center The Life Expression Wellness Center, photo from LAM 11-02

Left: The Life Expression Wellness Center blends into the natural area, Photo (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved;
Right: Mid-summer blooms, Source: Landscape Architecture Magazine, November 2002.

The Heinz 57 Center, Gimbels Building Restoration, is a 12,000 sf Roofmeadow® Type III: Savannah greenroof located in Pittsburgh and completed in November, 2001. This roof landscape occupies the fourteenth floor terrace surrounding the penthouse office space.  Click here for the Roofscapes Project Profile.  Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates, and in particular landscape architect Rebecca Mizikar, were also directly involved in the work on Gimbels.  Emory Knoll Farms supplied the plants and they were installed by Lichtenfels Nursery, Inc.

The Heinz 57 Center, Gimbels Building Restoration, in Pittsburgh; Photos (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved.


The eaves of the Kin Residence are designed to allow runoff from the green roof to form a curtain; Photo (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved.


The Kin Residence is a private home constructed with sustainable materials such as straw bale and cob wall construction, located in Wrightsville, PA.  The home will have both slate and greenroofs, to be completed in two phases.

The pitched greenroofs consist of a 2.5-inch to 3.0-inch thick un-irrigated Type I: Flower Carpet assembly, with the 2,000 sf Phase I greenroof completed in 2000 and the larger Phase II to follow later this year.

Click here for the Roofscapes Project Profile.

Kin Residence Drawing; Photo (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved.


PA Commercial Prototype Roofscapes Greenroof

3 and 4" greenroofs form a Commercial Prototype.  Photo taken in May, 2003. Photo (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved.


A Commercial Prototype has been constructed by Roofscapes for a Fortune 500 manufacturer within Pennsylvania, but the client wishes to remain anonymous, with no possible identifying information available to the public domain.

Two roofs covering 4,000 sf sport both the Type I: Flower Carpet and Type III: Savannah green roofs.

Applied in 2002, the project seeks to demonstrate greenroof installation methods that are appropriate for large-scale industrial and/or commercial buildings.  Click here for the Roofscapes Project Profile.



The Papazian Building Expansion, located in Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA.  Partner Mary Holland, of CICADA Architecture/Planning, was also involved with this Engineering Storage Building at Swarthmore College, completed in the summer of 2002.  This building was designed and built with an extensive greenroof as part of the design concept.  The plants were supplied by Emory Knoll Farms The small 500 sf greenroof is thriving, but because it is in deep shade much of the time, it is filling in more slowly than a roof would in full sun.  Contact Roofscapes, Inc. for more information.

The Papazian Building Papazian, Swarthmore College
The Papazian Building, Photos (c ) 2004, Roofscapes, Inc. used by permission; all rights reserved.

The Brazale Residence is located in Philadelphia, a Type II: Aromatic Garden, and was installed last fall 2003 by David Brothers Landscape Services.  The Brazale residence is a private residential town house, and the roof area is about 800 sf, including upper roof and one terrace.

Hear Charlie Miller speak at this year's Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities 2004 in Portland, OR on June 4 where he will present "Formulation of Effective Performance Specifications for Green Roofs."  And, visit

Newly installed SE Regional HQ greenroof on January 8, 2004; Photo courtesy Sandra McCullough of GreenGrid

GreenGrid - Construction of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP)  fourth "green" office building in Norristown, PA began in August 2003.  Originally slated sustainable features for this green building included a three-layer, vegetated greenroof system over 50 percent of the roof surface area; a living wall of vines, which will shade the west façade; and a cistern system for the collection of rainwater.

The debated green roof for the new SE Regional Headquarters for the DEP finally became a reality, although much smaller in size, now encompassing a total area of 1,360 sf..

The extensive greenroof was installed in January 2004, so the plants in the photo at left are shown directly after installation and are dormant. They were pre-grown in the GreenGrid modules so they could be ready for installation when the contractor called for them.

The extensive greenroof uses GreenGrid 4" depth modules and plants used are various Sedum varieties; the roof is accessible.  GreenGrid also has several more greenroof projects planned in PA for this season; please contact Sandra McCullough for more info.

Epworth Manor, Tyrone, PA; Photo Source:
Penn State Green Roof Research Center

The Garland Company - The Garland Company also has one greenroof project at Epworth Manor Retirement Home in Tyrone, PA, designed by PSU's Dr. David Beattie.

The extensive greenroof measures 4,000 sf and was planted in July 2001, with plants supplied by  Emory Knoll Farms.  The Garland Company used their GreenShield system greenroof assembly for this greenroof project.

Epworth Manor is a comprehensive Health Care Facility licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Department of Welfare providing services for seniors since 1919.

Epworth Manor Left: August 2001; Right: October 2001; Plants supplied by Emory Knoll Farms.  Photos Source:

Extensive Greenroof Photo & Plants by Ed Snodgrass

Epworth Manor, April, 2002.  Photo Source:


Extensive Greenroof; Photo by Ed Snodgrass

Wildlands Conservancy;  Photo Source:

American Hydrotech - American Hydrotech has two PA greenroofs.  The first 3,000 sf extensive greenroof project is at The Wildlands Conservancy Environmental Education Center in Emmaus, PA.

The Wildlands Conservancy is a non-profit, member-supported organization dedicated to land preservation, river preservation, trail development and environmental stewardship through education.  The  Conservancy's commitment to open space has resulted in over 31,000 acres of permanently preserved land in eastern Pennsylvania through acquisition and conservation easements.
Completed in April, 2003,
Emory Knoll Farms supplied the greenroof plants, the installer was Tomco and the community really got involved in this project.

Community Involvement

The Wildlands Conservancy Environmental Education Center, Left: Up on the roof; Right: Looking at the sedum plugs.   Photo Source:  Wildlands Conservancy

Wildlands Conservancy Environmental Education Center Plants & Photo by Ed Snodgrass

Close-Ups Left: Photo Source  Wildlands Conservancy; Right:

The second greenroof is found on the Plaza at PPL Center, in Allentown - please see below.

Pennsylvania's Educational System Involvement

Penn State  Dr. Dave Beattie is Associate Professor of Ornamental Horticulture and Director, Center for Green Roof Research, the Center is located in the department of Horticulture in the College of Agricultural Sciences.  The six research buildings are located at Penn State University's Russel Larson Agricultural Research Center and involve three Sedum spurium greened roofs and three non-greened roofs.  A weather station collects ambient environmental data for all buildings, including data on rainfall, energy usage, solar radiation, temperature, wind speed and direction.  Plants will also be studied for their tolerances to drought, and high and low temperatures.  Plant evaluations will be performed for physiological, biological, and ecological factors influencing plant survival.  Roof function will be researched as well.  Emory Knoll Farms supplied the greenroof plants.

Penn State Green Roof Research Stations, PSU.
Each greenroof hut measures 50 sf.

The Mission Statement seeks to demonstrate and promote green roof research, education, and technology transfer in the Northeastern U.S.  Dr. Beattie has lead the Penn State Green Roof Research Center since summer 2002, offering graduate and undergraduate students many learning opportunities.  In fact, Penn State recently graduated its first MSc student whose thesis centered on greenroofs, Julia DeNardo.  Julia’s thesis was entitled “Greenroof Mitigation of Stormwater and Energy Usage.”  Christine Thuring is currently a MSc student graduating in June 2006.  Her project will study the effect of different medium depths on plant performance, seeking a balance between depth and effective green roof function (stormwater retention, persistent plant community).

Christine writes that there have been a few short-term undergraduate projects at PSU (no longer than 3 weeks).  Starting up now, for example, is a study of photoperiodism and greenroof plants.  Over the summer, two students looked at water loss by green roof plants exposed to persistent wind and drought conditions.  See her contact info here at The Student Directory.

Dave Beattie sees the future bright for greenroofs. “Finally, greenroofs are on the radar screen of federal funding agencies, " he says.  "Some, like the EPA, are addressing them directly.  For instance, in Boston, the local EPA is implementing procedures and personnel for reviewing funding for greenroofs for state and federal agencies.”  A recent meeting of Penn State campus people and EPA representatives involved visiting the Penn State Green Roof Research Center, seeing the various test features and advantages of greenroofs. The visit resulted in the promise to green the Ag/Engineering Building.  Dave says the University is committed to finding the money, and is very pleased in the change of campus attitude.  Recently, new construction plans at Penn State were estimated at about ¾ of a billion dollars, and a portion had been slated for more greenroofs.  State budgets were tightened, and the greenroof plans were removed.

EPA’s Office Research Development Funding (ORD) has funded continued research for the Penn State Green Roof Research Center.  Offered through Region 3, based in Edison, NJ, the ORD is providing funds for quantifying and updating the hydrological model SWMM – Storm Water Management Model.  The buildings have now been remodeled to be able to collect even winter time water runoff data from snow melt – the only one in the nation with that capability.

Green roof building structures at the Russel Larson Agricultural Research Center, PSU

Dave is currently working closely with the EPA to set up protocol for greenroof runoff research for further EPA studies to be used throughout the U.S.  He is on the Green Roof Advisory Committee of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; as a result of a federal court order, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been mandated to work with the Washington D.C.-based Commission to set up a demonstration greenroof because of pollution in the area’s Anacostia River.  Dave joins the likes of Bill McDonough of McDonough+Partners, Katrin Scholz-Barth and Neil Weinstein of on this Commission.  He is also working with Lily Parshall on coordinating a research energy project with NASA.

Dr. Beattie is also working with a few students from Columbia University’s Barnard College on their senior theses involving greenroofs.  And this summer he will be leading two of his undergraduate teaching assistants to Vienna and Munich on a two week tour with a three-fold purpose:  1) to gather information and experience for his proposed Penn State course in “Greenroof Technology;”  2) to introduce the students to this technology and ornamental landscape propagation; and 3) to attend the ISU meeting – the International Staüden Union, or the Hardy Plant Union.

I asked Dave what he felt were some potential problems in designing and monitoring greenroof projects.  “Probably the biggest impediment to constructing green roofs, Dave says, “is the lack of understanding of the chemical and physical properties of a green roof medium in relation to the growth of the green roof plants. It is NOT analogous to a field soil. The person that best understands green roof media is Dr. John White.

”Another problem is quantifying the quality and quality of the green roof runoff," Dave adds. "Many will invest thousands in installing a green roof without a thought to quantifying their investment. In many situations it can be done and without costing an arm and a leg.”

Dave is obviously committed to furthering the research and development of greenroofs, and is certainly one of North America’s leaders within the university arena.  Hear Dave speak at this year's Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities 2004 in Portland, OR where he will present "Design Criteria for a Green Roof Medium."  He will also be presenting research on stormwater runoff at the International Green Roof Congress on September 14 and 15, 2004 in Stuttgart, Germany.  See more about both under Upcoming Events.

For project information contact Dr. David Beattie at Penn State, 318B Tyson Building, University Park, PA 16802; phone: 814.863.2263; fax:  814.863.6139;

Temple University Ambler Landscape Architecture & Horticulture Display

 The Green Roof Technology exhibit was also honored with a Special Achievement Award for Conservation by the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania.

Temple University, Ambler College - Temple University Ambler Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students won Best of Show for their Green Roof Exhibit in the Academic Educational category at the 2002 Philadelphia Flower Show for their detailed representation of “Green Roof Technology."  Then associate professor S. Edgar David and Lisa Blum, Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Department Manager, coordinated Ambler’s Flower Show exhibit, designed and constructed by the students.

Very few landscape architecture programs offer this type of his hands-on feature, and both students and faculty were very pleased with the outcome. Originally, they had plans to relocate the structure and informational signage on campus, but plans have been stalled.  I believe students across the U.S. would greatly benefit from this type of design/build class, and more universities should strive to include something similar in their curriculums.

It would appear greenroofs are here to stay at Temple.  According to the October 6, 2003 Reporter article entitled "Temple gets $50,000 for horticulture plan" by Beth Cohen, "Sinclair Adam‚ Temple University’s assistant professor of horticulture, and some of his students will be working over the next year to research and select appropriate greenery for the green roof‚ although a specific building has not yet been selected."  And PECO Energy Company awarded Temple the $50‚000 grant to pay for the roof’s research and construction, the location yet to be determined on campus.

The University of Pennsylvania - Katrin Scholz-Barth, environmental and civil engineer and greenroof consultant, teaches “Ecological Landscape Design for Watershed Protection” at the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Landscape Architecture, School of Design. She is considered a national leader in greenroofs, and recently, Katrin was working on a small greenroof for the Wharton School of Business School here, but it never materialized. In her course she discusses a broad range of landscape design opportunities and alternatives, including green roofs, to create healthy landscapes that ecologically enrich urban areas and protect watersheds. The intent of this class is to expose students to available techniques and technologies to combine design with functional and cost-effective sustainable solutions.

The class also draws attention to the consequences of various land use to the health of watersheds, aquatic life, and air quality. Students gain knowledge about the relationship between the built and natural environment and learn to effectively and efficiently incorporate nature into urban settings by creatively merging landscape design with stormwater management. At the end of the course students appreciate the challenges of managing local watersheds within urban constrains and how the profession of landscape architecture can significantly contribute to protecting watersheds.  Throughout the course students are exposed to and trained in the use of the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Environmental and Energy efficient Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

Joan Abel, MES, B.Arch. of ABEL:DESIGN is located in Hoboken, NJ, but completed her master's degree in environmental studies from U. Penn.  She is utilizing the knowledge to enhance sustainable practices in her work.  “Most of my work is renovation and restoration of existing multi-family housing in NJ.  I have a green roof in the planning phase of a renovation; have been consulting to other architects regarding green roofs and rain gardens; and been presenting the issues to various groups.”  I asked Joan what constraints she has encountered regarding greenroofs.  "The main hurdle, as I perceive it," replies Joan, " is education of clients, building officials and homeowners.

Souderton Area High School - In 1992, about 30 high school students started SAVE - "Students Against Violating the Earth" - at Souderton Area High School, located just north of Philadelphia.  Here, students build houses, create ecosystems and recycling programs, and offer environmental education. By 1999, it had evolved into a student-run community group, and now there are over 200 student members and 130 community members. Read more from an article at

I recently spoke with Ken Hamilton, adviser with Souderton Area High School’s SAVE program about the school's plans for another environmentally sensitive building designed and implemented by its high school students.   Assisted by architects Althous, Jaffe and Associates, LLC, SAVE’s new Environmental Center at West Broad Street Elementary School is their first sustainable design endeavor, and has just won a national award.  The students have been involved in the entire process, from design through the building stages.

Unable to secure buildable space on the Souderton Area High School grounds, SAVE was offered a vacant 8-acre lot on the nearby West Broad Street Elementary School. Due to a need for more room, the second effort was originally slated to be an addition to the new environmental center, but now it will be a freestanding structure of its own with a classroom and eco-store.  Entitled "Connections" - Connecting Community, Education & the Environment - the building will be powered by solar and wind with straw bale construction, and will sport a small greenroof, approximately 12' x 20'.  The demonstration project itself will be actually set into the hillside, and the greenroof will be completely visible as people enter the site.  A greenhouse has been set up to grow all the plants for the greenroof, and Connections just had its ground breaking ceremony, with plans for completion by Earth Day 2005.

Designed for educational and interactive purposes both inside and out, the organization is also looking into creating a greenroof garden at ground level for the elementary children to gain practical hands on experience.  With table top greenroof displays the younger children can plant greenroof plantings at their own height while the high school students are actually planting the real greenroof.  These greenroof displays can also then be monitored by the kids for plant survival, and perhaps other features such as stormwater runoff quantity, temperature and quality.  Read about this unique group here.

PA Architects and Designers of Greenroofs

Re:Vision Architecture - Philadelphia-based Re:Vision Architecture (RVA) serves the Mid-Atlantic region with environmentally sensitive planning and design that provides a contextual response to the natural and built environments. As experts in the field of sustainable design, RVA works as architects, consultants and advocates. From the field of historic preservation, Re:Vision Architecture has observed first-hand which building elements last for hundreds of years and which fail within fifty. I spoke with Re:Vision Architecture partner Scott Kelly about two of the firm’s current greenroof projects and thoughts for the future:

Chester County Conservation District - As an advocate and educational resource for water and soil conservation issues, the Chester County Conservation District (CCCD) in West Chester, PA, was looking for an office building that would embody and outwardly display their commitment to conservation, preservation, and environmental responsibility.

Beginning with the sustainable building approach of renovating an existing structure, this project will preserve 7,000 sf of an 1824 historic farmhouse; an addition is also planned to accommodate the programmatic needs of the Conservation District in full. This project is an example of how historic preservation can be a part of sustainable design, instead of at odds with it.  As a demonstration project for the region, the office building has registered for LEED certification and is targeting a silver rating. Sustainable design priorities include:

• Water savings via composting toilets and waterless urinals;
• Energy savings via active and passive solar techniques such as a trombe wall;
• Innovative stormwater management techniques such as bio-swales, porous pavement and a vegetated roof.

CCCD Sketch

CCCD Sketch By and Courtesy of Re:Vision Architecture

Because the CCCD sees hundreds of developers, farmers and government officials every year, they felt that the vegetated roof demonstration needed to be located where it could be seen from inside the building as well as from the path to the building. Providing additional benefits, the green roof is located on the west side of the building where is can reduce cooling loads in the summer.

Dan Greig, District Manager of the Chester County Conservation District, says the old farmhouse "will have one shed roof retrofitted as a green roof.  We are seeking a Silver LEED certification on the entire adaptive reuse project which is exciting.  The project will convert the 1824 farmhouse into office space for up to 25 staff spaces.  A trombe wall will be used on the south side with a three-season conservatory.  A rain garden demonstrating native plants and different types of best management practices are to be installed to the west of the building.  Sustainable building practices are to be incorporated into all aspects of the project."  The mission of the Chester County Conservation District is to provide leadership in addressing natural resource conservation issues by promoting the sustainable use of those resources to the citizens of Chester County through educational and technical assistance.  For additional information about the Chester County Conservation District, please check their website.

CCCD Model with Greenroof

The CCCD Fundraising Model by Re:Vision Architecture

The 2:12 pitch of the approximately 1,000 sf CCCD greenroof will allow excellent visibility close to eye level.  In essence, every developer and visitor who walks in through the door will see it, an extremely important design element.  Scott Kelly is working with Charlie Miller of Roofscapes to design the greenroof using the 6” Savannah type cover, a two-layer system.  The Savannah employs a lightweight growth medium over a granular drainage layer, with a root-permeable separation fabric maintaining the layer integrity.  A viewing platform and stairway accessible from outside is being considered to further the educational component.  Construction is expected to begin in late summer of 2004.

The Walden School - Located in Media, PA, the Walden School is known for their child-centered approach to education which is based on the Montessori philosophy of developing the whole child in a nurturing and caring environment. At The Walden School, the whole learning environment -- classroom, materials, setting -- plays a role in supporting student learning. For this reason, the building itself has a critical role in the educational process.

Newly accredited, The Walden School has an increasing public profile, community presence and student population spanning pre-school through 8th grade. To support their growth and better meet their educational goals, Re:Vision Architecture is designing an extensive facilities expansion including new classrooms, administrative offices, library facilities, an art room, music room, science lab and multi-function gymnasium for sports and performances. For the 19,000 sf addition, the school is committed to constructing a High Performance Green Building that will maximize the learning potential for its students and minimize the environmental and health impacts of the school. As a benchmark for sustainability, The Walden School has requested a silver level (or better) LEED certification.

Having been inspired by a green design charrette for their new addition, the school is now planning to renovate the existing building in a sustainable way. In a series of feedback loops, Re:Vision Architecture vetted designs with the school community and the public. One of the first steps towards this goal was the replacement of their aging bitumen roof with a TPO roof that is a suitable substrate for the vegetated roof that will be added during the construction of the new addition.

Re:Vision Architecture specified the greenroof, feeling it was their responsibility to inform the client about this ecological roofing alternative, and once again RVA is collaborating with Roofscapes. The approximately 60’ x 60’ extensive greenroof will be accessible to students and faculty, thereby promoting The Walden School’s teaching mission: giving children the opportunity to learn. The addition is slated to be finished by fall, 2005.

I asked Scott Kelly how he believed we could overcome barriers or what he felt needs to be done to help promote or encourage greenroofs in PA. First he identified certain hurdles.  "Foremost is the need for the design professional to go to the client and present the greenroof concept. Many times a client may have a particular type of sustainable design element or technique in mind, say stormwater management or day lighting for example, and they just need to be brought up to speed on greenroof technology."  Scott adds, " RVA clients have to go through an education session where they examine why a particular decision is made, and are then made part of the process, with a feeling of ownership. Once, a client pulled out of a greenroof project at the last minute, even after receiving a grant."

"Designers," Scott emphasizes, "also need to be technically smart, understand the benefits, and know when a greenroof is appropriate and when not. The cost challenge can be addressed as a series of trade-offs presented to the client – and picking certain strategies, such as applying for grants." RVA has been involved in several projects receiving “Growing Greener Program” grants - see below. four different Pennsylvania agencies are involved in helping communities "grow greener" under the Environmental Stewardship & Watershed Protection Act. The PA Department of Environmental Protection, for example, provides grants for Watershed Protection, Mine Reclamation, Oil and Gas Well Plugging, Technical Assistance, New and Innovative Technology Grants.

And finally, Scott adds, “Having that conversation with (RVA associate) Jennifer Rezeli spurred us to consider doing a 300 sf demonstration green roof here in Chestnut Hill (PA). We will start the planning and look toward fall. Having one here would mean advocates like Charlie Miller would have an example 5 minutes from his office!

S. Edgar David Associates, Landscape Architecture - Located in Blue Bell, PA, the offices of S. Edgar David & Associates “transform the landscape into unique and evocative spaces and gardens. Working independently or in collaboration with integrated design teams, our landscape architects bring innovative solutions to each project."

Edgar comments, “We are working hard with Charlie Miller to get the Greenroof agenda going in PA but the incentive is limited.  Several projects are outstanding.  My involvement with greenroofs is in part through David Brothers, a contracting company that installs greenroofs as part of the RoofScapes Network.  I also have a landscape architecture practice which I operate independently. Several of the projects are known for their integration of BMPs in a landscape/garden context.  One garden is current feature on the cover of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden news letter and previously published in Better Homes and Gardens.

"We hope to become more involved with integrating greenroofs with rooftop gardens. I am also involved in the production of a short film on Greenroofs.  We currently have a 12 minute trailer.  We are looking for support to turn this into a 1/2 hour educational television format for which we would then seek corporate sponsorship once we have a commitment."  Edgar adds that many more greenroof opportunities are in the works; visit his website at

Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates - The firm of Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates has been involved in "Green Architecture" since the 1980's.  Harry Gordon in their Washington DC office helped to establish the rating system or "point system" which is now being mandated on federal projects.  Associate and Landscape architect
Rebecca Mizikar was directly involved in the work on Gimbels.

Says Robert H. McClintic II, AIA, "Green Roofs are only one aspect of the overall movement toward a better method of building. The Gimbels Building, now Heinz 57 Center in downtown Pittsburgh was out first project and the one which I worked on with Charlie Miller. It is unfortunate, but all our clients are not able to be sold on green buildings. Economics plays an important role, but having said that, we will continue to look for opportunities and promote green roofs as well as greener building systems in general."

CICADA Architecture/Planning - CICADA Architecture/Planning offers a full range of professional architectural services, from initial programming and site selection through interior design, furnishings, building commissioning, and post-occupancy evaluation. CICADA Architecture/Planning works to integrate an awareness of the surroundings into the design of every project, integrating sustainable design elements through solar orientation, site opportunities, and massing. Sustainable, or "green", design is integral to our practice of architecture and planning.

In addition for being responsible for the
Papazian Building Expansion, seen above under Roofscapes, another greenroof project for which the firm is responsible is for the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Philadelphia.  The mission of The Schuylkill Center is to promote, through environmental education, the preservation and improvement of our natural environment by fostering appreciation, understanding and responsible use of the ecosystem; by disseminating information on current environmental issues; by encouraging appropriate public response to environmental problems and also to maintain the facilities of The Schuylkill Center and conserve its land for the purpose of environmental education.

The extensive greenroof system for this project will be installed in the spring of 2004 and will utilize a Roofscapes vegetated cover. This roof is to be installed over existing heavy timber construction.

KieranTimberlake Associates - KieranTimberlake Associates, LLP (KTA) is an award-winning and internationally published architecture firm noted for its research, innovation and inventive design and planning services. Located in Philadelphia and founded in 1984 by Stephen Kieran, FAIA, and James Timberlake, FAIA, KTA's projects include the programming, planning and design of all types of new structures and their interiors, and the renovation, reuse and conservation of existing structures.  KTA has designed greenroofs for several of their clients, most notably the Atwater Commons Dining Hall at Middlebury College, Vermont, which is currently under construction.  Atwater Commons includes a new dining hall as well as two new residence halls. Greenroofs are a prominent feature of the dining hall design: The main roof is an extensive system with 7” of engineered soil; the lower roof is a thinner extensive system with 3” of engineered soil.  The planting design for the green roof incorporates exclusively native species, and draws its inspiration from flowering upland meadows and rock outcrop plant communities.  KieranTimberlake Associate Richard L. Maimon, AIA, notes, “At Middlebury College, sustainable design, construction and operation have resulted from evolving processes of planning, implementation, evaluation and revision throughout design and construction.”

A Forward Thinking Utility Company

The PPL Corporation is headquartered in Allentown, PA, and owns facilities that generate more than 11,500 megawatts of electric power in the United States.  PPL Corp. sells energy in key U.S. markets and delivers electricity to customers in Pennsylvania, the United Kingdom and Latin America.  It would appear PPL's commitment to the environment is strong.  Fuel cells and renewable energy projects are also a growing part of their generation portfolio, including gas-to-electricity projects at New Jersey and Pennsylvania landfills and a wind farm in Pennsylvania.

The Plaza at PPL Center; Photo Source:,
from the AIA.

Recently, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED™) program of the U.S. Green Building Council awarded a gold rating for PPL's new office building in Allentown - the Plaza at PPL Center (2004 Community and Environmental Report). The building opened in April 2003.  Designed by world-renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern and owned by Liberty Property Trust, it is a dramatic glass-enclosed building with a spacious plaza that returns open space to the downtown.

The building contains a long list of environmental features including a vegetative roof and innovative water- and energy-saving fixtures.  American Hydrotech provided the greenroof system, Emory Knoll Farms supplied the plants, and the plant installer was Mayfield Gardens.  The extensive greenroof measures over 12,000 sf and was completed in May 2003.  The eight-floor building includes cutting-edge environmental design features to promote resource conservation, minimize waste and create an employee friendly setting that is healthy and comfortable (2002 CERES Report PDF).

The greenroof is not accessible but can be enjoyed and viewed by occupants in the Conference Room Complex located on the top floor which overlooks the vegetated roof, and by higher floors of the adjacent PPL Corporate Headquarters building.

Plant Installation; Photo by Ed Snodgrass

The Plaza at PPL Center; Plants supplied by Emory Knoll Farms.  Photos Source:

According to a PPL news release dated June 19, 2003, "William F. Hecht, PPL chairman, president and chief executive officer, called the building the result of an 'exceptional collaboration' between PPL, the project’s developer, the architect, the City of Allentown, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, Pennsylvania state government and state Sen. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown).  Another important part of the collaboration was Pennsylvania’s Keystone Opportunity Zone program, which encourages development in areas that would benefit from revitalization."

In addition to the LEED goals and the benefits of stormwater management and energy reduction, Project Manager Peter Cleff, currently Manager of Energy Operations, also told me "Adding a greenroof made economic sense as it prolongs the life of the roof."

Read the exclusive article dated May 7, 2004 under NewsLinks or here.

State Grant Programs Applicable to Greenroofs

Local PA governments are interested in the potential of greenroofs and other sustainable measures. The Philadelphia Water Department has been involved in encouraging new projects and the State - through various grant programs is funding some projects.

The Growing Greener Program - Four different Pennsylvania agencies are involved in helping communities "grow greener" under the Environmental Stewardship & Watershed Protection Act.  The PA Department of Environmental Protection, for example, provides grants for Watershed Protection, Mine Reclamation, Oil and Gas Well Plugging, Technical Assistance, New and Innovative Technology Grants.  On behalf of Gov. Edward G. Rendell, DEP Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty on Sept. 17, 2003 announced more than $37.4 million in Growing Greener grants were awarded to help 220 local conservation organizations finance their continuing efforts to clean up watersheds, enhance environmental protection and revitalize communities across the Commonwealth.  And Governor Rendell's Budget Address of February 2004 focused on land preservation, community development and planning, urging lawmakers to pass a bill that among other things would "stabilize and strengthen the Growing Greener program by doubling its $135 million annual fund." Learn more about the Growing Greener Program.

Norris Square Civic Association - The Norris Square Civic Association (NSCA), founded in 1982 in North Philadelphia, is a non-profit organization started by a group of women who wanted to help change the conditions and solve problems plaguing their community. The mission of NSCA is to empower Norris Square residents to improve their lives by becoming self-reliant and to write and build the community through the development and improvement of the physical, economic, social, cultural and education aspects of the neighborhood.  In September 2003 they were granted $140,000 to install a greenroof and rain garden from the Growing Greener Program under the Watershed Protection Act.

Marj Dugan, Ph.D. of Dugan & Associates is serving as a consultant to Norris Square Civic Association to help them implement the grant they received to address water run-off issues at their property at Front and Palmer. Marj says, "This project is being developed at the same time NSCA is improving the ambiance of the property and the local community with a landscape project to aid transit access to the Berks Street Elevated Train Station. Plantings and a walkway will be done - improving security as well as neighborhood appearance.

"The Green Roof over the Mercado - a community market place - is a major part of the project. It will not only address water run-off issues, but also help cool the building and serve as a model project on water management for the community."

Marj adds that Pat De Carlo, Executive Director of Norris Square Civic Association, is a real believer in greenroofs and is the person who envisioned it for the Mercado from the beginning. Her email address is

The Pennsylvania Environmental and Energy Challenge (PEEC) grant program - PEEC is a new grant program from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that looks to fund innovative technology and new approaches in the areas of pollution prevention and energy efficiency.

OCC Environmental Education Green Roof - According to the 2002 PA Environmental and Energy Challenge  Grantees Notice, in 2002 JASTECH Development Services was awarded a $34,000 grant for the OCC Environmental Education Green Roof.  The Notice states "The project is multi-faceted in that not only is a demonstration project for a living roof (an innovative storm water technology that is very appropriate in an inner city application), but the project includes an educational component to inform children and adults in the local community about the technology.  The proposal includes strong emphasis on this educational component which makes the project especially attractive.  Finally, the project includes a research element in that they are proposing to collect data on storm water remediation and energy savings which may result from the cooling effect that the living roof has on the structure during summer months."

Market Reflections with Charlie Miller

I asked for more of Charlie's time to answer the following questions for me:

From personal experience, do you have any particular thoughts to share on how to overcome barriers - be they physical, economic, policy related or other?

"Substantial public incentives or subsidies will be required.  For this to happen municipalities must accept green roofs as alternatives to conventional ways of managing water resources in cities and developments.  We can simulate many of these benefits and we can engineer for performance.  However, at present there is no accepted process for developers or land owners to include green roofs in their site management proposals.  A new manual for best management practices (an update of a previous manual published in 1998) will be available in 2005.  We are hopeful that this will provide basis for incorporating green roofs into water management proposals.  For more information contact Cahill Associates, the contractor that has been awarded the job creating the new manual.  Ask for Wes Horner at 610.696.4150."

Can you share your personal opinion on how you see the future for the widespread, or otherwise, application for greenroof projects in PA?

"Interest from the commercial development community has been lagging, but we are beginning to see more inquiries this year.  The new Pennsylvania Handbook of Best Management Practices will include updated information on green roofs and may pave the way for wider use of green roofs to control and filter stormwater runoff.  (Also), I think that intensive roof landscapes, particularly on high-end condos, hotels, apartment buildings, etc. have a big future.

"I don't have a crystal ball, (but I feel) the main drivers for new projects in Pennsylvania have been organizations like the Philadelphia Water Department, the Brandywine Valley Association, and urban Community Development Corporations, etc.  Funding is being provided for some projects by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through its Growing Greener grants program.  The University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, Mellon University, and the Pennsylvania University are all engaged in green roof initiatives.  I am sure that there others."

Green Culture Equals a Greener Future

With the combination of private, institutional, public and state commitment and effort devoted to the research and promotion of sustainable design and greenroof architecture now firmly rooted, the future seems bright for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  And, certain commercial entities within the state are also currently considering using greenroof technologies for their manufacturing facilities.

It seems like PA is not only a lovely place to visit and enjoy its cultural and natural sites and heritages, but is also becoming increasingly "greener" a place to call home - and it looks like there's much more to come.

To learn more about Pennsylvania, click on the following books:
Buy from - Philadelphia & Its Countryside (Pa's Cultural & Natural Heritage Series) Buy from - Fallingwater: Wright and the 3rd Dimension (3 View-Master reels + viewer) Buy from - Save Our Land, Save Our Towns: A Plan for Pennsylvania (Pa's Cultural & Natural Heritage Series)

The city of Seattle, WA, and the region will be highlighted next as a very exciting and active area of the U.S. with numerous examples of municipal and residential  greenroof projects as well as some industry innovations.