The New Face of the Green
Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, GRP, The Green Roof Guy
December 29, 2011
Hello once again,
Green Roof Fans. The Green Roof Guy has been silent for about a year.
For this, I apologize. It’s been an interesting year; while the
economy has clearly weighed heavily on our minds, all any of us can do is
manage our resources and hope for brighter tomorrows.
2011 CitiesAlive Green Roof and
Wall Conference was held in Philly a few weeks back. It was great to
see old friends and to make some new ones. Philadelphia appears to be
surging to compete with Chicago as the Green Mecca of North America.
CitiesAlive Closing Reception in Philadelphia
on December 2, 2011
It was also great to see the energy and enthusiasm for our industry. As I
looked around and took stock of where are and from where we’ve come, I was
struck by a startling realization. Something has happened to our
fledgling young industry.
In a few words: it has grown up.
Where once the code enforcement community turned a blind eye towards our
people on the construction site, we now have two ANSI (American National Standards Institute) approved standards
that provide clear guidelines for design and maintenance of green roof
systems. There are real incentives in place to help drive demand, like
the New York City tax credit and the Washington D.C. cash incentive program.
Where once there were idealistic discussions of how the U.S. needs to follow
the Stuttgart model, we now have policies in place that support our
industry. The new faces on the scene are also good signs of expansion
of the industry. Introduction of new players and new ideas helps keep the market
moving forward. While these are all good things for the green roof
concept, there has been a major shift in the marketplace that is
fundamentally changing the way we do business.
The green roof concept has entered mainstream construction. It’s
unimportant whether green roofs are specified in the landscaping section
having numbers starting with 01, or in the roofing sections beginning with
07. What is significant here is that green roofs are listed in
construction documents no differently than the roofing membrane or the
planted tree selections. The days of courting architects and securing
a project are nearing an end.
Example of a
roof plan calling out the green roof
from Perkins + Will
Now, we too see specifications
that list our products as well as those of our competitors, just as other
construction material providers have seen for many years. Competitive
requirements in government construction projects have long required multiple
sources for material suppliers; green roofs are the latest addition to the
group of suppliers subject to these regulations. While entering the
mainstream is very good for the overall growth of the market, there are
other real consequences.
Welcome, newcomers, to the world of construction, where new OSHA safety
regulations permeate every facet of our daily work. Take our most
recent project at Fort Benning, Georgia, for example:
We were required to submit a
written safety program including a project specific hazard analysis report.
Before we were allowed to work onsite, every member of our crew had to sit
for a safety orientation and sign a document agreeing to comply with the
requirements of the general contractor’s safety program. Additionally,
we were required to submit daily safety checklists for every piece of
machinery used on the project, daily reports detailing each day’s activities
on the project, and minutes from the mandatory weekly tool box safety
meetings. The paperwork, however, was only the beginning.
All activity conducted on the rooftop was required to meet 100% tie off
requirements. This means that the first person up the ladder
immediately secures a tie off line for himself and one for the next person
up the ladder. That person cannot step from the ladder to the rooftop
until they have secured their personal fall protection harness to the tie
off line. Each person entering the rooftop environment must have
personal fall protection consisting of a harness connected to a tie off
point capable of supporting 5000 pounds per attached person, guard rails
that protect them from coming within six feet of a leading edge that is six
feet or higher from the next lower level, or safety nets protecting workers
from falling from a leading edge six feet or higher from the next lower
Safety is part of
the plan at Fort Benning where we're installing a green roof using
This is all in addition to the
basic personal protection equipment that is required for every employee;
steel toed boots, hard hats, safety glasses, and high visibility orange or
The bottom line, entering mainstream construction will have a significant
effect to your bottom line. Expect competition from your competitor,
because we are now subject to the requirements of the
Start developing your company’s written safety plan;
you’re going to need it. Buy the necessary safety equipment to conduct
operations in the rooftop environment and train your employees in the use of
that equipment. Upgrade your workers compensation insurance to include
coverage for activities conducted in the rooftop environment; claims for
injured employees outside the realm of coverage can bankrupt your business.
The green roof industry can no
longer ignore the roofing aspect of our work. Those of you, who wish
to continue to work on rooftops of buildings, welcome to the roofing
I hope you’ll take my own
experiences to heart and start planning for safety now and implementing your
strategy in the new year.
Speaking of which, I wish all of you a very Prosperous and Happy New Year
for 2012 from me and the entire Luckett and
Green Roof Blocks Family!
Kelly Luckett is President of
GREEN ROOF BLOCKS and
Green Paks and a member of the USGBC. Kelly has been involved
in the industry since 1980, is a LEED Accredited Professional and
also holds a GRP accreditation - Green Roof Professional. In
2009, Kelly authored
Green Roof Construction and Maintenance,
published by McGraw-Hill's Greensource.
Contact Kelly at: 314.220.2113, or email him at either:
Green Roofs, a Civic
Award of Excellence, and a Lifetime of Memories
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, GRP,
The Green Roof Guy
December 9, 2010
once again, Green Roof Fans. I write this as I sit on a
plane, as I have so many times before; but this time it’s
different. Rather than that usual trudge through security
and hustle to my gate, I found myself sauntering a bit with my
head still reeling from the events of the past few days.
As I do every year, I attended the
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
annual conference, this year appropriately renamed
What made this
year different was that I had been selected to receive the GRHC
Civic Award of Excellence in recognition of my contribution to
the green roof industry. Now friends, if you would have
told me ten years ago that if I had spent hundreds of thousands
of dollars to partner with Southern Illinois University
Edwardsville to do green roof research, spent tens of thousands
more logging enough miles on airplanes to circle the globe to
teach and promote the green roof concept, plus spent countless
nights in hotel rooms in order to joust with the building code
gladiators, and at the end of it all I would be presented with a
piece of glass etched with my name - I’m not certain you could
have made that sale.
However, as I sit here with my glass
award buckled securely in the seat next to me, reflecting over
past few days that have been filled with new friends thanking me
for all of my hard work, old friends congratulating for the
recognition, and just generally being given rock star treatment
by everyone I came in contact with, I can honestly say that I
would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Civic Award of Excellence.
I am simply overwhelmed with
gratitude and so honored to be included in the group of truly
inspirational people who have received this award before me.
While my kids would tell you that I am overly sentimental and
that all it takes bring a tear to my eye is a sappy greeting
card or Hallmark movie, I will carry this experience with me for
the rest of my life.
Now fans, the Green Roof Guy speaks
in public often and is usually comfortable at the microphone.
However, I always get an adrenaline rush just as I get started
that goes away five minutes or so into my speech. I was
told to keep my comments to less than a minute, which meant four
minutes after I got back to my seat I would settle in. I
took a few big breaths as I was approaching the stage and had
hoped to stave off the excitement long enough to thank some
other people who have shared the heavy load. About three
or four sentences in, I felt the tingling starting to race up my
spine, and my voice began to tremble a bit. I decided to
cut my remarks short and in doing so left out some people I
really wanted to recognize. So if you will indulge me
here, I would like mention a few people.
I've just accepted my award, December, 2010; Left to
Right: Steven Peck, me, and Jeff Bruce
Steven Peck and I have often not
seen eye to eye. In fact, I am on record being quite
critical about some of these issues. But, I have come to
respect Steven as the tireless promoter of the cause. It
is difficult to approach a complete stranger and give the
elevator speech. Steven makes it seem effortless.
remember speaking with him on the phone after every proposal we
made at the ICC (International Code Council)
hearings in Palm Springs was shot
down in flames and telling him I didn’t know if I was the right
person for this. Steven would hear none of it. He
told me I was the right guy for this job and convinced me
that the war was larger than this battle. I appreciate the
flexibility I enjoyed to craft and re-craft the standards,
knowing their effect would be felt industry wide. I’ve
enjoyed Steven’s support every step of the way.
I met Dr. Bill Retzlaff for the
first time in the parking lot of a property I own in Pontoon
Beach, IL just outside St. Louis. I wanted to establish a
green roof research program in the metro St. Louis area.
After many conversations with area universities, Dr. Retzlaff
was the only academic I could get interested. We set a
time to meet, but it was going to be one of the last nice days
of the year and my son, Jesse, and I wanted to get in some time riding
our Sea Doo’s. So when I showed up I was towing them
behind me in my pickup truck. As if I needed to appear any
more unprofessional, I had forgotten the keys to the building,
so we had to look at my green roof photos on my laptop as we sat
on the hood of the truck.
Bill, me, and Vic Jost on a Green Roof (2007).
Needless to say, it wasn’t my most
sparkling moment and I pulled out of the parking lot with little
confidence I would hear from Dr. Retzlaff again. However,
we started communicating regularly and soon we had students
conducting regionally specific green roof research. We
joke that every time we get together to find answers to our
questions, we generate even more questions. The investment
I made in the G.R.E.E.N. (Green
Roof Environmental Evaluation Network) is the largest
expenditure in my company’s history and continues to be among my
most rewarding endeavors. The wind tunnel testing we
conducted shifted the tide and provided that final push we
needed to get the
RP-14 Wind Design Guideline completed and approved through
the ANSI process. Through the years, Dr. Retzlaff and I
have become good friends and fiercely competitive golf
companions. Through his work with each new class of
students he continually spreads his passion for the green roof
concept to future leaders and consumers.
While I sat in on the many meetings
and conference calls where we would discuss each objection
submitted to us by members of the canvass pool, Dave Roodvoets,
Mike Ennis, and Linda King of SPRI (Single Ply Roofing Industry)
made the countless edits to the
documents and circulated each revision. Mike traveled to
the ICC hearings ahead of me and would scout out the schedule
and try to pinpoint when our proposals would be heard in order
to minimize my time on the road. We could not have gotten
this done without SPRI’s leadership and experience in the
building code arena.
I cannot say enough about the
participation from the canvass pool. They are the sole
reason we have two completed ANSI (American National Standards Institute)
standards. They came forward
and tossed their hat in the ring and then took the time to go
over each revision and weigh in. It’s easy to label someone
voicing an opposing opinion as an adversary, when in reality,
the healthy debate and exchange of ideas almost always results
in a more favorable outcome. We changed minds,
compromised, and agreed to disagree. At the end of the
day, we managed to find the consensus of the group and push
forward. Thank you canvassers; you know who you are.
That leads me to this next
gentleman. Early in the process, Mark Graham of the NRCA (National
Roofing Contractors Association) was labeled the enemy by
many who felt there was no need for code enforcement to have any
bearing on the green roof concept. If you didn’t know, I
come from a family of roofers and spent most of my life working
on the roof. I worked for a past president of the NRCA and
that gave Mark and I something in common. We talked over
breakfast the day we met and I liked him right away.
and I often disagree; I think he can make things more
complicated than necessary and I get the feeling he thinks I
oversimplify everything. We work well together and though
we often find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, he has
taught me a great deal about the process and the political
pressures that sway it. Mark, I appreciate your friendship
and I look forward to jousting with you soon.
My wife and kids have spent many
nights in the house without me. When I get home, they help
to celebrate the successes, and they make themselves scarce
after the failures. Just kidding, they actually attentively
listen to me lament and allow me to vent as I slowly come around
to remembering what is most important. Striking the
balance between work and family continues to be among my most
difficult challenges. To my lovely wife Trish, and my
wonderful kids Jesse and Shannon, I love you most and thrive
because of your love and support!
Linda and me in Stuttgart,
with Trish taking the photo (2005).
I would not be able to come to you
through this medium were it not for my
family. Linda and Aramis you are among our most treasured
friends. Your contribution to the green roof concept,
which has long gone under noticed, is greatly appreciated.
Finally, my Green Roof Fans, without
whom the green roof concept withers on the vine: You have made
me feel so very fortunate. As we head into this holiday
season, from my family to yours, be well, be green, and have a
Happy Holidays from the Luckett Family!
Left to Right: Kelly, Trish, Shannon & Jesse, 2010
Publisher's Note: I have to say that Aramis and I feel
honored to have the Lucketts as our friends and greenroof
colleagues. Kelly really is a tireless crusader and we
have greatly enjoyed his contributions over the years here on
Greenroofs.com. Congratulations, Green Roof Guy, on a well
deserved award, and continued success!
VF-1 Fire Standard Finally Accepted for Green Roofs
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, GRP,
The Green Roof Guy
March 9, 2010
OK Green Roof Fans,
wait is over. After three years in the making from members of
Single Ply Roofing Industry
in cooperation with
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities,
we now have a green roof design guide for minimizing the risk of fire on
green roofs. ANSI/SPRI VF-1 was approved on January 29,
2010 by the
American National Standards Institute
(ANSI) as a
consensus based standard for the design and construction of green roofs.
While I am certain there
will be people who are unhappy with new guidelines that alter the way
some of us conduct business, please look past the initial inconvenience
to see this milestone in the North American green roof movement for what
it is: the securing of a place in mainstream construction through the
International Code Council
longer can the green roof be deleted from a project due to failure to
comply with the fire code.
Hall Greenroof; Photo
Courtesy Bill Brigham, ASLA
Admittedly, the fire
concerns are only half of the code story as the wind design guide is
still progressing through the ANSI process. However, we must
overcome both the wind and the fire obstacle. Therefore, this
victory is absolutely essential to the development of the green
Without further ado,
please allow me to introduce the VF-1 Green Roof Fire Design Guide:
External Fire Design Standard for
This design standard
provides a method for designing external fire resistance for vegetative
roofing systems. It is intended to provide a minimum design and
installation reference for those individuals who design, specify,
and install vegetative roofing systems. It shall be used in conjunction
with the installation specifications and requirements of the
manufacturer of the specific products used in the vegetative roofing
following definitions shall apply when designing a vegetative roof
vegetated roofs; ballast consists of growth media, the trays or
containers used to contain growth media, large stones, paver systems or
lightweight interlocking pavers.
The band around the edge of the vegetative plantings,
where no vegetation exists. It is frequently the perimeter of the roof
Area capable of stopping
the spread of flame.
A low upward-projecting edge, usually formed from sheet
or extruded metal, installed along the perimeter of a roof to prevent
gravel or other small or lightweight aggregate from being blown or
washed off. The gravel stop also serves as a point of termination for
the roofing system.
An engineered formulation of inorganic and organic materials including
but not limited to heat-expanded clays, slates, shales, aggregate, sand,
perlite, vermiculite and organic material including but not limited to
compost worm castings, coir, peat, and other organic material.
A parapet wall is a structure that rises above the roof
edge to provide a wall of varying heights. The part of a perimeter wall
that extends above the roof.
A penetration is an object that passes through the roof
structure and rises above the roof deck/surface. Penetrations consist
of, but are not limited to, mechanical buildings, penthouses, ducts,
pipes, expansion joints and skylights
For design and installation purposes, the roof surface is
divided into the following areas:
space between intersecting walls forming an angle greater than 45
degrees but less than 135 degrees.
The corner area is defined as the roof section with sides
equal to 40% of the building height. The minimum length of a corner is
8.5 feet (2.6m).
The perimeter area is defined as the rectangular roof
section parallel to the roof edge and connecting the corner areas with a
width measurement equal to 40% of the building height, but not less than
8.5 feet (2.6m).
The field of the roof is defined as that portion of the
roof surface, which is not included in the corner or the perimeter areas
as defined above.
a plant with thick fleshy leaves and stems that can store
Slow growing, narrow leaved plants. Grasses can be maintained by mowing.
Vegetative Roof System:
A Vegetative Roof System consists of vegetation, growth media, the trays
or containers used to contain growth media, large stones, paver systems
or lightweight interlocking pavers, drainage system, and waterproofing
over a roof deck.
System Requirements & GENERAL
Roof Structure Design or evaluation:
The building owner shall consult with a licensed design
professional such as an architect, architectural engineer, civil
engineer, or structural engineer to verify that the structure and deck
will support fully hydrated growth media, vegetation and other material
or objects installed on the roof deck in combination with all other
The membrane specified for use in the vegetative system
shall meet the recognized industry minimum material requirements for the
generic membrane type, and shall meet the specific requirements of its
manufacturer. When the membrane or system is not impervious to root
penetration a root barrier shall be installed.
The Design Standard for Vegetative Roofing Systems is
limited to roof slope designs up to 2 in 12. For slopes greater than 2
in 12, a design professional experienced in vegetative roof design shall
provide the design and the design shall be approved by the authority
Fire stop walls shall be of non-combustible construction complying with
the applicable building code and extend above the roof surface a minimum
of 36 in (914.4mm).
Fire Break roof areas
shall consist of a class A (per ASTM E108 or UL790) rated roof system
for a minimum 6 ft (1.8 m) wide continuous border.
Interior Fire Rating:
Interior fire resistance shall comply with the design
fire penetration requirements based on use and occupancy and be
determined to meet interior fire resistance requirements for the system
installed beneath the soil media.
Exterior Fire Rating:
Construct the roofing system inclusive of roof decks, vapor barriers,
insulations, roofing membranes, flashings, roof drainage components,
growth media and vegetation to conform to the designed fire resistance
requirements as determined by the building code for the building
The vegetative roof system shall be designed for wind resistance before
beginning the design process for fire resistance. Vegetative roof
systems shall be designed to the requirements of SPRI RP 14, “Wind
Design Standard for Vegetative Roof Systems” or other design standards
as approved by the authority having jurisdiction.
VEGETATIVE ROOF DESIGN
OPTIONS: Fire-resistant vegetative roof designs
include, but are not limited to, the generic systems described below.
Other systems, when documented or demonstrated as equivalent to the
provisions of this standard, are permitted to be used when approved by
the authority having jurisdiction (See Commentary Section 4.0). When
there is a conflict between this standard and the wind design
requirements the design with the more conservative requirement shall be
GENERIC FIRE RESISTIVE VEGETATIVE SYSTEMS
BASED SYSTEMS: Systems where the vegetated portion of the roof is
planted in growth media that is greater than 80% inorganic material, and
the vegetation consists of plants that are classified as succulents.
Non-vegetated portions of the rooftop shall be systems that are
classified ASTM E108, Class A.
BASED SYSTEMS: Systems where the vegetated portion of
the roof is planted in growth media that is greater than 80% inorganic
material, and the vegetation consists of plants that are classified as
grass. Non-vegetated portions of the rooftop shall be systems that are
classified ASTM E108, Class A.
FIRE PROTECTION FOR ROOF TOP STRUCTURES AND PENETRATIONS: For all vegetated roofing systems
abutting combustible vertical surfaces, a class A (per ASTM E108 or
UL790) rated roof system shall be achieved for a minimum 6 ft (1.8 m)
wide continuous border placed around rooftop structures and all rooftop
SPREAD OF FIRE,
PROTECTION FOR LARGE AREA ROOFS:
A firestop as described in Section 3.4 shall be used to
partition the roof area into sections not exceeding 15,625 ft2 (1,450 m2),
with each section having no dimension greater than 125 ft (39 m).
Incorporate the border zones into expansion joints or roof area dividers
to one or more fire hydrants shall be provided.
Border zones are required when terminating at a fire
Maintenance shall be
provided as needed to sustain the system keeping vegetative roof plants
healthy and to keep dry foliage to a minimum; such maintenance includes,
but is not limited to irrigation, fertilization, weeding. Excess biomass
such as overgrown vegetation, leafs and other dead and decaying material
shall be removed at regular intervals not less than two times per year.
Provision shall be made to provide access to water for permanent or
temporary irrigation. The requirement for maintenance shall be conveyed
by the designer to the building owner, and it shall be the building
owners responsibility to maintain the vegetated roof system.
Commentary to VF-1
This Commentary consists
of explanatory and supplementary material designed to assist designers
and local building code committees and regulatory authorities in
applying the requirements of the preceding standard.
The Commentary is
intended to create an understanding of the requirements through brief
explanations of the reasoning employed in arriving at them.
The sections of this
Commentary are numbered to correspond to the sections of the VF-1
standard to which they refer. Since it is not necessary to have
supplementary material for every section in the standard, there are gaps
in the numbering of the Commentary.
Green roofs, also known
as vegetative roofs, eco-roofs, and rooftop gardens fall into two main
categories: intensive is primarily defined as having more than 6 inches
of growing medium, greater loading capacity requirements, and greater
plant diversity, and extensive, defined as having less than 6 inches of
growing media, less loading capacity requirements and fewer options for
roofs are complex systems consisting of many parts critical to the
functioning of the system. To name a few of the components that are
generally found in the system, but the system is not limited to these
products: insulation, waterproofing membrane, protection mats/boards,
root barrier, drainage layer, filter fabric, growth media, and
vegetation. A vegetative roof may consist of more than just growth media
and vegetation, but include such things as walkways, water features,
stone decoration, and benches.
vegetative roof may cover the whole roof or share a portion of the
surface with a conventional roof system. They are versatile systems with
many strong attributes including stormwater management, reduction of the
heat island effect, and aesthetics to name a few.
VF-1 is a
minimum standard. Manufactures and /or designers requirements that
exceed the standards minimum requirements can be incorporated into
specifications for vegetative roof fire resistance.
standard is intended as a reference for designers and roofing
contractors, the design responsibility rests with the “designer of
Ballast includes the growth media and the trays and containers that are
used to contain growth media. The type of growth media used as ballast
in vegetative roofs can influence the fire performance of the system.
Stones, pavers, and concrete surfaces are often used as ballast and are
Inorganic materials used as growth media are not combustible, however
media with high concentrations of organic material can support
combustion. Soils with high percentages of organic material can
negatively affect the fire resistance of a system. Currently data is
unavailable on specific growth media blends, but it is known that media
with high loadings of organic material such as peat moss can burn.
Sources for Growth media
specifications are as follows:
Standard Specification for Perlite Loose Fill
Standard Specification for Lightweight Aggregates for
Standard Specification for Lightweight Aggregates for
Concrete Masonry Units
Standard Specification for Lightweight Aggregates for
Test Methods for
C117-04 Standard Test Method for Materials Finer
than 75-µm (No. 200) Sieve in Mineral Aggregates by Washing
Standard Test Method for Sieve Analysis of Fine and
D5975-96 (2004) Standard Test
Method for Determining the Stability of Compost by Measuring Oxygen
Composting Council: “TMECC” Test Methods for the Examination of
Composting and Compost.
Penetrations may consist of, but are not limited to, mechanical
buildings, penthouses, ducts, pipes, expansion joints and skylights.
These penetrations may be combustible or fire may have a major impact on
their performance. For these reasons, penetrations need to be protected
from fire exposure.
Vegetative Roof System:
Vegetative roof systems will go over both loose-laid, mechanically
fastened, and fully adhered roof systems. However, when a mechanically
attached roof system is used special precautions need to be taken to
prevent damage to the membrane due to the fastener and plates below the
membrane and impact damage and wear that can occur at these locations.
Mechanically attached systems should not be used unless approved by the
membrane supplier of vegetative roofs, and all precautions from the
supplier are followed.
There are several types
of vegetative roof systems as noted below, and they can be interchanged
without affecting the fire performance of the system.
Ballasted Vegetative Roof System:
A ballasted vegetative roof system consists of vegetation; ballast as
defined in 2.1, provides waterproofing and includes a membrane or
membrane and substrate materials installed over a structural deck
capable of supporting the system. Membranes are permitted to be loose
laid, mechanically attached or partially adhered to the roof deck or
Protected Vegetative Roof System:
A protected vegetative roof system consists of vegetation, growth media,
ballast as defined in 2.1, a fabric that is pervious to air and water,
insulation, and includes a membrane that provides waterproofing and
substrate materials installed over a structural deck capable of
supporting the system. Membranes are permitted to be loose laid,
mechanically attached or partially or fully adhered to the roof deck or
Vegetative Roof System Using A Fully Adhered
ROOF Membrane System:
A vegetative roof system using a fully adhered membrane system consists
of vegetation, growth media, ballast as defined in 2.1, and includes a
membrane that provides waterproofing and is fully adhered to attached
insulation, or adhered directly to a roof deck.
of ASTM references for generic roofing types:
EPDM ASTM D-4637
PVC ASTM D-4434
ASTM D-6164, 6163, 6162
APP ASTM D-6222,
BUR As defined by the
standards referenced in the International Building code.
Fully Adhered Hot-Applied Reinforced Waterproofing System
ASTM D 6622
Special consideration shall be given when the building height is greater
than 150’ (45.7 m). Vegetative roofs can be designed using reference 1,
consultation with a wind design engineer, or wind tunnel studies and
fire design experience of the specific building and system.
There are other factors that affect the design of the vegetative roof
for wind and fire. These include, but are not limited to, building
height, building location, pressurized buildings, large openings, eaves
C3.5 Exterior Fire Rating:
Building codes are specific as to the requirements for the roof system
fire resistance based on designated occupancy. Roof systems may be
required to obtain ASTM E 108 Class A, B or C. Data exists that supports
the Classification of succulent based systems as Class A fire
resistance. Other systems may be tested for fire resistance as
installed, but the vegetation needs to be maintained in order to
continue to sustain fire resistance. Provisions need to be made so the
vegetation installed on the roof will have sustainable resistance to the
spread of flame as required by the building code.
Vegetative roofs are not recommended where the basic wind speed is
greater than 140 mph (225 kph). However, they can be designed using
reference 1, consultation with a wind design engineer, or wind tunnel
studies of the specific building and system. The “authority having
jurisdiction” is the only source for approval of designs not covered in
this document. ASCE 7 gives guidance on how non-standard conditions
should be evaluated.
VEGETATIVE ROOF DESIGN
The Design Options of Section 4 were developed to provide a barrier to
prevent the spread of fire from the vegetative section of the roof to
other parts of the building. These design options were developed from
European experience, forest fire prevention, and roofing experience.
Vegetated “Green Roofs” have an excellent history of resisting fire
vegetation, such as succulents, are very fire resistive. Local code
officials may consider waiving the barrier requirements when fire
resistive vegetation is installed.
and UL 790 can be used to test vegetated roof systems. Modifications of
the test standards may be able to provide a meaningful test for selected
conditions. However, with all the plant types that could be used in a
roof design, the varying weather conditions that occur through the year,
and the effects of seasons generate many variables that limit the
potential to classify a roof construction. For this reason, if the roof
is being designed with little or no maintenance planned; fire rated
barriers are required.
wind standards may often require greater areas of non-vegetated roof,
the wind standard will most often determine the size of the perimeter
area or border zones.
Fire Protection for Roof Top
Structures and penetrations:
Pavers are often used as Class A or non-combustible separators. Care
should be taken when installing pavers to avoid damaging the membrane.
Some manufacturers require a separation material between the paver and
SPREAD OF FIRE, PROTECTION
FOR LARGE AREA ROOFS: Spread of flame for Class A fire is
limited to 6’ (1.8 m), if there is a 6’ break separating vegetative
areas using Class A material or non combustible material the flame
spread is not expected to ignite the nearby area.
dimensions chosen for large area roof limitations are based on FLL and
FM requirements, they also coincide with the International Building
Codes Area limitations for Assembly buildings.
The building owner needs to properly
maintain a vegetated roof. One of the important ways of preventing fires
is to keep the roof adequately watered. The need for water will vary
greatly due to climate and types of plants chosen. Designers should be
aware that plantings are to be specific for the roof being installed and
that rooftops are at best hostile places for vegetation. Removal of dead
foliage should occur on a regular interval, for most roofs and that may
be at least once a month. The moisture level of the growing media should
be checked weekly.
By regularly removing excess biomass that could become
fuel for a fire on the rooftop, the risk of fire spreading beyond the 6
foot (1.8 m) Class A fire rated separation setback to combustible
vertical surfaces is minimized.
Best management practices
for maintenance include regular weeding, fertilization, and removal of
dead/dormant vegetation in accordance with the recommendations of the
green roof provider. Specific directions for the proper maintenance of
the vegetated cover should be furnished by the green roof provider.”
Greenroof in Germany; System: Optigrün; Photo
1. Kind, R.J.
and Wardlaw, R.L., Design of Rooftops Against Gravel Blow-Off, National
Research Council of Canada, Report No. 15544, September 1976.
2. FM Global:
Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 1-35 Green Roof Systems.
3. FM Global:
Approval Standard for Vegetative Roof Systems Class Number 4477 Draft
4. FLL Standard
“Guideline for the Planning, Execution and Upkeep of Green-Roof Sites”,
Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung Landschaftsbau e.V. – FLL,
Colmantstr, Bonn, Germany.
Download the VF-1
Green Roof Fire Design Guide
Fire Design Standard for Vegetative Roofs" as
here. Make sure you read all the background info in
The Green Roof Guy's Archives below.
The Green Roof Guy
Green Roof Wind & Fire Design Guidelines:
After Three Years, Half the Battle is Won
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, GRP,
The Green Roof Guy
Photos Courtesy Kelly Luckett Unless Otherwise Noted
December 22, 2009
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Wind Tunnel
Testing in June, 2009.
once again Green Roof Fans,
As many of you know, the Green Roof Guy has been waste deep in the
efforts to get design guidelines for minimizing risks of fire and wind
uplift for green roof systems inserted into the International Building
Code. The journey that started nearly three years ago has been one
with many starts and stops and has been a continuous learning process.
You may recall the initial discussions throughout the industry as to
whether testing was necessary or even possible. The decision was
made to develop design guidelines that would govern how we build green
roofs rather than attempting to test seemingly infinite green roof
However, as we coursed down this winding
road, the wind design guide called
Single Ply Roofing Industry
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
RP-14 met with some resistance that we could not overcome without
conducting some testing. Though the testing we conducted in the wind
tunnel at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville this past summer may
not be sufficient to gain the endorsement of everyone in the canvass
pool, the tests were very enlightening and clearly revealed some issues
regarding the minimum level of vegetative coverage necessary to keep the
growth media from becoming airborne. The testing report is nearing
completion and once it has been approved for release, I will dedicate an
entire column to more fully explain everything we evaluated and exactly
what we learned. For now, what I can share with you is that RP-14
is being edited to reflect what we learned through the wind tunnel
testing and will be sent out for the fourth round of balloting to the
canvass pool soon.
SIUE to help develop prescriptive design guides for wind
uplift (RP-14) for green roof design and construction.
The fire standard called SPRI / Green Roof for Healthy Cities VF-1
received the necessary approval from the majority of the canvass pool
and has been submitted to
American National Standards Institute
(ANSI) for approval as a consensus based standard. We had hoped to
have the ANSI approval in hand for the
International Code Council
(ICC) hearings held in Baltimore in November, 2009. When that
didn’t happen, our strategy for the hearings was to introduce the
standard anyway in hopes of gaining acceptance based on the expectation
that ANSI approval would be attained before the printing of the updated
building code. In addition to proposing the insertion of VF-1 into
the fire safety section of the building code, we also felt that that
section of VF-1 that deals with maintenance of green roofs needed to be
inserted into the property maintenance. This would pull the
maintenance of green roof systems into the same category as the rest of
the building envelope and effectively making it the property owner’s
responsibility to maintain their green roof and gives the local building
inspector authority to issue citations for noncompliance. Does
your head hurt yet? Wait, it gets better.
The proposal before the property maintenance committee was the first of
our proposals to be heard. Though I felt this was going to be a
pretty easy sell to the committee, as I stepped to the microphone I
noticed the line forming to oppose the measure. While I’ve learned
to expect the unexpected at ICC hearings, I was surprised not by the
opposition, but from where it was coming. Code enforcement
officials testified before the committee that they conduct exterior
inspections, in many cases from the street. Additionally, they
felt their inspectors were not qualified to inspect green roof plants
and were less than enthusiastic about getting them qualified. As
the committee makeup was primarily public works employees from various
cities around the country, testimony from fellow public works department
employees easily swayed the vote; 10-0 disapproval of our proposal.
As many of you know, green roof maintenance has been an issue that has
been troubling me for some time and as you can imagine I was more than
disappointed. I saw this as a missed opportunity for the green
roof industry. I invited a friend to engage in a high level
strategic planning session at the hotel bar or at least join me in a
cocktail while I vented some of the steam from my collar. My
friend is far more engaged in the ICC proceedings than I and he informed
me that a couple of code change proposals were approved by the fire code
committee a week earlier that could effectively accomplish the same
thing. Turns out he was right, the fire code committee approved a
proposal that says:
VEGETATION ON ROOFS
318.1 Maintenance of vegetation. Vegetation placed upon buildings
shall be maintained to prevent the accumulation of weeds, grass, vines,
trees, or other growth that is capable of being ignited. All
vegetation that poses a fire hazard to the building or exposure
structures shall be removed from the building.
318.2 Maintenance plan. The fire code official is authorized to
require a maintenance plan for vegetation placed on roofs due to the
size of a roof garden, materials used, or when a fire hazard may exist
to the building or exposures due to the lack of maintenance.
What is significant here is that our proposal attempted to place the
responsibility for policing green roof maintenance with the building
inspector. The building inspector typically only gains access to
the property when there has been an application for an occupancy permit
and his inspection is post-construction. The proposed code change
approved by the fire code committee shifts the policing of green roof
maintenance to the fire marshal who conducts routine inspections
throughout the occupancy of the building, and allowing the fire marshal
to require a maintenance plan moves the review of the green roof
maintenance to plan review; which takes place prior to the issuance of
the building permit. This moves the conversation that green roof
providers must have with property owners about green roof maintenance to
the forefront of construction design instead of being an afterthought
that only comes up when problems arise.
Left: A highly
maintained greenroof, Photo Courtesy ZinCo;
Right: A not-so maintained greenroof, Photo Courtesy and By
But wait, there’s more. The fire code committee also approved a
measure that contained the core action items from VF-1. The following
language was approved for inclusion in the next printing of the
International Building Code:
ROOF GARDENS AND LANDSCAPED ROOFS
316.1 General. Rooftop gardens and landscaped roofs shall be
installed and maintained in accordance with this code and Sections
1505.0 and 1507.16 of the International Building Code.
316.2 Rooftop garden or landscaped roof size. Rooftop garden or
landscaped roof areas shall not exceed 15,625 ft2 (1,450 m2) in size for
any single area with a maximum dimension of 125 ft (39 m) in length or
width. A minimum 6 ft (1.8m) wide clearance consisting of a Class
A (per ASTM E108 or UL790) rated roof system shall be provided between
adjacent rooftop garden or landscaped roof areas.
316.3 Rooftop structure and equipment clearance. For all vegetated
roofing systems abutting combustible vertical surfaces, a Class A (per
ASTM E108 or UL790) rated roof system shall be achieved for a minimum 6
ft (1.8 m) wide continuous border placed around rooftop structures and
all rooftop equipment, including but not limited to mechanical and
machine rooms, penthouses, skylights, roof vents, solar panels, antenna
supports, and building service equipment.
316.4 Vegetation. Vegetation shall be maintained as described in
Sections 316.4.1 and 316.4.2
316.4.1 Irrigation. Supplemental irrigation shall be provided as
necessary to maintain levels of hydration necessary to keep green roof
plants alive and to keep dry foliage to a minimum.
316.4.2 Dead foliage. Excess biomass such as overgrown vegetation,
leafs and other dead and decaying material shall be removed at regular
intervals not less than two times per year.
905.3.8 (IBC [F] 905.3.8) Roof gardens and landscaped roofs.
Buildings or structures with roof gardens or landscaped roofs that are
equipped with a standpipe shall extend the standpipe to the roof level
on which the roof garden or landscaped roof is located.
Let me remind you that all this happened before our scheduled time slot
at the code hearings to introduce VF-1, which has not yet garnered ANSI
approval. While having this language in the fire code section of
the building code is great, it needs to also be in the fire safety
section of the building code, which is where we our proposal was to be
presented. Coincidentally, the gentleman who sponsored the code
change proposal that the Fire Code Committee approved had a proposed
code change on the schedule immediately before the VF-1 proposed code
change. After some code hearing wrangling, the gentleman agreed to
modify his proposal to simply read as a pointer from the fire safety
section of the building code to the fire code section of the building
code, instructing code enforcement officials enforcing the building code
requirements for green roofs to reference the language in the fire code.
When the committee approved the pointer proposal, some of the urgency to
propose VF-1 was relieved.
Rather than to introduce VF-1 now, without ANSI approval in hand, and be
subjected to opposing testimony, we decided to request the committee to
disapprove the proposal; which automatically keeps a placeholder at the
committee action hearings next spring. By then we will have ANSI
approval in hand and can testify that the core action items have been
accepted by ICC committees and that acceptance of VF-1 at that time,
only brings the building code into alignment with what the other
committees have already approved.
Well, green roof fans, that’s almost half the fire and wind uplift
battle. Wind uplift issues and RP-14 still remain. RP-14
goes out for the fourth round of balloting in the next few weeks.
I will keep you posted as the standard evolves.
As the holiday season settles in and we turn our focus toward issues a
little closer to home, I’d like to wish you and your family a wonderful
holiday season. Between bail outs and reforms, incitements and
accomplishment, I am confident that the dream is still alive. We
will, once again, unleash that special quality that makes us American
and sees us through to a brighter tomorrow.
Green Roof Wind Uplift Challenges:
Paranoia, Turn a Blind Eye, or How About We Work Together?
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP,
The Green Roof Guy
May 29, 2009
For backgrounders see
Kelly's "Wind Uplift,
Fire Resistance, & Maintenance Issues: Winds of Change for the
New Year" from December 15, 2008 and his "Same
Guy, New Editor Name, Renewed Focus" from April, 2008.
once again Green Roof Fans,
A while back I received an invitation to
attend a wintertime meeting in Dallas to discuss wind uplift and fire
resistance characteristics of green roof systems. Though people who live
in St. Louis don’t typically need much of a reason to head south for a
few days when there is snow on the ground in the Midwest, I was
particularly interested in taking part in these discussions
I had just completed a green roof installation in Orlando, Florida,
perhaps one of the more stringent code enforcement environments in the
United States, and I never even heard mention of the building code or
the building inspector. The last time I had worked in Florida was just
after Hurricane Andrew (August, 1992). The building code and the
building inspectors dominated the conversation across the roofing
industry. Yet here I was back in the land of wind uplift paranoia and
not a single mention of how the green roof complied with wind uplift
requirements in the building code.
The short answer why? There wasn’t anything
in the building code concerning wind uplift for green roof systems.
Rather than ask the unanswerable questions, the building inspectors
turned a blind eye to the green roof portion of the project. The
meeting in Dallas gave me the opportunity to share this experience with
others in the roofing industry and to learn about their experiences as
The meeting, hosted by the
Single Ply Roofing Industry
(SPRI), started with a round table discussion of whether wind uplift and
fire resistance testing was required for green roof systems. The
group agreed that there are too many variables among the various green
roof systems to test all possible configurations and agreed that
developing prescriptive standards for constructing green roofs to
minimize wind uplift risk and maximize fire resistance would be more
practical than conducting tests.
We broke into groups to discuss how best to collate information from
existing green roof construction standards and how to go about drafting
new standards that could give the construction industry some clear
The group I was assigned to gathered in the lobby of the hotel and
proceeded discussing the existing standards from which we could pull
information. Among our group of four was the Technical Director of
National Roofing Contractors Association
(NRCA), Mark Graham. Though I had not met Mark before, I have long
been familiar with the NRCA as the authoritative figure in the roofing
industry. When the groups came together at the end of the day,
Mark was put on the spot. It was disclosed to the group that the NRCA
had proposed a change to the International Building Code that would
require green roofs to meet the same requirements for wind uplift and
fire resistance as all other roofing assemblies.
The conductor of the meeting asked Mark if the NRCA would be willing to
withdraw their proposed code change given the group’s agreement to work
towards the development of prescriptive standards for wind uplift and
fire resistance of green roof systems. Mark explained to the group
that his organization felt that lacking clear direction in the building
code for green roof construction found the liability for potential
catastrophic failure of a green roof system resting upon the roofing
contractor who applied for the building permit.
Given this exposure to the roofing contractor members of the NRCA, Mark
said they would not withdraw the code change proposal; as the NRCA saw
the proposal effectively transferring liability for potential green roof
failure from their contractor to the code enforcement authority having
International Code Council
(ICC) hearings were over nine months away. If the industry wished
to develop prescriptive standards to address wind uplift and fire
resistance, there appeared to be ample time to do it.
The green roof industry is made up of businesses and business people
with diverse backgrounds and expertise. While the diversity of
this young industry is good on many levels, there is often a lack of
consensus among the players; this was especially true when it came to
addressing the building code. Some felt that since the
American Standard Testing
Methods (ASTM) had yet to develop testing protocol for green roofs,
there was no way to comply with the NRCA proposed code change; while
others simply felt that testing was unnecessary since there has never
been a documented failure in the forty plus years the green roof concept
has been employed in Europe.
What the industry could agree on was that this was a time to take action
of some sort. After much discussion, heated at some points, a plan
was formulated for a few representatives to attend the ICC hearings to
oppose the code change. When ICC unanimously approved the proposal
despite the opposition of the green roof industry, plan B became the
development of prescriptive standards that could be presented to the ICC
as a means of complying with the adopted code change.
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
entered into a memorandum of understanding with SPRI to undertake the
development of green roof standards addressing wind uplift and fire
resistance. The two phase process began by drafting two documents;
a wind design guide we call RP-14 and a fire design guide we call VF-1.
The second phase was to establish a canvass group of industry
stakeholders to shape the documents through the consensus building
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) process. This is a
process by which draft standards are submitted to the canvass pool for
comment. The comments are then addressed in the redrafting of the
documents and resubmitted to the canvass pool. This process
repeats until the documents reflect the consensus of the industry
stakeholders. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? So, let the
Fast forward two and half years, nearly 100,000 frequent flier miles
later, and enough time on the cell phone attending conference calls to
make me glow in the dark; we are nearing the final drafts of RP-14 and
VF-1. There have been too many versions of the documents and too
many elements that were opposed to list here. What I will share
with you is that I have been careful throughout the process to keep the
standards broad enough to include all design techniques and proprietary
technologies currently in the marketplace.
The mission was to build consensus based standards, not to eliminate an
operating business through the use of the building code. Equally
important was to be careful that the standards did not stifle future
innovation. A s this process has stretched on for over two years, it has
given us the opportunity to attend several ICC hearings and to better
understand the process and to indentify which aspects of the standards
would bring opposition and from whom. We have been successful in
bringing parties together for fruitful discussion that helped to align
our interests and to garner support. Though the standards are each
several pages long and deal with various aspects of green roof design
and construction, they are written around two fundamental principles:
Let’s begin with the RP-14 Wind Uplift Standard: While we have removed
the use of gravel ballast in no-vegetation zones to quell concerns
surrounding the gravel becoming windborne debris, we have also called
out some minimum weights for growth media in built-in-place green roof
systems and for green roof modules. However, at the core of the
wind standard is the assumption that vegetated growth media weighing a
minimum of 10 pounds per square foot performs equivalently to 1 ¾ inch
gravel roofing ballast applied in the same weight.
Once we’ve made this leap, we can then train our focus on how to keep
the growth media from scouring in high winds while the plants are being
established. Scouring is a term used to describe the blowing of
the particles in the growth media from the surface of the green roof,
thereby reducing the volume and weight of growth media and its ability
to ballast the green roof components below. Before we can have the
scouring discussion, we must agree on the premise that growth media
bound by vegetation has the same wind uplift resistance as equal weight
of large stone roofing ballast. Here is where we come to somewhat
of an impasse with some of the canvass pool.
Though we have some anecdotal evidence, there has been little testing
conducted that would allow us to justify this claim. Since the
ASTM has yet to develop a testing protocol for wind uplift testing of
green roof assemblies, certified testing may not be possible for quite
some time. While many can agree that the assumption seems to be
reasonable, some testing is necessary. Conducting some testing
without certification would go a long way towards convincing opponents.
The NRCA has agreed to collaborate with the green roof industry to
conduct wind tunnel testing at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
beginning this June, 2009.
The testing will begin with four inch deep, fully vegetated green roof
systems. Subsequent tests will then vary the level of vegetation
to identify the minimum levels required to bind the growth media at
varying wind speeds. Finally, we’ll look at the use of wind
blankets and we’ll also look at the use of liquid tackifiers that bind
the surface of the growth media and decompose over time as the plants
mature. I hope to have the completed reports from this testing by
mid-July that would allow us to finalize the RP-14 Wind Design Guide.
Turning now to the VF-1 Fire Design Guide: The fundamental requirement
in VF-1 lies in the maintenance section that states it is the building
owner’s responsibility to keep plants adequately hydrated and routinely
to remove excess biomass; both intended to minimize the flammability of
the green roof system. The NRCA suggests that if the main fire
resistance strategy lies in the maintenance of the green roof then VF-1,
or at least the maintenance section, needs to be submitted to the ICC
for inclusion in the Maintenance section of the building code.
Here too, some testing may be necessary. Where the wind tunnel
testing seems pretty straight forward in that we will simply blow air at
the green roof system at speeds up to 200 miles per hour, the testing
set up and evaluation for fire is more complicated. Are we to test
sedums or grasses? Are we to test well hydrated plants or at
drought conditions? While these questions are important and perhaps the
answer is all of the above, I feel the more important issue is how we
evaluate the test. Factory Mutual
(FM) has recently released a green roof fire testing protocol
called Approval Standard for Vegetative Roof Systems class number 4477.
FM appears to be prepared to go it alone and conduct testing without
ASTM guidance. The initial feedback I’ve received has been
opposition to their testing setup. They intend to test drought
conditions by depriving plants of hydration for 28 days by housing the
green roof being tested indoors under artificial sun lighting for ten
hours per day. This will ensure that the plants are dead or near
death at the time of the testing. While I agree that testing under
worst case scenario may be prudent, where FM is off track is the use of
standard flame spread evaluation.
We all know that dead plants will burn! The question is will the
flame penetrate the growth media to ignite the other building
components? I suspect the fire will rapidly consume the vegetative
fuel and burn itself out on top of the mineral based growth media.
VF-1 mandates class A coverings for all flammable vertical surfaces or
adequate setbacks to protect the fire from spreading beyond the green
roof vegetation. While the image of a quickly burning rooftop may
be unsettling, if it results in no damage to the structure, it proves
the green roof not to be a fire risk but superior fire protection.
If FM is truly interested in reducing the risk to property owners and
insurers, then their testing should evaluate this protective
characteristic of the green roof growth media.
In closing, we are very close to having workable language in the
building code for green roof design and construction. Not everyone
will be happy with every provision, but there has been a great deal of
compromise from all sides to get us this far. I cannot hazard a
guess as to when we will complete the process. I can promise you,
however, that I will not stop working on it until we do.
In the meantime, the way to make certain that your next green roof
project will comply with the local building code is to make an
appointment with the building inspector to go over the project. To
steal a quote from a friend, in the world of construction, the building
inspector is God. Given the opportunity to review the information
prior, rather than being surprised by the green roof the day of the
inspection, will help not only to gain his approval for this project but
you’ll have a supporter for future projects as well.
Once you’ve been through the process with the building department in one
community you can refer back to them to help gain approval from the next
one. Ours is a young industry that holds great promise for the
environment and the economy. Though writing the rules as we go can
occasionally have us butting heads, our common interests are greater
than our disagreements, so we will find a way to get this done.
A Green Lining to Every Dark Cloud
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
Photos by Kelly Luckett Unless Otherwise Noted
April 11, 2009
Dark Economic Clouds Can Present Opportunities and Break Out
a Green Lining; Photo
once again Green Roof Fans,
Those of you in my inner circle know what a
tough year 2008 was for the
Saint Louis Metalworks Company. What you may not know, and
what I would like to share with the rest of the readers, is the role the
green roof industry played in our survival. Saint Louis Metalworks
Company, I often refer to as my "day job," is a sheet metal contracting
business I started in 1997 with my best friend since our sophomore year
in high school.
We started toying around with an idea for a modular green roof in 2002,
though we didn’t use the term modular yet. We spent some trial and
error time with various designs and materials. Then we made some
critical acquaintances with people like
the green roof plant guru,
Velazquez, green roof enthusiast extraordinaire, and many others who
shared expertise and provided encouragement. After two years of
exploration into green buildings, green roofs, and ourselves, two career
roofers from St. Louis launched the first product of the
Green Roof Blocks line.
In the coming five years we would become
involved in industry organizations, fund
university-based green roof research, assume a leadership role in the
development of standards for green roof construction, and realize a
modicum of success of the dream we had when we began.
As our endeavor into the green roof industry began to dominate more and
more of my time, devoted employees of Saint Louis Metalworks stepped up
and accepted new responsibilities to help fill the void. Because
of the hard work of my business partner and our two superintendents,
production numbers continued the upward trend we had enjoyed each year
since opening our doors. At the center of activity, both green
roofs and sheet metal, was our office administrator. This 55 year
old grandmother juggled multiple duties and became the glue that held
the entire operation together.
As mine and my partner’s attentions were
drawn toward the expansion of our business, the office administrator’s
role expanded beyond that of the typical administrator to that more of a
trusted partner. My partner and I found it reassuring, even
liberating, that we had this trusted and competent individual minding
the store. We trusted her completely and we gave her unfettered
access to the books and the accounts.
Near the end of 2007 there were vague signs, glimpses really, that there
was something wrong with the administration of our operation.
Deadlines were missed, documents were misplaced; nothing that would be
cause for alarm, in and of itself. However, in consideration of the
office administrator’s recent family problems that seemed to
increasingly bleed into our business, these miscues appeared to be more
of a pattern than isolated incidents.
Finally, after the failure to deliver a bid bond on time resulted in the
disqualification of what would have been the low bid for a $250,000
project, we decided to let her go. In the coming weeks and months
we discovered that she had stolen nearly $250,000 from our company over
the course of her 3 ½ year employment, beginning just three months after
she was hired. Most of the money was stolen through the use of company
credit cards. She was on a three year long, world class spending
spree using our credit cards. Since it was her job to open the
monthly statements, make the data entry in the bookkeeping program, and
ultimately generate the check to pay the bill, she was free to operate
with impunity. While we noticed an uptick in overall company
credit card charges, it seemed to correspond with the rising cost of
gasoline. With twenty trucks in operation, each being fueled via
credit cards, we never suspected any wrong doing. Subsequent
investigation revealed several withdraws from the checking account
payable to her, her husband’s automotive business creditors, and the IRS
that were covered up by tampering with the accounting program.
As you can imagine, a quarter of a million dollars is a staggering
amount of money for a small business to lose. It wasn’t long
before the house of cards she used to conceal her deceit began to come
crashing down. We learned that vendors hadn’t been paid, taxes
were late, and union benefit were two months behind. As if the
horizon wasn’t dark enough, it began to rain, and rain, and rain some
more. The bad weather meant we couldn’t work on sheet metal
projects; which meant we couldn’t generate receivables. This went
on for three months as the Midwest experienced the wettest spring in
When we turned to our bank for help through this dark time, the bank
responded by revoking our working capital line of credit and the company
credit cards we needed to fuel our vehicles. The credit crunch
became a reality for us months before the banking collapse would
dominate the news. The feeling of hopelessness was overwhelming as
each bit of bad news felt like another nail in our company’s coffin.
That’s when it happened; the call came in
for the first green roof project of the year. Then we got the call
for the second, and the third. For seven years, Green Roof Blocks
drained profits from Saint Louis Metalworks Company to invest in the
green roof concept. We invested money in things we considered to
be the cost of doing business like product development, distribution
infrastructure, and marketing.
However, we also invested in things that simply advanced the green roof
concept like research at universities, travel expenses to participate in
policy making at
ASTM and building code meetings, and education programs like
American Institute of Architects Continuing Education. After
years of money flowing from Metalworks, green roof projects were now
generating real dollars. Though the spring rains kept Metalworks
trucks parked in St. Louis, green roof projects in places like Tulsa,
Minneapolis, and Greenville moved forward.
Our marketing dollars were beginning to pay
dividends. More interestingly, our investment in the green roof
concept was beginning to pay off as well. The university where we
help fund research is building a new student center with 16,000 square
feet of green roof. Architectural firms that hosted our Lunch and
Learn presentations are specifying green roofs on new projects they are
Last weekend we planted 4,000
Green Roof Blocks that will go on
SIUE’s new student success center sometime this summer.
Dr. Bill Retzlaff
rallied 26 student and staff volunteers to help out.
Green roof dollars paid mortgage payments,
insurance premiums, and utility bills and helped see Saint Louis
Metalworks Company through seriously trying times. Unfortunately,
similar financial stories were playing out all over the country in
businesses that didn’t have green roof sales to help pull them through.
Many didn’t make it, many more still may fail. The business
environment will likely remain turbulent until credit flows again to
If you’re like my partner and I, you’re hanging on every word coming out
of Washington; hoping to hear that our leaders are moving beyond
partisan bickering to take action to mend our economy and bring
prosperity back to our businesses. All indications are that green
building technologies will play a major role in the recovery of our
nation’s economy. The trick for all of us will be to keep our
doors open long enough to participate.
Building for Green Building Technologies: A Green
Lining for a Great Cause.
One of the staff Dr. Bill and I have been working with
brought her daughter out with her to help. I wasn’t even
sure I got this shot because she ran by so fast. It’s one in
Wind Uplift, Fire Resistance, & Maintenance Issues:
Winds of Change for the New Year
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP,
The Green Roof Guy
December 15, 2008
of change for the coming New Year.
once again Green Roof Fans,
As many of you know, the Green Roof Guy has been working with several
agencies to get language concerning wind uplift and fire resistance of
green roof design and construction written into the International
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
Single Ply Roofing Industry
(SPRI) have been engaged in a joint effort to develop RP-14, a Wind
Design Guide, and VF-1, a Fire Design Guide. Though we did not complete
American National Standards Institute
(ANSI) balloting process in time to have these green roof standards
adopted by the
International Code Council
(ICC) for the 2009 printing of the building code, we made significant
You may recall I discussed some of the challenges we faced in the form
of opposition from other players on the stage and with the decision to
parallel our wind design guide to an existing design guide for ballasted
roofing. You may also recall I ended my last column by informing
you that I intended to meet with Edwin Huston of the
National Council of Structural Engineers Associations
(NCSEA) and Mark Graham of the
National Roofing Contractors Association
(NRCA) to establish a dialogue in hopes of identifying and reconciling
some of the opposition to standards we have been working on. I am
pleased to inform you that the meeting was very fruitful and ended with
the parties pledging to keep lines of communication open.
Without getting waist deep into the technical aspects of the standards
(though once we have ANSI approval, I will dedicate an entire column
explaining the details of the finalized standards), there seemed to be a
conflict between our wind design guide and our fire design guide.
We discussed alternative language and strategies to bring both standards
into alignment and to get the green roof industry out of the ongoing
rock fight over the use of gravel ballast. I reported back to the
SPRI committee where we worked to make the necessary changes to reflect
the suggestions posed by the NRCA and NCSEA.
Namely, we removed reference to the use of gravel to create
no-vegetation zones at roof perimeters and penetrations. The
perimeter and corners of a rooftop are areas of increased exposure to
wind and placing gravel in these areas increases the chance of it
blowing off of the roof. The re-crafted drafts of the wind and
fire standards will now go back out to the canvas pool for the final
round of balloting. Provided we have the approval of the majority
of the canvas pool, we can complete the ANSI process and introduce the
standards to the ICC for acceptance in to the building code at the next
round of hearings. I will keep you posted as we make our way
through the process over the coming months.
Follow the Maintenance
I would like to turn the focus now to an
issue that continues to plague the green roof industry: the
maintenance-free green roof myth. Some in the media continue to
espouse this nonexistent characteristic of green roofs resulting in many
of our customers being painfully uneducated about realities of critical
green roof maintenance!
Pretty strong language, I know, but the
problem doesn’t seem to be getting better. Let me tell you a story
about my company's largest project. It’s a government owned
project in the city that has become the nation’s green roof capitol; you
know the place. I sat in on a meeting where the general
contractor, the architect, and the roofing contractor removed all
mention of maintenance guidelines and the Plant Health Alert System from
my submittal package!
For those of you outside the construction industry, a submittal package
is a gathering of documents and drawings the subcontractor submits to
the architect and owner to demonstrate compliance with the
specifications for products or portions of the construction project.
When I questioned why they were removing critical pages of information
from my submittals, I was told that they eliminated the irrigation
system for this 96,000 square foot green roof based on a tour a green
roof provider took the owner on during the preceding spring. I
asked if they had told them about the drought that killed green roof
plants all over the region the summer before, to which I only received
blank stares. I practically had to threaten to hold my breath
until I turned blue, or at least threaten to walk away from the project
to get them to issue a change order to put the irrigation system back
The green roof was planted in June and July,
2007, and required routine irrigation throughout the establishment
period, a task that could not be accomplished over 96,000 square feet
using a garden hose. After alleviating concerns over the
irrigation system conflicting with LEED certification requirements by
agreeing to disconnect the system after the establishment period, the
change order was issued. However, I insisted that the irrigation
system remain in place as insurance should drought conditions require
its activation to keep the $250,000 worth of plants alive.
Now fast forward two years. The phone rings; it’s the roofing
contractor. The ownership is requesting a walkthrough to discuss
the condition of the green roof. I asked our horticulturist to
accompany me to the autumn meeting on the rooftop. We were greeted by
the general contractor, the architect, the roofing contractor, and a
clearly unhappy owner’s representative. The condition of the green
roof? Starving sedums due to absence of the fertilizer that was
supposed to have been applied the previous spring, per the maintenance
guidelines that the ownership never got to see.
Remember that plants
are living beings, on the ground or up on the roof.
Low maintenance does not mean
Also, since the plants did not receive the
food required to grow and cover the surface of the growth media, the
weeds moved in. The good news – the weeds will die over the
winter and an application of fertilizer next spring will allow the
plants to thrive. The bad news – the project lost the opportunity
for the plants to grow in one of the wettest growing seasons on record.
As you can imagine, there was a round of discussion about who was
supposed to have provided the maintenance, a discussion that may wind up
being continued in a court room.
However, the owner’s representative asked
why the irrigation system was still there. When the general
contractor started to speak he was stopped by the owner’s representative
who said the question was directed to me. Before I could answer,
another question was posed, “Do you tell your customers that they need
to provide irrigation for their green roof?” To which I replied,
“Absolutely yes, every single one of them.”
The owner’s representative, clearly not expecting this answer, became
even more agitated. That’s when I began to appreciate how serious
this problem has gotten for the green roof industry. The owner’s
representative placed in charge of one the city’s largest green roofs,
in arguably the most green roof educated city in the nation, was utterly
surprised by the fact that plants need food and water. The
building code issue evoked an urgent call to arms that brought about
action by many and opened lines of communication among perceived
adversaries, while lack of proper green roof maintenance poses far more
serious threat to the green roof concept yet the green roof industry
remains largely quiet.
Admittedly, nobody uses discussing
maintenance during the green roof sale as their go-to closing strategy,
but it’s a lot healthier for a green roof business in the long run to
address this issue upfront rather than standing in the middle of a
problem on a green roof facing an unhappy and uneducated customer the
following season. I’ll keep working on the code issues on behalf
of the industry, but it’s time the industry start working on this much
Well Green Roof Fans, as the year nears the end, I like to take an
account of my many blessings; Trish - my wife of 25 years, Shannon - my
13-year old daughter who looks more like her mother every day, Jesse -
my 21-year old son who appears to be doomed with his father’s hairline,
and all the opportunities afforded me through my work in the green roof
industry - the chance to reach out to you is among the top.
From my family to yours, have a happy and
safe holiday and may next year bring you every success.
you Mele Kalikimaka and warm greetings from the
Luckett Family in St. Louis via Hawaii.
The Green Roof Guy
The Green Roof Guy, Inaugural Column
Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, is “The Green Roof Guy.” He fine-tuned his editorial focus and inaugurated his new column of the same name in April, 2008. Formerly “The Roving Exhibitor,” he wrote about his experiences at green building conferences as president of Green Roof Blocks and St. Louis Metalworks Company.
They manufacture various modular green roof products and accessories.
As president of both, he still is a frequent trade show exhibitor at
greenroof and green building conferences, workshops & seminars - but
Kelly also roves around the country attending ASTM, GRHC and other roofing and greenroof related organization meetings, and has become a central figure here.
Look for this column about his experiences and impressions within the greenroof industry
as just a regular (green)roofing guy from St. Louis, Missouri, where
Kelly lives with his wife, son and daughter. So read his column to stay up to date within the greenroof industry!
Same Guy, New Editor Name, Renewed Focus
Hello once again green roof fans,
The green roof industry continues to
grow and evolve and so must we all. As the "Roving
Exhibitor" has been engaging in and reporting on a broad range
of green roof activities, it’s been suggested that perhaps the
Roving Exhibitor has outgrown that title. For quite some time
now, friends and business associates have referred to me as
"The Green Roof Guy." So, I humbly submit that this
designation may better suit the scope of my column as we head
into the future together. So, without further ado - let’s
I had hoped to be reporting on completed wind and fire
guidelines that were headed for International Code Council
(ICC) acceptance. However, the process turned out to be
far more nuanced than I could have possibly imagined. For
those of you who are unaware of the ongoing efforts, I’ll review
a bit. The National Roofing Contractors Association
(NRCA) submitted a building code change proposal last spring
that gained unanimous acceptance by the ICC. The simple
proposal merely states that green roof systems will be subject
to the same wind and fire testing standards as any other roofing
systems. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? However,
American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) has developed
testing standards for most every building material used in
construction, except, of course, green roofs. As a member
of the ASTM green roof task force, I can tell you that we are
years from handing down testing methods for fire resistance of
various plants and wind uplift for various green roof
assemblies. What does this mean? In short, it means
Laboratories (UL) and Factory Mutual
(FM) have no standardized testing methods by which to test and
rate green roof systems. Which basically means that the
green roof industry has no means of complying with the new NRCA
sponsored building code change.
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities
(GRHC) struck a committee to develop a plan to resolve the
conflict between the green concept and the new building code
language that is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2009.
Many of us were invited to participate in a task force assembled
by the Single Ply Roofing Industry
(SPRI) to discuss the issue. At that first meeting, we
decided to research existing green roof design standards from
other agencies and countries and work to develop prescriptive
design standards that could be presented to the ICC for approval
as a means of meeting the requirements of the new code language.
Though I had drafted a wind design
guide and a fire design guide based on the compilation of the
research, the chairman of the task force suggested that the wind
design guide could be more easily drafted by making some minor
changes to an existing standard for deigning ballasted roofing
systems. Since many of us in the industry recognize
similarities between ballasted roofing systems and green roof
systems, the suggestion seemed to make sense and we then
initiated the standard development process sanctioned by the American National Standards Institute
(ANSI). This is a process by which industry stakeholders
are identified and invited to review and comment on the design
guides. This “canvass” process is meant to build consensus
by allowing those polled to contest flaws and to make
recommendations to the guideline. The comments are to be
addressed by the taskforce and reconciled into the next draft
and resubmitted to the canvass pool for more review and
comments. The process continues until consensus is reached
and the canvass pool approves of the guideline, at which point
we have a consensus based standard.
As you can imagine, this process is often quite lengthy.
As the 2009 publishing date of the NRCA sponsored code change
looms off in the distance, the taskforce works to accelerate the
process. We had hoped to get the ICC to allow us to attach
the standard draft to the new code language at the ICC hearings
held in Palm Springs in February. However, we learned at
the SPRI meeting several weeks earlier that the process was
moving very slowly as the first round of comments from the
canvass team had just been submitted. Next we learned that
the NRCA was submitting additional code changes that appeared
initially to provide a much simpler means of meeting the
language of their earlier submitted change. However, on
closer inspection, the NRCA proposal referenced an existing
standard that dramatically restricts the use of ballast in “high
wind” and coastal regions.
The referenced standard has been
contested by members of the roofing industry, including SPRI,
because it sets the “high wind” design speed at 90 miles per
hour; that incorporates most of the United States, which would
have an overly restrictive impact on green roofs as well.
This was my first glimpse into the quagmire that is the
International Building Code. The code change proposals are
printed in two volumes about the size of a big city telephone
book. These proposals are filled with cross references to
other sections of the building code and existing standards. It’s
a complicated read that can have you wishing you still had that
secret spy decoder ring you enjoyed as a kid. In all,
there were about a dozen code changes being proposed during this
round of hearings that could impact green roofs. I met
with two representatives from SPRI and two representatives from
the NRCA just before the first of the proposals was presented to
the ICC panel. Mark Graham, NRCA associate executive
director, made it clear during that meeting that the NRCA would
not endorse either of the design guidelines coming out of the
SPRI taskforce unless there were major revisions. That
seemed to set the stage for opposition to SPRI sponsored
proposals coming from the NRCA and vice versa.
The first code change proposal regarding green roofs was
presented by the NRCA proposing a simple definition of a green
roof. It seemed to be a benign assembly of words that
offered some clarification regarding the distinction between a
vegetated green roof and other sustainable roofing strategies
that could be termed “green.” Both SPRI and GRHC welcomed
such a definition in the International Building Code (IBC) and
we expected the measure to pass without opposition. The
hearings are moderated by the chairperson under
Rules of Order and heard by a thirteen member panel.
The sponsor of the proposal and those in support of the measure
and then those opposing the measure are given the opportunity to
give testimony and one round of rebuttal testimony. After
the final opposing rebutting rebuttal is heard, the chairperson
asks the panel if they have questions for those giving
testimony. There is often a brief question and answer
session between the panel and those giving testimony and a
comment session for the panel; after which the chairperson
requests a motion. One of the members of the panel then
makes a motion to either approve or disapprove the proposal.
Next the chairperson requests a different member of the panel to
second the motion. After there has been a second to the
motion the chairperson asks the panel member who made the first
motion to explain the reasoning behind their motion.
Now comes the moment of truth for
the proposal. A simple show of hands among the panel
determines the life or death of the proposal; sort of.
After the panel has voted, the chairperson looks to the assembly
to see if anyone in the room wishes to be heard. At this
point anyone can approach the panel and request the measure be
put to a vote among those in attendance. A simple majority
in the room can overturn the decision of the panel.
When Mark Graham stepped to the microphone and addressed the
panel to propose the addition of a definition of a green roof
flanked by Mike Ennis of SPRI and myself representing GRHC
testifying in support of the measure, we fully expected the
proposal to be approved without opposition. To our
surprise, however, several members of the engineering community
lined up to oppose the measure. As they gave testimony
citing conflicts the new definition would present to existing
language elsewhere in the building code, they were well spoken
and impressively prepared. They addressed the thirteen
member panel, made up of mostly engineers, with section numbers,
dates, precedence, and anecdotal evidence to support their
positions. In the days to come, we would see every green
roof related code change proposal be disapproved, in large part
as a result of the opposing testimony given by this group of
engineers. The fact that GRHC working with SPRI had
identified the NRCA as our opponent and completely overlooked
the engineers who completely dominated the proceedings is only
half the story. The decision made by SPRI to throw out my
drafted wind design guideline and instead revise an existing
wind design guideline (RP-4) for ballasted roofing systems
actually put us in the middle of an ongoing debate that has been
raging between various interests and playing out at the ICC
hearings since 2003.
As I sat and listened to nearly
three hours of debate about the use of gravel ballast, I began
to gain a better understanding for the high stakes chess match
the International Building Code has become. One engineer
approached the microphone and announced that he represented
Portland Cement and proceeded to give damning testimony
regarding the use gravel ballast in hurricane zones. His
testimony was followed by similar testimony given by a
representative from the
Management Agency (FEMA). It then occurred to me what
I was witnessing. Portland Cement, manufacturer of
concrete roof pavers, has a vested interest to see regulatory
restrictions placed on the use of gravel roof ballast in favor
of the use of concrete paver roof ballast. FEMA seeks to
limit the windborne debris during high wind events that result
in federally funded repairs to neighboring property. SPRI
is on the hot seat then to continually defend the RP-4 wind
design guideline. This battle has been ongoing since 2003
with no end in sight.
While the green roof industry is in a difficult position
resulting from the approved NRCA code change proposal,
partnering with SPRI to jump into the ongoing rock fight may not
be our best course of action. We allowed SPRI take the
driver’s seat to develop green roof design standards because
they have experience with the process. However, we could
go through the entire ANSI process and end up with a green roof
wind design guideline that is as hotly contested as their RP-4
wind design guideline.
Now I’m not ready to abandon the
work we have done just yet. But I took the opportunity to
introduce myself to Edwin Huston, one of the engineers who was
so impressive at the ICC hearings. It was abundantly clear
to me as I witnessed the ICC proceedings that support from the
engineering community is going to be critical in gaining ICC
approval of any proposals the green roof industry presents.
Mr. Huston chairs the committee within an engineering
organization that would be interested in helping draft building
code language to include green roofs. He suggested that we
invite the NRCA to send a representative to join GRHC and meet
with his committee. I posed the invitation to Mark Graham
at the ASTM meetings in Anaheim several weeks ago and he
accepted. The meeting will be sometime in August, 2008 and
I have every hope we can establish productive dialogue towards
aligning the interests of all parties.
There are some real lessons for the young green roof industry
here. First and foremost is to be involved in the process!
The head in the sand posture resulted in the NRCA's acting in
their own interest and at the expense of ours. The
activities of the various policy generating organizations must
be monitored and, more preferably, affected by our involvement
and input. Membership in these organizations and
attendance at the meetings is going to require a commitment of
time and money on the part of our industry. Our members
need to populate the committees of these organizations to ensure
representation of our interest. When the ICC hearings
commence, we need to fill the room with our members in numbers
necessary to overturn decisions handed down from the panel that
are not in the interest of our industry.
As we consider all the places we are
trying to stretch our limited dollars, I know the last thing you
all want is an added entry to the expense column. The
reality, however, is that regulatory barriers could dash the
hopes and dreams we all share for a thriving and prosperous
green roof industry. Stay tuned green roof fans; I’ll keep
you posted as we navigate the turbulent waters ahead.
The Green Roof Guy
The Roving Exhibitor
Kelly Luckett, President of Green Roof Blocks, is a frequent trade show exhibitor at greenroof and green building conferences, workshops & seminars. Look for this occasional column as it happens as result of his attendance - a quick snapshot of the event - like "reflections of a trade show exhibitor" or, The Roving Exhibitor. But sometimes it's not about exhibiting - he also roves around the country attending ASTM and other roofing and greenroof related organization meetings, so read his column to stay up to date!
Please feel free to send your comments about either this article or your personal take on each of these events, including photos to share and we'll post your experiences, too:
2007 in Review and 2008: A Year of Promise for the Green Roof Community
Hello once again green roof fans,
2007 is in the memory chest and baby 2008 has started crawling
towards what is sure to be an eventful year for green roof
enthusiasts. Let’s take a moment to look back on those
events of this past year that helped to shape our green roof
In March the Single Ply Roofing Industry (SPRI)
attempted to head off a building code change proposal submitted
to the International Code Council (ICC) by the National Roofing
Contractors Association (NRCA) that would require green roof
assemblies to meet the same wind and fire testing requirements
as any other roofing assembly. At an assembly of
stakeholders hosted by SPRI in Dallas, TX the NRCA refused to
retract the proposal citing a lack of cooperation to date from
the green roof industry and contending that the code change
timeline provided ample time for the green roof industry to
address the issue.
The few following months produced
little in the way of progress towards addressing the issue as
the green roof industry choose instead to attempt to fight the
measure at the ICC meeting. Despite these efforts, the
measure received unanimous approval and is slated to become part
of the International Building Code (IBC) in 2009. However,
the industry responded through the joint efforts of Green Roofs
for Healthy Cities (GRHC) and SPRI to draft wind and fire design
standards that will be submitted to the ICC in a proposal to
attach the standards, as a means of meeting the requirements, to
the newly adopted green roof building code.
is limited, we are making progress, the necessary processes are
underway, and we are optimistic that the standards will be
accepted by the ICC for 2009 publication of the new IBC.
Still troubling, there are those in the industry that still
don’t seam to "get it." At the GRHC Corporate Members
meeting in November, I addressed the group to present an update
of the process and an overview of the standards. While I
meticulously prepared for discussion of the specifics of the
standards, the session was mired by off point comments and
arguments as to whether wind and fire testing was necessary or
possible. As the discussion heated and appeared to be
speeding towards the brink of the unproductive abyss, GRHC
founder Steven Peck came to my rescue. To paraphrase what
Steven said to the group, "The ship has sailed for arguing for
or against testing. The code change has been adopted and
if we cannot get these standards completed and accepted by the ICC, testing will become mandatory, whether possible or not. Everyone has been given the opportunity to get involved and participate in the process; those of you who took a pass in the first few rounds can make your voices heard through GRHC by emailing Kelly." That was over two months ago and I have yet to be contacted by anyone.
Another issue that is poised to spell trouble for the green roof industry is our failure to convey realistic expectations to the public about green roof maintenance. I can’t tell you how many articles I have read claiming that green roofs never need watering and that they require no maintenance. Nothing will kill the green roof movement quicker than widespread catastrophic failures. Yet, almost daily I hear these misconceptions echoed by building owners and architects.
To give you one example, we (Green Roof Blocks) installed just over two acres of green roof modules at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago this past year. Just as we were getting started, we were informed that the irrigation system that had been specified by the project designers had been eliminated because someone convinced the owners it was unnecessary. It has been widely accepted by the green roof industry that supplemental irrigation throughout the establishment phase of a green roof is often necessary and sometime critical for the long term success of the green roof. We could have rolled the dice and hoped that Mother Nature provided rain two to three times a week for the first six to eight weeks and then one inch of rain per month thereafter. The size of this particular green roof, however, would have us shelling out a quarter million dollars to replace 96,000 square feet of plant material if we were wrong.
Instead, we held firm and insisted that the $25,000 irrigation system be added to our contract. We were willing to walk away from the project, which indicated to the owner that we truly believed the irrigation system to be an absolute necessity. Our conviction impressed upon them the possibility that future drought conditions could kill the green roof plants. They approved the installation of the irrigation system which was allowed to run for ninety days and is now disconnected, but will remain in place as insurance against drought related catastrophic plant failure.
Now don’t get me wrong, we have many green roof installations without irrigation systems, and in fact, this is the case with most of our green roofs. The point is this: I never have a conversation about green roof maintenance without saying, “We provide drought tolerant plants, but there is no such thing as a drought proof plant.” As an industry, we have to do a better job dispelling the myth. If you are one of the green roof professionals using the term never needs irrigation or you are on the receiving end of these words, you are playing with fire.
The Roving Exhibitor participated in regional conference Greening The Heartland, hosted this year by Madison, WI; the ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo in San Francisco; and Greenbuild 2007, held this year in the new expansion of the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. Greening The Heartland was a small conference and produced little traffic for the exhibitors during the tradeshow hours. As the ASLA Annual Meeting is a much larger conference, expectations were much higher regarding traffic through the exhibit hall. Our expectation proved too high, however, as the number of people visiting exhibits fell far short of the number of attendees registered for the conference. Conversations with some conference delegates seamed to indicate problems with the conference layout with limited time between educational sessions and the distance from the sessions to the exhibit hall. Some felt there was little new to see at the tradeshow that was not also available in industry trade magazines and through the internet.
Then there was the conference that continues to be the pinnacle in tradeshow exhibition, Greenbuild. The 2007 conference hosted over 22,000 registered attendees with thousands more utilizing passes to the exhibit hall that were circulated by the exhibitors. Each event of the conference was filled to capacity and the exhibition hall was continuously full. There was no down time for exhibitors between sessions and the host had to dim the lights at the end of the exhibit hall hours to get the attendees to allow the exhibitors leave for the night. The number of attendees interested and the media attention given to the green roof exhibitors would seem to indicate the prominent position the green roof concept continues to hold in the green building movement. The marriage has been good for both, as the public statement of the green roof continues to overshadow most other green building strategies and the green roof industry continues to grow within green construction.
To these other 2007 green roof happenings that, in the sake of brevity, are receiving short shrift, my sincere apologies. GRHC secured financial sponsorship from Tremco Incorporated to develop the Green Roof Lifecycle Cost Calculator. Phase one of this impressive effort is available online and future phases will be added as the technology advances to add other functions including energy modeling. Early last year GRHC convened a group of green roof experts from various sectors of the industry to develop the Professional Green Roof Accreditation Program. The Roving Exhibitor took part in the two day project to define the skill set required to earn the accredited designation. In the months following we worked in committee to develop the testing model. Our work will continue with hopes of rolling out the program in the next eighteen months.
The City of Chicago committed to continue into 2008 offering both the $5,000 grants for residential and small commercial green roof projects, and the $100,000 matching funds grants for larger commercial green roof projects.
The Green Roof Environmental Evaluation Network (G.R.E.E.N.) saw two of the researchers complete their projects and successfully complete their thesis defenses. Congratulations are in order for Krista Forrester, Sam Kaufman, and their program director, Dr. Bill Retzlaff.
Let’s conclude "2007 in Review" by remembering just a few of the people to whom we have said goodbye. The Green Grid family suffered the untimely loss of Sandra McCullough at the very beginning of the year. I had the pleasure of working with Sandy on some industry committees. She was smart and funny and her passion for green roofs will be sorely missed. Also from the Green Grid family, the founder of ABC Supply Company, Ken Hendricks, fell through the roof during a construction project at his home and sustained fatal injuries. Those of us in roofing industry recognize ABC Supply as one of the first roofing suppliers with national presence. Ken’s vision of moving roofing supply beyond local supply houses, from stabilizing pricing to maintaining reliable availability, raised the bar for the supply business and made life easier for thousands of roofing and siding contractors across the country.
Our country said goodbye to First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson. Though not directly connected with the green roof industry, the first class team of researchers conducting green roof research at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center continues to honor the name of this great American. And finally, it was a difficult year for the Green Roof Blocks family as we lost my younger brother, Casey Luckett, in March and we lost my wife’s father, Gene Dabbs, a couple days after Christmas. While these individuals were not involved within the green roof industry, I must acknowledge that tragedies as well as triumphs shape who we are, emerge through our work, and, in some small part, shape those around us as well.
Just as 2007 made good on the promise of reaching new heights, 2008 is sure to hold even more promise for the green roof community. My resolution is to work even harder to strike a balance between work and play. Well green roof fans, this concludes my final column of 2007. From my family to yours, have a prosperous, healthy, and Happy New Year!
The Roving Exhibitor
Sweeping Changes Coming to the North American Green Roof Industry
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
Hello again, green roof fans. While two national conferences took place in late spring that the Roving Exhibitor was planning to chronicle for you, the
Fifth Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference and the 2007 American Institute of Architects National Conference, an issue has come to light that could bring wide sweeping changes to the green roof industry in North America. Rather than discuss the conferences at the moment, I would like to take this opportunity to bring you all up to speed on these latest developments.
Early this year, the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) announced a plan to submit a proposed change to the International Building Code requiring green roofs to meet the same requirements for wind uplift and fire testing as all other roofing systems and materials. The International Code Council (ICC) met this spring and unanimously approved the proposal and it will be adopted into the International Building Code in 2009. Up to the present, there has been no testing of any green roof system for wind uplift or flammability. What’s more, there currently are no standards to conduct the testing necessary to meet the requirements of the new building code. This measure effectively places all green roof installations at odds with the International Building Code, which governs construction of most everything built in the free world.
There are some interesting back stories regarding a clash of personalities between some in the long established roofing industry and some in the younger green roof industry. While there may be some debate as to what steps may or may not have been taken to bring these two sides together, whether the roofing industry is guilty of overreaching, or the green roof industry is guilty of inaction, one thing is abundantly clear: the green roof industry is guilty of being painfully unaware of the processes by which construction standards are developed in this part of the world.
Taking a position that the green roof industry had largely ignored concerns that liability for a wind or fire related green roof catastrophe would fall to NRCA member roofing contractors, the NRCA took full advantage of their longstanding involvement in building code development to protect their members using the building code. The Single Ply Roofing Industry (SPRI) invited stakeholders from the green roof and roofing industry to meet in Dallas prior to the ICC meeting to discuss the issues of wind and fire testing. It was concluded that there was a definite need for some standards of green roof construction within the building code but absent testing methodology from
ASTM, which may be many years away, it was agreed that a prescriptive standard detailing green roof construction in terms wind uplift and fire resistance could serve to guide the industry and relieve the roofing contractors of the perceived liability.
At the conclusion of the SPRI meeting, representatives of NRCA were requested to delay the building code change proposal until such a standard could be developed. Sighting the 18 month delay between the approval of the proposal and the final adoption of the measure in 2009, the NRCA’s position was there was ample time to develop a standard prior to the 2009 publishing date and therefore, refused to withdraw their proposal.
This matter dominated conversation during the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ (GRHC) corporate members committee meeting (of which my company, Green Roof Blocks, is a member) at the Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference in May. A committee was struck to develop a strategy to keep the measure from becoming a restrictive barrier to future green roofs. Through several conference call meetings, the committee developed a plan of action involving several GRHC representatives attending the ICC meeting to oppose the measure through the public comment portion of the code change review process. This effort proved futile and as I previously stated, the measure received unanimous approval.
Since SPRI had already committed to developing a pair of prescriptive standards, the fall back plan then became to partner with SPRI to develop one standard detailing how to construct green roofs to meet wind uplift requirements similar to those in place for traditional roofing systems and another standard addressing the fire concerns.
To get the ball rolling, I drafted two standards using a combination of material from the existing Factory Mutual Green Roof Guidelines (you can buy it here: FM Global's Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 1-35: Green Roof Systems, updated 1.07). Its 26-pages include Scope, Loss Prevention Recommendations, and Support for Recommendations, the FLL (English) Guidelines For Green Roof Construction and Maintenance, and the some of the work in progress from the ASTM Green Roof Committee. These draft standards were circulated among several members of GRHC and SPRI for comment. The draft standard for wind uplift was overhauled and rolled into a new document that parallels the existing roofing wind uplift standard RP-4 by Dick Gillenwater of Carlisle. This new draft was then circulated among some members of GRHC and SPRI for additional comments. Both drafts were revised to reflect most of the comments and submitted to SPRI for review during their recent August meeting held in Provenance, RI.
The group that had met with SPRI members in Dallas, now designated as the Green Roof Coalition, convened once again to review the draft standards at the Provenance SPRI meeting. The twenty member panel poured over every detail of the two standards, revising until we emerged with two standards capable of initiating the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) review process. The ANSI review process entails identifying a canvas field of experts and stakeholders who agree to review and comment on the two standards. This field of reviewers submits their comments to the Green Roof Coalition who must then revise the standard to address all comments. The revised standards must then be re-circulated among the same reviewers for additional comments, which must be addressed through further revisions. This process continues until there is a consensus among reviewers on the final versions of each standard. This is a process that typically requires many months to complete.
In our case, we have about two months to have completed the ANSI process so that the new standards can be submitted to the ICC at their February 2008 meeting. The two new ANSI standards could then be added to the NRCA’s code change proposal that was approved last spring and would become the new building code to be published in 2009.
The new standards will undoubtedly change how green roofs are constructed in North America. The current form of the standards includes some new restrictions based on accepted roofing practice and common sense. Not everyone will be happy with the new rules, which is typically the case with such change. However, the green roof industry has been flying under the code enforcement radar for quite some time. The American construction industry is heavily regulated, providing uniform building standards the insurance industry and construction financers can rely upon. This necessary step is likely just the beginning of the growing pains this young industry is destined for.
Pioneers of the industry may be left behind as the maturing process continues and new players emerge to take green roofs into the mainstream of American construction. Some of us may need to reinvent ourselves to remain on the new stage. One thing is certain, the green roof business is not static and like the plants we cultivate, it changes in concert with nature, constantly evolving to meet the needs of an ever changing marketplace.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Green Roofs Go Primetime
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
Photos by Kelly Luckett, unless otherwise noted
The air date has been set for Sunday, October 28 at 8 Eastern and 7 Central! See the all new Green Extreme Makeover Home Edition: One Boy Saves His Family. Six people headed up by a single mom, her innovative teenage son, two daughters, including one with asthma, and two grandchildren living together in a trailer on a Navajo reservation with no running water, but still living in the Navajo Way, which means sustainable living on the land, in accordance with the principles of Mother Earth.
Ty Pennington and his team of design professionals give the Yazzie family an exceptional home which treads lightly on the Earth - using solar and wind power, and greenroofs, too! See how they employed two modular systems, Green Roof Blocks and Green Paks, as elements of living architecture which honors the Earth and the Navajo Way. See the ABC Extreme Makeover - Home Edition website here and also on
Hello again, green roof fans. Though it has been a quiet winter for tradeshows and exhibitions for the Roving Exhibitor, spring has sprung and I have most exciting news to report: About two weeks ago I received a phone call from a television producer from the ABC network. She wanted to know if we would be interested in supplying Green Roof Blocks for Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Do we want to do a green roof that will be viewed by over 15 million people? Hmm, let me think
The crew in blue of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
The next phone call came from the project manager - it was then I was informed that the project was a residence to be built in Piñon, Arizona, Navajo County, Navajo Nation, northeast of Flagstaff for a single mother and her children. The family had little or no heat, no running water, and no indoor plumbing, and their outhouse was situated away from their home. I was about to learn more.
All I could think of when I heard them say "Arizona" was images of tumble weeds blowing across the desert floor. I discussed by way of speaker phone, with what appeared to be a room full of people, the weight of the saturated green roof and the hydration needs of the plants. After tossing around ideas about rainwater harvesting to irrigate the plants; they could add guttering to the project and we could supply some Rainwater Solutions rain barrels (www.rainwatersolutions.com), the construction team agreed that the first hurdle to clear was the weight factor. They said they would review the structural drawings with the engineers and get back to me.
The host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Ty Pennington, on site, after demolition, pre-construction.
The phone call came the next day around 4:00 pm. The voice on the other end said somberly that the structure would not support the added weight of the green roof. He said they might build a shed to house the hot water tank that perhaps could use a small quantity of Green Roof Blocks. I disappointedly hung up the phone and began to rationalize that it wasnt meant to be. However, the phone rang again at 9:00 pm.
This time the voice was upbeat and so was the news. The producers of the show insisted on finding a way to include the green roof on the residence. I was informed that the engineer was working to find a way include the green roof and would let us know definitively the following day. After a very long twelve hours the phone rang once again. By now I recognized the number to be the project manager calling. I nervously answered to hear the news. The answer was Yes, the engineer determined there to be three gables on the front of the structure that would indeed support the saturated weight of the green roof.
As the initial high subsided, we began to identify the many challenges facing us. The show was filming in ten days and the producers needed a mature green roof on the day of the shoot. We keep some planted Green Roof Blocks on hand for the occasional small project but since we did not know how big the roof areas were, our first hurdle was to calculate the roof area to determine if we had enough product. The project would require 180 of the 200 Green Roof Blocks we had at the greenhouse. Next was the matter of transporting 180 Green Roof Blocks, some 9,000 pounds of growth media, and live plants nearly 1,500 miles. Since some recent experiences with common carriers proved that mode of transportation less than reliable, we decided to drive the material ourselves in a rented truck.
Finally, the roof slope on one of the gables was 26 degrees. Green Roof Blocks have been tested on lesser slopes but 26 degrees would require some means to keeping the modules from sliding off of the roof. We decided to fasten the handles together using stainless steel draw bands allowing the Blocks on opposite sides of the ridge to counterbalance each other. Armed with a plan for which we felt confident, we set out for Arizona. Regarding the final irrigation plan, we decided to input the coordinates of the project in our plant health alert system, and the owners will water the plants using the water from the rain barrels when they receive the alert from us.
The St. Louis Metalworks Company Entourage in the Arizona desert.
Our green roof team, made up of my partner Mike Crowell, his wife and their 7 year old triplets, my wife Trish and my daughter Shannon, our greenhouse owner, Vic Jost, and fellow contributing editor,
Dr. Bill Retzlaff, assembled in Flagstaff, Arizona. When we showed up Sunday morning, just four days after bulldozing the familys old home, we found a standing structure complete with shingle roofing. The wind howled terribly the entire day with gusts up to 45 miles per hour.
Placement of the Green Roof Blocks on the steep roof.
The installation, nevertheless, went off without a hitch. Designer Paul Di Meo helped position Green Roof Blocks for the camera while discussing the some of the benefits the green roof would be providing for the project.
The local medicine man, Georgia Yazzies older brother, gave his blessing for the new dwelling. The general contractor, HomeLife Communities, supplied a dedicated extending forklift and operator for hoisting the Green Roof Blocks to the rooftop, and volunteers fed us and looked after our every need. We were fortunate enough to be invited to return to the home for the presentation to the family.
Left: Watering of the Green Paks to keep the hot water tank cool;
Right: One "green" hot water tank building.
Thirty Green Paks were also applied on the hot water tank, as shown above. The atmosphere was charged with excitement as the film crew spent the early afternoon staging shots and rehearsing for the big moment.
Left: 4.17.07, Trish and Shannon Luckett and friends; Right: Ty and guests waiting for the bus, 4.17.07; Photos by Kelly Luckett.
The anxious crowd is waiting for the
Move That Bus moment...
Ty Pennington and his designers posed for photos with the construction team and with the crowd of over 70 volunteers, Navajo Nation friends and family who gathered for the Move That Bus moment. After much anticipation the white limo pulled up with the Yazzie family, the film crew made final preparations, and at last the moment arrived...
Left: Designer Paul Di Meo (in glasses) and design team hosts waiting in the desert sun, Photo: Kelly Luckett; Right: Georgia Yazzie and her children with Ty; Photo Source: ABC15.com Reporter Jenn Burgess's WebXtra Blog 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' comes to Arizona
Photo Credit : Jeff the photojournalist.
The bus pulled away and there stood Ty with mom Georgia Yazzie and her children as they first laid eyes on their new home. You could hear a pin drop as Ty pointed out the solar panels, wind turbine, and the green roof. The crowd was overwhelmed and there wasnt a dry eye to be found among us.
One final view of the green site for the Yazzie family in the Navajo Nation.
Were not certain of the broadcast date at this time, though we have heard some speculation about a two-hour special for the season finale or perhaps even the fall premier. This was Extreme Makeover Home Editions first green project, and with sun tracking solar panels, solar heat and hot water, all LED interior lighting, wind turbine, green roof, and a host of other environmentally responsible building strategies, there will be quite a bit more of the actual building to discuss than is covered in the typical one-hour episode.
Dont worry green roof fans; you can be certain well let you know when this episode will air. Until then, tune in weekly to see all of the great work Ty and his friends are doing; Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Sundays, 8/7c on ABC.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
* Publisher's Note: Read ABC15.com Reporter Jenn Burgess' WebXtra Blog on the Navajo Nation family's new home in 'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition' comes to Arizona, for her in-depth journaling at the scene including many photos of the emotions, hard work, and joy of the entire Piñon experience. Jenn talks about the native landscape of grasslands that give way to terra cotta-colored cliffs dotted with green brush. She also delves into Navajo dwelling traditions and placement of built structures, and among other topics touches on the reverence and significance of the feminine in native architecture, and Hogans, in particular. You will also find Video! See the project profile in The Greenroof Projects Database here.
The Greenbuild 2006 International Conference and Expo
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
All Photos by Kelly Luckett
Hello once again, Green Roof Fans. This exhibitor closed the 2006 tradeshow season with "The Mother of All Green Building Conferences": Greenbuild, hosted this year by the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado. I could not have asked for a better ending to the year. It seems like only yesterday when conference delegates stood before me with inquisitive looks on their faces asking, Whats a green roof and why would I want one?
The Greenbuild 2006 International Conference and Expo, Denver, Colorado
Well, let me tell you, there is a new breed of educated green roof enthusiasts combing the floors of tradeshows looking for specific products and information. Seldom are the questions about rudimentary green roof functions and purposes - I now find myself fielding questions about green roof details like growth media saturation weights, plant palate specifics, lead times, and storm water retention data. These are educated consumers that know the benefits of the green roofing concept. Now they need the tools to incorporate green roofs into their projects.
I find most architects I speak with to be huge green roof fans. They look to green roof professionals to arm them with the ammunition they need to convince their clients that the green roof is a sound investment. They want to know the first cost, hidden costs, and ongoing maintenance costs. They want to know which LEED points the green roof will help capture and if there are any incentives or tax relief to help recoup the cost. Some are developing in areas where stormwater runoff restrictions exist and they want the data to submit to the regional planners and code enforcement officials. And, of course, they all want to know what the energy savings will be, so they can calculate the return on their clients green roof investment. While most of us in the green roof industry can practically recite most of this information from memory, the energy savings derived from installing a green roof remains illusive.
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities has two committees working concurrently to help the industry provide information to the design community.
There is good news to report, however. Green Roofs for Healthy Cities has two committees working concurrently to help the industry provide this information to the design community: While one committee is working to evaluate the energy performance modeling tool, another is developing a lifecycle cost analysis tool that will help determine the return on investment by quantifying a broad range of tangible and intangible green roof financial attributes. Phase one of the lifecycle cost analysis tool is due out in April. Phase one will produce the structure of the Excel based worksheet and will use placeholders for areas of the program still under development. These items were among those discussed at the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities corporate members meeting held in one of the meeting areas just before the Greenbuild Opening Ceremonies.
Fellow Exhibitor Janet Faust of JDR Enterprises.
A shot with fellow exhibitor and GRHC Member American Hydrotech, with Steve Skinner.
Conversations with the corporate members during and after the conference revealed similar impressions of the tradeshow traffic, quality of the sales leads, and the venue; it was great! I didnt have one negative comment from anyone; exhibitor or delegate. The educational presentations were poignant and well attended. Tradeshow traffic was outstanding. And the city of Denver truly rolled out the red carpet, including unseasonably warm and sunny weather for a few of the days.
Mrs. Roving Exhibitor and I lived in Denver about 15 years ago and we were excited to get back and see all that has improved. The 16th street Mall was especially impressive. This blighted area of downtown Denver has been transformed into a very cool outdoor mall with an interesting blend of boutique and big box retailers. The shops are situated along each side of a divided street that has a sprawling landscaped median with park benches and various pedestrian amenities that stretch its entire 16 block length. After lunch at the Cheese Cake Factory, we walked off some calories and shopped for souvenirs.
"Mrs. Roving Exhibitor" at the Green Roof Blocks/Green Paks Booth at Greenbuild 2006.
So, Green Roof Fans, as we say so long to 2006 and we start setting our goals for 2007, lets try to remember to be good tenants of the planet because our lease is short and the next generation will appreciate the nice green carpet on that top floor.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
The ASLA 2006 Annual Meeting and EXPO
and the 43rd IFLA World Congress
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
Hello again Green Roof Fans! While the green roof planting season may be winding down, the green roof market is heating up. Designers, contractors, and building owners all seem to be on an incessant quest for green roof information and price quotations for future projects. There certainly was no shortage of inquiring minds at the
American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2006 Annual Meeting and EXPO and 43rd International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) World Congress hosted on October 610, 2006 by the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Delegates came from all across the U.S. and all over the world to share their expertise and to learn from their colleagues from China, France, Colombia, Germany, Sweden, Mauritius, Spain, Canada and more. Green building principles and sustainability permeated discussions throughout the week. Chicagos Mayor Daley spoke about his efforts to make his city the greenest community in the United States.
Ed Snodgrass made a presentation on green roofs and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities presented two instructional green roof courses. And there was a continuous buzz among the delegates about the new green roof on the ASLA Headquarters in Washington, DC.
This is the first time Green Roof Blocks
exhibited at the ASLA meeting. The 2005 meeting was
hosted by Fort Lauderdale so when we were planning our
exhibition schedule for 2006, I remember thinking “Fort
Lauderdale in October? It’s a tough gig, but
somebody’s got to do it.” You can imagine my
disappointment when I was informed that this years meeting would have me traveling in the opposite direction. One conjures visions of late August snow falls when thinking about Minnesota. To my surprise the weather was sunny with balmy 70 degree temperatures.
The convention center here is bordered by incredible displays of landscape architecture on both public and private properties. As I took in a bit of the city, I couldnt help but to be impressed by the greenery that abounded from hanging baskets, adorned the sidewalk in planter boxes, and draped the building walls.
Minneapolis is eager to continue this citywide focus on green space to the rooftops, and the city will host the annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show next spring to further promote the green roof concept in the region. Some of our green roof family gathered after the conference for some relaxation at a pub where the locals were enjoying lawn bowling on one of American Hydrotechs green roof projects. We enjoyed each others company and discussed the green roof business, and the general consensus was that this market continues to expand. I was a little surprised, as I walked the exhibit floor, by the absence of some of the faces I have become accustomed to seeing at such exhibitions.
The landscape architect plays a significant role in many of the green roof projects with which we are involved, and I found those in attendance to be keenly interested in the green roof concept and many who requested information from me said they were currently involved with a green roof project. While I tend to focus on the functionality of the green roof, I suspect landscape architects will help our industry find a marriage of form and function.
Thats all for now Green Roof Fans - my next stop, the 2006 Greenbuild Conference and Expo hosted this week in Denver, Colorado. Until the next roving experience, have a happy Thanksgiving!
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Publisher's Note: Read all about Green Minneapolis in the article, "Beacon of Art: Minneapolis, host city for the 2006 ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo" from the May 2006 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine here (PDF). For more info about the American Society of Landscape Architects, please visit the ASLA website, and for the International Federation of Landscape Architects please visit the IFLA website.
The AIA National Convention and G.R.E.E.N.'s first Green Roof Symposium
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
All Photos by Linda S. Velazquez
Hello once again green roof fans. Summer is winding down, the green roof market is heating up, and the Roving Exhibitor has been roving! Between the ball games and barbeques there was quite a bit of activity to report so Ill get right to it.
I kicked summer off in June at the 138th AIA (American Institute of Architects) National Convention held this year in sunny Los Angeles. This was a first class event on every level. Discounted airfare was provided for delegates and exhibitors; a first for this exhibitor. Blocks of rooms at area hotels were complimented by efficient shuttle service to and from the event. The exhibit hall was decked out with every amenity. But most impressive was the trade show traffic.
The format was typical of most conference tradeshows holding breakout sessions concurrent to tradeshow hours. So, I was expecting some idle time during sessions. I was mistaken. A crowd of designers gathered at the tradeshow entrance waiting to be allowed into the exhibit hall. Once security declared the hall open, the flood of visitors to the exhibits was overwhelming. I dont typically utilize the scanners that are available to gather visitor information because I dont make cold calls and I dont like sending correspondence that resembles junk mail. At the last minute, however, something made me decide to give the scanner a try, and how that scanner saved my butt! Within minutes of the hall opening I had architects lined up at my booth four deep handing their badges over the top of the people in front of them for me to scan. I was alone in the booth, a mistake I wont make next year, and the scanner was the only way I could have kept up with the hectic pace of delegate traffic.
During the three day exhibition I distributed over 1500 brochures before running out and I scanned 467 architects requesting information. The last day of the show I actually stayed in my booth speaking with designers and scanning badges for about an hour after the exhibit hall lights were shut down.
On June 29th the
Green Roof Environmental Evaluation Network (G.R.E.E.N.) held our first Green Roof Symposium in Edwardsville, IL. Visitors came from nearby cities like Chicago and Kansas City, and from cities as far away as New York.
Ed Snodgrass of Emory Knoll Farms (Greenroofs.com's own
Ask Ed) was the Keynote Speaker. Ed Jarger and Bill Schaefer from American Hydrotech came to present a case study breakout session and to help introduce the green roof basics. Mr. Jarger presented the anatomy of a green roof and I followed up with an introduction to the modular approach. Mike Curry of Midwest Trading and Grace Koehler of Midwest Groundcover presented a breakout session on green roof soil formulation and plant selections being utilized in Chicago Land. Greenroofs.com's Publisher, Linda Velazquez, helped kick the event off with a state of the industry presentation and then presented a case study on one of her projects in Atlanta, and closed with a demonstration of the new international Greenroof Projects Database.
Left: Ed Snodgrass, the Keynote Speaker at the 2006 G.R.E.E.N. Green Roof Symposium chatting at the reception; Right: The G.R.E.E.N. test plots atop the roof of the SIUE Engineering Building.
Other speakers included the Dean of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the stormwater engineer for the City of OFallon, IL, a representative from the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District, and yours truly, who presented a breakout session on structural engineering for green roofs that I borrowed from a symposium Dr. Bill Hunt had hosted previously in Raleigh, NC.
The G.R.E.E.N. Test Field Site with Monitoring Equipment at the
SIUE Environmental Sciences Program field facility.
The G.R.E.E.N. research team presented the latest data of each of the green roof research projects and the guests were treated to a tour of the stormwater research site. Tabletop exhibits were provided by Rooflite, Buildex, American Hydrotech, St. Louis Retaining Wall, and of course Green Roof Blocks.
The months of July and August were quiet on the exhibition front but we were busy installing another green roof at Carnegie Mellon University, preparing a project for Bank of America in Chicago, and launching our first privately funded Green Paks project for Cook + Fox Architects in Manhattan. As I write this column I am returning from China where I met with our team to continue to expand our presence there. When my feet hit the ground again in the United States my focus will be on a project we are doing in Chicago for one of Mayor Daleys green roof grant recipients.
My next exhibition stop is in Minneapolis in October for the
2006 American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting & EXPO and 43rd IFLA World Congress. Until then, green roof fans, think green - be green!
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
The Fourth Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
Hello once again Green roof Fans. To kick off spring 2006 the green roof industry came together in Boston last month for the fourth annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities. Ever notice how family reunions seem to bring out the very best and the absolute worst in people at the very same time? Well the green roof family isnt much different. I wasnt ten minutes into unpacking my display material, and a fellow exhibitor was giving me an earful about the cost of doing business. That theme was echoed over the next several days as I interviewed exhibitors and conference delegates. Though the green roof industry is growing by leaps and bounds, most of us are still pumping way more money into our businesses than we are getting out. Like that rich uncle that everyone likes to lash out at, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities was the target of some critical comments. I shared some of your comments with founder Steven Peck this week to get his take on the conference, the tradeshow, and membership in the Green Roofs For Healthy Cities organization.
Steven was actually surprised by some of the criticisms, stating that the feedback he had gotten was all positive. I guess thats understandable. I mean, who of us tells the host as were walking out the front door, Great party but the music and the bean dip sucked. Tantamount to asking your Aunt Agnes how she is feeling, my asking exhibitors about GRHC seemed to elicit an onslaught of sentiments. All of us are under a great deal of pressure to produce results for our investment in this emerging market. Unfortunately, tangible returns on your marketing investment in the green roof business can come many years down the road. The architect you meet today at the tradeshow may specify your product on a project that will be ready for a green roof in the year 2009.
As we examine our profit and loss statements to see where all of the money is going, we tend to take aim at big ticket items like membership fees and tradeshow costs. To questions regarding high membership fees and tradeshow costs Steven Peck said, We are keenly aware of the need to give as much value as we can to exhibitors and delegates. He is quick to point out that there were extended hours for the trade show this year and the new format did not have the trade show competing for the same hours as the breakout sessions. The new format allowed exhibitors the opportunity to attend breakout sessions and provided ample time for delegates to leisurely browse the tradeshow. I loved the new format though there were some comments about long days. Steven indicated some tweaking will address that issue for next year. Steven also pointed out that this was the largest conference to date with over 850 participants. All of the exhibitors I spoke with enjoyed the focused group of delegates and were pleasantly surprised by the tradeshow traffic. There were some comments about the need to get more architects and trades people into the tradeshow.
The intangible returns on our marketing investments can come without us even noticing. Greater attendance numbers to our annual conference mean that interest in the green roof market is expanding. Steven is pleased to announce that the conference resulted in moving the market in the city of Boson forward with commitments for stormwater funding for green roofs. This kind of governmental support for the green roof concept will hopefully lead to more communities like Chicago, the Holy Grail of green roof market share.
Another subtle governmental policy that could have a huge impact on our sales numbers is the new Internal Revenue Service Deduction for Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings announced June 2nd of this year. Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the IRS will allow deductions up to $1.80 per square foot for buildings that achieve a 50-percent energy savings target. The new IRS announcement states that owners can qualify for deductions up to $.60 per square foot for buildings that only achieve a 16.66-percent energy saving target. The Department of Energy will provide a list of approved software that can be used to calculate energy savings for the purpose of certification. It will likely have us in the green roof industry scrambling to fit green roofs into these modeling tools, whether through assumed R-factor or through rooftop heat gain calculations. Mayor Daley has shown us that supportive policy generates far more sales than marketing. It is absolutely critical that we continue to press policy makers to include green roofs in the language of storm water management and energy policies throughout the country.
Furthermore, we need to press for more research into storm water, heat island, and energy benefits of green roofs. Accurate, replicated research data will go a long way to help our family validate the use of the green roof products we promote.
Finally, there was some jousting among our family in terms of achievement and recognition. There were some comments made by some visitors to my booth about conflicting information given by competing exhibitors. In a competitive market place we are all working hard to set ourselves apart from our competitors. My blood used to just boil every time I heard, Youre nothing like your brothers? I wanted nothing more than to break free from those family bonds and establish my own identity. Until, of course, somebody challenged a member of that family. Suddenly there were no differences between us. You were now in a battle with us all. Likewise, when one of us did something good, it hoisted the entire family up and the interfamily competition didnt seem as important.
So within our green roof family, a little friendly jousting is just good fun; My website had more hits than yours last month, We installed more square footage of green roof, Our company grossed the most sales, and Mom told me you were adopted. Let us be clear about one thing though, our hopes for the green roof industry live and die together and all of our successes and failures reflect on the entire family.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
The 50th Annual CSI Show & Convention
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
All Photos by Kelly Luckett
About the middle of March an architect from Las Vegas emailed me about a mid-rise building they were designing and wanted to know if a green roof would survive the desert climate. I refer such plant questions to my friend and horticultural advisor, Vic Jost. I knew the first thing Vic was going to ask was if the project would have an irrigation system so I posed that question to the architect before making the call to Vic. The answer was Yes, they were designing the project with an automated drip irrigation system. When I spoke with Vic he felt as long as we were irrigating it should be possible to do the green roof. But before we committed to anything he wanted to call some perennial grower associates in Las Vegas and get their help with a plant selection list.
Several days went by as I waited to hear from Vic and his friends from the desert. The timing for this project was curious because I was getting ready to travel to Las Vegas for the national Construction Specifications Institute tradeshow. I was even kind of jazzed about the prospect of having a local project I could discuss with the tradeshow delegates.
The day before my flight, however, I got a rather disturbing phone call from Vic. It seemed his friends in Las Vegas were in disagreement about the feasibility of getting plants to live in the full desert sun. One grower told Vic that he could not get any sedum to survive at grade without afternoon shade, let alone on a roof. While another grower felt as Vic did that as long as the plants were irrigated they would do just fine. The last thing I want to hear when I am designing a green roof project is that the plant professionals on whom I rely for expert advice are at odds about the viability of the project! I really didnt want this uncertainty while I was headed to Las Vegas to speak with a few hundred architects and specification writers. I like having answers to the questions and I dont like surprises. But here I was headed to the desert armed only with two out three growers recommend
An American Hydrotech associate stopped by my booth to chat and I asked him about their experience. It seems they have yet to do a green roof in such a climate though he heard there are a couple in existence. He said it will likely to take some failures before the industry determines how to design green roofs for the desert. He suggested it would be nice if I took one for the team and produced the first catastrophic failure. Though we were teasing, he was right. As an industry we need to get some testing going in these arid climates that so desperately need the green roof concept to help address serious runoff and heat island problems.
Some of the usual tradeshow suspects were also with us at CSI in Las Vegas:
Left: The Green Roof Blocks booth; Right: Dennis Yanez of American Hydrotech
Left: The Henry booth; Right: ER Systems
Las Vegas isnt the only region looking at green roofs and wondering if the solution to some of their environmental problems lies within. Phoenix, New Mexico, Southern California, and parts of Texas are all in the same boat. One problem is the lack of cohesion within the industry. We shroud our failures in secrecy while they are celebrated by our competitors. Green roof research, though increasing, seems to be isolated and largely proprietary. Though this business model has worked well for other industries, it does a disservice to ours.
Green roofs are still too expensive, which makes the stakes too high to gamble with a building owners money. The green roof industry seems to be taking a play it safe approach. This is understandable since nobody wants to be associated with failure and who of us can afford to loose money on a grand scale? Perhaps the way to wade into the unknown is as a group. We can start by sharing information. Who knows where we could go from there. We might even co-sponsor some research projects that would provide all of us with some answers. We all need to come to terms with one unavoidable fact: Every green roof sold makes it a little easier to sell another, and every green roof failure makes it a little more difficult to sell the next one.
At this embryonic stage, our industry clearly has some common enemies. Mother Nature is out front while rising fuel cost and instability within the expanded aggregate market trail closely behind. We need cheaper growth media and a better understanding of the plant life we are working with. We need to take a serious look at leaching and explore contaminant fixers. We need to be able to tell consumers what they can realistically expect from green roof installation in terms of energy savings and storm water runoff reduction. Once weve found some answers and worked some of these bugs out of the green roof concept we can all get back to the business of back stabbing and playing hardball.
Oh Yeah, this column is supposed to be about the CSI Show. You may recall last year I wrote that the CSI show at McCormick Place in Chicago was one of the best attended tradeshows Ive seen. I was also a huge fan of the conference format separating the tradeshow hours from the education sessions. This year the format was the same; education sessions ended at noon and the exhibit floor hours followed from 12:30 to 4:30. Though the total number of delegates to the conference increased over last year, the traffic at the tradeshow seemed a little light.
Now dont get me wrong, I spent three days engaged in conversations with a lot of people who were genuinely interested in the green roof concept, some from as far away as Hawaii and Australia. But comparatively it didnt hit the numbers we generated in terms of contacts and handouts at the Chicago show last year. Perhaps the reason was a combination of the format and the setting. In a city where there are slot machines in the neighborhood 7-11 convenience store, the closing statements of the morning education sessions had the same effect as a grade school recess bell. How are you going to get people into the tradeshow when the playground of all playgrounds beckons? This could also explain the rush of delegates speeding through the exhibit hall frantically gathering brochures during the final hours of the show.
The next stop for the Roving Exhibitor is Boston, Massachusetts for the 4th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards, & Trade Show. Until then, Green Roof Fans, enjoy the spring and keep building green!
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Raise The Green Roof Fundraiser and Other Worthy Events,
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
After two years of marketing the green roof concept, I have learned to carefully choose where to invest my companys time and resources. With new green building tradeshows and conferences springing up almost daily, its increasingly difficult to choose which events to participate in. In fact, its downright hard to say no. This year we had chosen to limit our tradeshows exhibitions to six. We are doing the top four: CSI, AIA, ASLA, and Green Build. We made our debut at the regional conference Greening the Heartland in 2004 so we like to do this conference for sentimental value, plus it helps support our local chapter of the USGBC. Though the Green Roofs For Sustainable Cities conference is not one of the best attended tradeshows, its a great to catch up with green roof industry friends, make some new friends, and check out new green roof products and technology.
I got out the laptop and plotted each date on my calendar. With no scheduling conflicts and the year planned out, I closed the calendar and opened my email. There it was - the invitation to exhibit in the annual Earth Day Festival. OK, I thought, one more event wouldnt break the bank. A couple days later came the invitation to participate in the regional Low Impact Development Symposium. After that was the Sierra Club Energy Festival, the Botanical Garden Green Building Expo, the Construction Expo, the Wichita Green Expo, Forest Park Forever, and about half a dozen more. With so many worthy events it wasnt long before my 2006 calendar looked a lot like 2005.
The future is green at Whitfield High School.
So when the students at the Whitfield High School called on me to set up my booth at their Raise The Green Roof fundraiser, I just couldnt say no. The students accompanied their teacher to the Earth Day Festival last spring where they gathered information and literature from the many exhibitors of green building products. I was flattered to hear that of all of the exhibited products the students were most excited by our green roof product. It seems each senior class engages in a major project to improve the school and to inspire future senior classes to keep pushing the bar higher. The graduating class of 2006 has decided to green a portion of the school rooftop. On a cold Saturday in January they held an open house to raise money for the project. T hey washed cars, sold organic snacks and cloth shopping bags, and a student rock and roll band performed in the school auditorium.
One by one the students brought their friends and family members to my table to explain what their efforts were purchasing. They beamed with pride as they explained how green roofs benefit the environment and why they had chosen this particular green roof system. As I spent the afternoon thoroughly entertained by the enthusiasm of these young men and women, I reflected on my own high school days. To us, saving the planet meant not lighting forest fires and pitch-in with our litter. You couldnt have dragged me onto school property with a team of oxen on a Saturday, let alone get me to spend my day off raising money for a school related anything.
What a long way we have come in 25 years. As consumers, we are demanding goods and services that reflect our environmental values, and industry is responding. Saving the planet is now a multi-billion dollar industry. Though I have heard recent skepticism about reducing our fossil fuel dependence, when I look at the commitment of these young people, I cant help but to be optimistic for a very green future.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
The Greenbuild 2005 International Conference and Expo
By Kelly Luckett , LEED AP
All Photos by Kelly Luckett
Hello once again Green Roof Fans. Though its been a while since my last report, the Roving Exhibitor has been busy. We returned to Beijing in September to establish Green Roof Blocks in China, and I managed to complete the journey without becoming the subject of an international incident. Our first Beijing project will be in place soon; keep an eye on the press releases. I also recently participated in several Watershed and Low Impact Development conferences. A driving force behind green roofs in the next decade will be storm water issues. The State of Illinois has just passed Bill 519 providing funding and mandates to address run off issues in selected counties including the Chicagoland and metro East St. Louis. The Metropolitan Sewer District of St. Louis is taking another run at implementing an impervious surface surcharge despite growing opposition by powerful lobbyists representing owners of properties containing vast amounts of impervious surfaces. It promises to be a hard fought battle that pits money against the environment.
Trish Luckett of Green Roof Blocks, 11.05
Now, I know what youre thinking, but before you assume that big money will steam roll over the environmental interest, let me tell you about an event that is rallying the troops for the environment: Greenbuild. The Greenbuild 2005 International Conference and Expo was held on November 9 - 11 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA.
Now in its fourth year, Greenbuild is presented annually by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a nonprofit coalition of more than 5,500 private companies, nonprofits and governmental agencies working to transform the building industry.
Throughout its 10-year history, the USGBC has been at the forefront of green building - introducing the LEED Green Building Rating System in 2000 and launching Greenbuild in 2002.
A local marching band opened the Awards Ceremony at The Tabernacle.
The 2005 Greenbuild Expo was hosted by the city of Atlanta, Georgia, and with over 500 exhibitors and nearly 10,000 delegates, this years expo was the most successful environmental awareness gathering to date. The educational sessions covered green building issues ranging from policy to practice, and numerous workshops and tours were offered; the exhibit hall was jammed with vendors marketing everything under the sun, literally.
For such a huge undertaking, everything flowed smoothly with a lot of behind the scenes support and the entire organization proved to be very professionally run - even the conference food was good! A couple of fun events were the Welcome Party and the Leadership Awards Ceremony with live music at the awesome Tabernacle, a historical landmark and former church turned award-winning entertainment venue.
The evening started with performances from a local marching band followed by the awards, a soulful choir, and DJ's spinning some great sounds. Good food, drinks, an abundance of funky and cozy performance rooms plus great colorful art representing local and exotic primitive, religious, and oriental art and sculpture equaled an evening to remember with friends old and new.
The green roof industry was represented by several total system providers as well as some green roof component suppliers. Additionally, Green Roofs For Healthy Cities hosted a booth in the non-profit table area. I spoke with many of the green roof industry representatives after the trade show to get their feelings on the success of the show. The consensus was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone was impressed with the number of focused visitors to their booths and most had already signed up to exhibit at next years GreenBuild show in Denver, Colorado, and this exhibitor is no exception. The 2005 GreenBuild Expo was the most successful marketing event of the year for Green Roof Blocks - having given away 250 DVDs, over 500 brochures, and almost 1000 business cards, signing up for the 2006 show in Denver seemed a sound marketing decision. See the green roof exhibitors:
Left: Janet Faust, Greenroof Product Manager, of JDR Enterprises and J-DRain;
Right: Colbond's Enkadrain and visitors.
Left: Dennis Yanez, Greenroof Product Manager, and seated Matt Carr of American Hydrotech;
Right: RMS and Building Logics.
Greenbuild exhibitors visitors at Left: GEOdren; Right: Stevens Roofing.
Left: Steven Peck of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and friend; Right: Firestone's Booth
In my opinion, a marketing strategy that does not enjoy such a positive consensus among the green roof industry is involvement in the Green Roofs For Healthy Cities organization. Though this is not a forum to air those grievances, the significant presence of the groups organizers at the Expo kept the topic emerging during my interviews with the green roof players. There was a corporate member meeting held just before the opening of the exhibit hall. The meeting was supposed to put to rest dissention among the members about the project database the group has been discussing throughout the year. The meeting was poorly attended, however, and though there were votes and measures were passed, the project lacks member consensus. Founder Steven Peck spoke about various activities aimed to bring more value to the membership in the organization. The members I spoke with experienced a significant raise in membership fees when the new corporate fee structure went into effect. Many feel the gap between the new fees and the value of corporate membership is too wide to be offset by these recent activities. As we all attempt to squeeze every ounce of value from our marketing budget for 2006, many of us are taking a hard look at organization memberships. Organizations perceived as fee generation entities will see membership diminish, while organizations that add zeros to the memberships bottom line receive our coveted marketing dollars.
Well, Green Roof Fans, it has been an exciting year for the green roof industry. The design community is helping to expand the market with each new green roof project. Some plant failures in the Midwest, though seemingly catastrophic to those involved with the projects, helped to bring drought tolerance expectation levels down to more realistic levels and will make for more successful green roofs going forward. New research projects are springing up all over the country helping to both educate future consumers as well as to help the green roof concept evolve through better understanding of design and performance. From my family to yours, I hope you have enjoyed a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and have a GREEN New Year!
Publisher's Note: I was a member of the Atlanta Host Committee, and would like to add that the USGBC, the local chapter, Southface Energy Institute and all the volunteers did a great job! Read all about the last and future Greenbuild on the USGBC's Greenbuild International Conference & Expo website here. Read about the features of the Greenbuild 2005 Proceedings CD-ROM, available for purchase for $159 - LSV.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Beijing Olympic Committee at the Energy Efficient and Environmentally Friendly Products Exposition for Olympic Projects
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
All Photos by Kelly Luckett
As members of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Green Roof Blocks was invited to exhibit at the Beijing Olympic Committee at the Energy Efficient and Environmentally Friendly Products Exposition for Olympic Projects. The invitation came June 14th and we were asked to RSVP by end of the following day! In this budding business that seems to be dominated by trade secrets and patented intellectual property, the decision to participate in the Expo could not be taken lightly. Many of the green roof related patents in the United States do not extend beyond our boarders. Some friends who routinely do business in China had some pretty disheartening warnings about brand name knock-offs and price undercutting. There was even some mention of SARS and the typical concerns for the safety of an American traveling abroad. I must admit that I was more than just a little apprehensive about going where I could not readily communicate with my host. After carefully weighing the pro and cons, it all came down to this: we could list endless concerns and reasons not to go, but would an American green roof company ever again be invited to China to display a product to an Olympic Committee? Not likely. Despite the many unknowns, we decided to accept the invitation.
Construction projects near the Beijing International Airport
Those of you who exhibit at tradeshows know the challenge of getting your display material to the show on time and in one piece. We decided to pear down to what we could check as baggage on the flight over. The extra charges for additional and overweight baggage came as some what of a surprise at the departure check in, but I decided there was no turning back at this point and I handed over my credit card. The trip took about twenty hours with a two hour layover in Atlanta. As the plane taxied down the runway upon landing I looked out of the window over scores of construction cranes erected at an immense string of construction projects that line the runway.
Room with a View
Once I gathered my baggage and cleared Chinese Customs I made my way to the exit. Just outside the exit doors was a 200 foot long rope line with people standing five and six deep waiting to greet arriving passengers. Just as my head started to spin from the overwhelming chaos, I spotted my name written on a sign being held by the driver sent by Expedia to pick me up and take me to my hotel. The driver, Leo, corralled my five pieces of luggage to his car, conversed with me in English on the way to my hotel, and even programmed my cell phone to the Beijing cellular network.
Placing the check in the box for the optional shuttle service on the Expedia website may have been the best $45 I spent on the entire trip! Leo even talked with the front desk clerk and the bell hop at the hotel and made sure me and my bags got settled into my room at the Prime Hotel Beijing.
That evening I walked along Wangfujing Street and, though I didnt interact with anyone, I was feeling pretty worldly for a Midwestern American.
The next morning I started the day with a traditional Chinese breakfast dumpling and some noodles and set about the task of checking in at the Product Expo. I approached the concierge to arrange for my exhibit materials to be brought down from my room. This seemed to confuse the three young men at the desk since I had just checked in the day before and now I appeared to be checking out six days early. When I tried to explain that I was not checking out and that I only needed my exhibit materials I started to realize that there are a few English phrases they spoke flawlessly, prompting me to assume they were fluent in English. However, once the conversation began to deviate from the typical hotel guest requests, communication became much more difficult. No problem, I got my own bags and decided to just stick to the tourist script. Or so I thought. The address to the Expo didnt seem to be on that script. After five minutes of discussion among the hotel staff, none of whom I was able to understand, it was concluded that they did not know where the Expo was being held. Now, this is significant because none of the taxi drivers speak English. The hotel employees flag down a passing taxi and tell them where to take you as they help you into the car. If the hotel staff doesnt know where you are going getting you there becomes quite a challenge.
The Roving Exhibitor, however, is a seasoned traveler with extensive experience navigating his way to and from a multitude of convention centers and conference locations. I confidently reached in my briefcase and produced the phone number to the hosting agency. The concierge spoke briefly on the phone and wrote something in Chinese on the back of a hotel business card. He handed the card to the doorman and the doorman helped me into the waiting taxi. After some brief conversation between the driver and the doorman, the doorman gave the hotel business card to the driver and away we went. I took many digital photos as I took in the sights along the 45 minute drive. The driver turned and said something in Chinese as we turned into a gated driveway with a posted guard. The driver lowered the window and spoke to the guard. Evidently the guard knew nothing of the conference. The driver and the guard began speaking to me simultaneously, in Chinese. As I remembered handing the paper with the Expo hosts phone number to the hotel concierge and realizing that he did not give it back to me, my traditional Chinese breakfast began to churn in my stomach. Just when I thought I would be heading back to the hotel the driver produced the hotel business card on which the concierge had apparently written the Expo hosts phone number along with the directions to the building. The driver phoned the host from her cell phone and found that we were, in fact, at the correct address but at the wrong gate. I retrieved that precious hotel business card from the driver and guarded it like the Holy Grail for the next few days. Though it was a little more of a challenge than I expected, I made it to the Expo site with my exhibit and I strolled into the building to announce my arrival.
The Destination, at long last.
There were four bright faced young people behind a desk just inside the main entrance. They smiled at me as I walk up to the desk. I said hello. Three of them stopped smiling and looked nervously at the remaining young girl as she returned my greeting and said hello. I told her my name, she told me hers, so far so good. I said, Im with Green Roof Blocks. She looked at her clip board to find me on her list of exhibitors as she repeated after me, Green Roof Blocks. I knew that all of the USGBC members were supposed to be located together at the Expo so I decided to try that as I said, USGBC? She looked up and said, Oh yes, USGBC. This way please. She then lead me to an area about twenty feet by twenty feet where there were three exhibitors setting up already. She spoke to them at length. They did not appear to be happy about being squeezed into this space and the addition of my exhibit wasnt going over well. At one point they stopped and brought me a chair and politely asked me to sit while they sorted the situation out. The conversation went on for about twenty minutes all in Chinese except for the occasional Green Roof Blocks and USGBC. Finally they assigned me a space along one wall and allowed me to get set up.
Green Roof Blocks at the Expo
Several times during the discussion, the girl from the front desk spoke to me. She asked if I was alone at the Expo. She asked me if someone else was coming to represent my company. Then, as to confirm my situation in her own mind, she said, You come to Beijing by yourself, no speak Chinese? She smiled and sort of shook her head in disbelief. I began to feel all of my worldly confidence settling into my stomach along with my Traditional Chinese Breakfast. I started to calculate in my head the money my company had spent on this trip. Travel visa: $300, airfare and hotel: $2600, printing and promotional give aways: $450, three days of communicating using high level charades: priceless. I quietly set up my booth and headed for the street to get a taxi back to the hotel. The first four taxi drivers I approached refused to take me back to my hotel. By the time I made it to my room, I was feeling a little rattled.
Since we were invited to the Expo as members of the USGBC by the Beijing Olympic Committee, there was some speculation as to what provisions would be in place to help USGBC companies communicate with Expo delegates. However, once I saw that the four other USGBC companies had decided to employ Chinese companies to represent their products, I concluded that I was the only exhibitor with a language barrier. To solve that issue I went through the business center at the hotel to engage the services of an interpreter. For the next three days Dr. Li Chang-Qi, Professor of Mechanical Systems from the Beijing Information Science and Technology University helped me represent Green Roof Blocks. The first morning began as one might expect with delegates asking Dr. Chang-Qi questions in Chinese, who would relay those questions to me in English. Dr. Chang-Qi would then translate my answers for the delegates. As the morning progressed, the Professor called on me for answers less and less.
Discussing green roof benefits
He first explained the environmental benefits of the green roof concept and then used the photos on our display to introduce our modular approach. The delegates were genuinely interested in the environmental and aesthetic qualities of the green roof concept, but like their western counterparts, price and value soon dominated the conversation.
Over the course of the next three days about 300 delegates visited with us. The Expo was open to government officials, architects, and construction related professionals the first day. The next two days were designated for visitors from the hotel, restaurant, and tourism industry. The event was covered extensively by the Chinese print and electronic media. The professor and I gave interviews to about six reporters from various news papers and magazines and four television stations.
The Chinese Media
Companies seeking to conduct business in China are faced with the decision whether to open facilities in China or to operate from their home country through Chinese sales representatives. There is no shortage of companies seeking to represent western products in China. I had the privilege of meeting with such a firm wishing to represent Green Roof Blocks in Beijing. The meeting took place in the companys conference room typical of such a meeting here in the United States.
I was then given a crash course in Chinese business culture. The meeting began with the very ceremonial preparation of Chinese tea, during which time pleasantries were exchanged about my visit and our families. Though we spoke through an interpreter, it was soon apparent that this was a business meeting, as they hammered on me to give them exclusive territorial rights to distribute Green Roof Blocks in China.
When I told them I was not prepared to make that commitment the meeting lightened up somewhat and they invited me to dinner the following evening to experience Peking Duck. The CEO, Mr. Jin, picked me up at my hotel with an interpreter and we proceeded to an exclusive restaurant nearby. As we were greeted at the entrance to the restaurant, I noticed we were the only patrons. The firm had reserved the entire restaurant for our dinner and our table was surrounded by six or seven restaurant employees that doted on us throughout the dinner. After several courses of appetizers, the chef rolled out the duck and proceeded to carve our main course. Speaking through the interpreter, the chef said they were presenting me with the finest cut of the duck as the guest of honor. Then they all watched eagerly for my reaction as I took the first bite. It was absolutely delicious and once I nodded and gestured my enjoyment, they all smiled and joined in. It was all very heady stuff and as they cleared the dishes from the table I was preparing myself for the full court press. To my surprise, however, Mr. Jin asked the interpreter to tell me now that we have shared this meal, even if our business interests take us down separate paths, we are now friends for life and when I return to China I will be returning to visit my friend.
The conversation turned then to green roofs in China where Mr. Jin said they have met with limited success. After dinner we drove to a parking garage that was adorned with elaborate plants around the perimeter of the roof. Though we couldnt get on the roof we could see some of the plant selections which included some trees and shrubs.
Beijing Intensive Greenroof
Mr. Jin told me there was a general opinion that green roofs in China are green the first year, brown the second year, and dead by the third year. I told him that part of the problem may be their expectation for beauty. When you look around Beijing elaborate plantings and colorful floral displays speak volumes about the Chinese horticultural appreciation. It is very difficult to maintain such beauty and complexity in a rooftop setting. I shared with Mr. Jin some of what we have learned about green roof plants and engineered soils and indicated that they may need to change their perceptions in terms of aesthetics in order to achieve sustainable green roof plant life. We agreed to work together to do a small display green roof on the Venture Plaza Building in Beijing to help advance the green roof concept in Beijing while helping to market Green Roof Blocks.
Since the purpose of this trip was all about marketing, I decided to combine some sightseeing with some photo-ops with our 3 foot by 8 foot Green Roof Blocks banner. I first made the trip to the Great Wall where some fellow visitors helped me get some photos of my driver and me holding the banner stretched out atop the Great Wall.
Kelly and friend atop the Great Wall of China
Upon downloading the photos I thought perhaps people looking at them on our website may not realize the structure we were on to be the Great Wall of China. I decided to go to Tien An Men Square to get some shots that would leave no doubt where they were taken. The first shot was of a huge display just outside the Peoples Hall that is counting down to the 2008 Olympic Games. Two young college students held the banner while I took some photos with the display counting down the minutes to the Games in the background.
The People's Hall is counting down to the 2008 Olympic Games
I had two great photos and I should have stopped there, but the main entrance to the Forbidden City lies just across the street from Tien An Men Square, and called to me. Its an impressive monument to Chinese architecture with a large photo of Mao and Mandarin writing over the massive doors.
The forbidding Forbidden City
With no thought what so ever given to the possible consequences of my actions, I found some ribbon on the ground and tied the banner stretched out on the fence along the end of the square. I took several photos and retrieved the banner from the fence. Just as I was finishing rolling up my banner, I was surrounded by five or six guards. Suddenly, all of the ramifications of what I had just done raced through my mind. I realized that I had left my passport in the hotel room and that my flight was leaving in a few hours. One spoke to me in Chinese, but realizing I didnt understand he motioned to me to unroll the banner. When he saw the banner contained the Green Roof Blocks logo, and not some political propaganda, he nodded and motioned to me to roll it back up. The guards dispersed and left me standing in the square. I took a moment to gather myself and headed for hotel. I managed to stay out of trouble long enough to get home.
Green Roof Blocks, Mao, and American Optimism
I found the Chinese people to be friendly and accommodating. They openly discussed the new marriage of capitalism and communism within their country. There is hope for prosperity and social advancement they told me did not exist twenty years ago. To this western observer there seems to be amazing similarities between our countries' people. We work hard to provide for our families, cherish our childrens future, and strive to make this planet a better place for them to live. Whether through green buildings, recycling, conservation, or green roofing, for those of us working to bring about change, realizing that our mission is global and reaches beyond the boarders of our individual communities is both inspirational and overwhelming. Our common bond as inhabitants of this planet unites us in our efforts to preserve it. At the same time it calls on us to include all of the inhabitants. This includes the industrialization of China and India, the modernization of the United States, Europe, and all of the counties of the former Soviet Union, as well as the development of all emerging and conflicted nations. We are truly in this together.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Greening the Heartland 2005 Conference
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
Green Grid, Intrinsic, JDR, American Hydrotech, Prairie Technologies and Green Roof Blocks were back in Chicago last month for the for the second annual Greening the Heartland Conference. Keynote speakers included Chicagos Mayor Daley and USGBC founder Rick Fedrizzi. The show was attended by designers, policy makers, and green building enthusiasts from all over the Midwest. Green roofs continue to be a major attraction for tradeshows hosted in the city of Chicago.
Steven Peck of Green Roofs For Healthy Cities was at the show drumming up business for his Green Roof Design 101 class. He stopped by our booth to chat about the Green Roofs For Sustainable Cities Conference in Boston next year. The corporate committee has been discussing changes to the format of the trade show to enhance the experience for the exhibitors and delegates. Details will be included in my future columns as they become available. There was some discussion of possible sites for the 2007 conference, Minneapolis was mentioned. Stay tuned.
Susan Morgan and John Albrect of the Chicago General Services were in attendance. Susan said the Chicago city officials are currently evaluating information provided by various green roof suppliers and component manufacturers that responded to the November 2004 Request For Information. Though green roofs are just one of the green building strategies that the city is promoting, they continue to play a major role in their overall policy of sustainability. I spoke with quite a few designers and developers who were gathering green roof information to help them meet the green roof requirements of their Chicago building permit process. The more public funding a given project utilizes, the more green roof space the city is asking for. We are currently working with a couple of developers who are returning to city hall to request reductions in square footage of required green roof space
Though I completely understand budget limitations and cost overruns on construction projects, renegotiation of the building permit requirements undermines the process. Chicago City Hall will have to decide whether green requirements are as important as any other building code requirement. Once we start relaxing the requirements of the building code we step onto a slippery slope thats increasingly difficult to navigate. Ill keep you posted green roof fans.
My next stop is Beijing, China to exhibit for the Beijing Olympic Committee. The BOC has committed to build the 2008 Olympic Village and associated buildings to green building standards. The USGBC members have been invited to Beijing for the Building Product Showcase July 12-14, 2005. Ill have all of the details for you next month.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards and Trade Show
By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP
Photos by Linda Velazquez
Well green roof fans, another Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference has come and gone. For green roof industry exhibitors this trade show is the equivalent of an all star game! We all went to Washington, D.C. to see and be seen by the movers and shakers of our industry. For some there was less tradeshow traffic then they may have hoped for, yet for others there was a steady flow of interested delegates. Perhaps one of the busiest booths at the tradeshow was Daichi Corporations. Each time I stopped by their booth they had visitors waiting in line to hear about their new sedum sheet that uses sedum cuttings sandwiched between two biodegradable layers of fabric to propagate green roofs and living walls. Just another example of how innovators are working hard to make green roofs easier, more effective, and more affordable.
Host Steven Peck made the rounds near the close of the tradeshow to hear first hand from the exhibitors what they thought of this years show and what improvements could be made. There were some suggestions of perhaps changing the tradeshow hours to be dedicated times either before or after the plenary sessions, allowing the exhibitors the opportunity to sit in on sessions. Some felt the delegates needed more time to browse the exhibit hall rather than squeezing the exhibition time between plenary sessions. There was some agreement that a cocktail hour in the exhibit hall would work well to get delegates to visit the exhibits in a more relaxed frame of mind. Steven said the corporate membership committee would entertain all suggestions to keep the conference evolving towards the best possible experience for delegates and exhibitors alike.
The green roof tours provided the chance to see some of Washington, D.C. that wasnt on the guided tour, and were well planned and very informative. Those of us who stayed for the weekend took in some of the sites that were on the city guide, too. Though I have seen many photos and even visited the traveling replica when it came to St. Louis, I was not prepared for what a moving experience a visit to the Vietnam Memorial Wall is. The mementos left by surviving loved ones and the reverence with which the National Park Service hosts the monument made the visit one of my most humbling experiences. I recommend placing it on your have to do list; the Vietnam Memorial alone was worth the price of the trip. We squeezed what we could into one day of site seeing, though you could spend a month and still not see everything. We saw the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the National Monument, the White House, the Capitol Building, and we even viewed the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in the National Archives Building.
Some of the original members of the green roof family talked about how far the movement has come since the first conference in Chicago, while the new members anxiously look forward to the next three years. All agree we have long way to go but collectively we can eventually make the building without a green roof the oddity. Ill keep shoveling my share of the water. My next stop is the Greening the Heartland Conference at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Illinois, May 31st through June 2nd.
Publisher's Note: Most of us in the industry would agree that the
Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference is the premier opportunity to showcase
projects, products, and people. Here is your opportunity to submit and share photos, experiences, etc., too. Below are some reader comments and photos I took on the last day in the Trade Show.
From PennHort.org: "Great content, and a lot of bells and whistles. A couple of things about the basics:
~ The conference website was hard to access, hard to read, hard to register.
~ A better balance on the food - it was feast or famine - mostly famine.
~ Almost all of my sessions started late and ran over. Perhaps reconsider what can reasonably fit in a 90 minute session.
~ The last presenter in a session shouldn't be punished because the first ran on and on... The audience shouldn't be punished by missing lunch or a break, or content of importance to them. Facilitators need to bring their sessions in on time, or find a way to excuse the audience if necessary.
~ The proceedings are pretty skimpy. Perhaps it would be possible to link to websites or researchers full publications. I understand that many academics are reluctant to assign copyright, so instead, permission to reprint might result in vastly improved abstracts."
From an exhibitor wanting to remain Anonymous: "What happened to the green carpeting that was supposed to line the walkways of the Exhibit Hall??? It looked like an industrial warehouse and not very inviting."
Click on each thumbnail to enlarge the photo:
The 49th Annual Construct America Show and Convention,
By Kelly Luckett
All photos by Kelly Luckett
The 49th Annual CSI Show and Convention at Construct America was hosted for the third year by the City of Chicago. The show was a collaboration of the Construction Specifications Institute, Total Facility Management, and Mason Contractors Association of America. The more than 800 exhibitors at this three day trade show enjoyed a focused group of delegates from all over the United States. The more than 130 educational sessions were confined to morning hours followed by exhibit hall hours from 12:30 to 4:30. This allowed exhibitors to attend the sessions and allowed the delegates ample time to leisurely peruse the exhibits.
There was an exhibitors lounge complete with complimentary refreshments which included breakfast and lunch each day of the show. The teamsters had everyones exhibit supplies waiting for them in their booths when they arrived and were staffed in sufficient numbers to get them their packing containers in short order after the close of the show. The optional lead retrieval scanners were wireless and about the size of a large magic marker. They made scanning the delegates ID badges quick and easy and were a big hit with both the exhibitors and the delegates. From Mayor Daleys greeting speech to the organized system in place for providing taxi service, it was a first class operation.
I had a chance to visit with several exhibitors displaying green roof systems and green roof components. Total system providers American Hydrotech, Permaquick, and ERS Prairie Technologies all said the show met or exceeded their expectations in terms of delegate attendance. These exhibitors told me that green roofs currently represent between 5 and 10 percent of their over all business, but each expected those numbers to double in the coming year. JDR and American Wick Drain, manufacturers of drainage products and root barriers, also enjoyed a steady flow of focused delegates. Flex Membranes and Sarnafil manufacture waterproofing systems used with green roofs. The Sarnafil representative told me their green roof business is concentrated to certain regions at this time. They are using marketing strategies like this trade show to spread the word about green roofs beyond the regions they presently service.
North Safety Products and Kee Industrial Products sell fall protection equipment used in rooftop construction work. Both companies are seeing an increase in sales of roof related safety equipment they attribute to increased enforcement of the OSHA fall protection standard. Those conducting green roof business may wish to review their safety plans with one of the safety equipment suppliers to ensure their workers are properly protected and are in compliance with the standard.
Among the delegates in attendance were some familiar faces from the green roof industry. I got the chance to visit with Grace Koehler and Mike Curry from Midwest Ground Covers to discuss their green roof business. They are experiencing an increase in both the number of green roof projects as well as in the size of the projects. When asked about green roof pitfalls they said the most common and critical mistake green roof designers make is in media formulation. It seems many are specifying garden soil mixtures with too little mineral content giving rise to a host of problems. Brian Rockers of Buildex stopped by my booth - Buildex is a supplier of expanded clay and is looking forward to increased green roof demand as a way to expand their business, pun intended! The folks from Elevated Landscape Technologies stopped by to see me as well. They didnt exhibit at this show but they are planning to exhibit in Green Roofs Goes to Washington.
Perhaps the largest draw of the show was the masonry competitions. Masons from all over the country competed in three competitions. The International Skills Challenge and The Fastest Trowel had men and women erecting masonry walls in a race against one another that were then judged based on the quality of their completed wall sections. The highlight of the competition, however, was Masonry: It Takes A Village, where six teams designed and built original projects constructed of masonry. The winning entry was a tug boat complete with lighted windows and a smoke stack that bellowed thick white smoke. I had the good fortune of having the Green Roof Blocks booth directly across the isle from the competition area, allowing me to watch the six projects from start to finish over the course of three days. Just as amazing as the construction itself, once the winners were announced, the six teams immediately demolished their projects and packed up the debris. One team member told me they had to hurry with their cleanup so they could get on the road for their 2000 mile journey home.
Overall Construct America was a huge success. Construction industry professionals came from all over the country to learn about the latest in construction products and technology in Chicago, the greenest city in the nation. When they headed home, they took with them some of Mayor Daleys passion for green. It was a good week for green roofs in America.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Inaugural Column, March 2005
Publisher's Note: This short commentary or review of sorts is the first for Kelly Luckett, President of Green Roof Blocks, a frequent trade show exhibitor at greenroof and green building conferences, workshops & seminars. Look for this occasional column as it happens as result of his attendance - a quick snapshot of the event - like "reflections of a trade show exhibitor" or, The Roving Exhibitor.
The Building & Design Exchange (BDX) Conference & Exposition,
By Kelly Luckett
The 2005 Building and Design Exchange Conference & Exposition was hosted by the City of Chicago in the McCormick Place Convention Center February 16th and 17th, 2005. The event was sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) member American Builders and Contractors Association and was kicked off by a speech from Chicagos Mayor Daley.
The keynote speaker and USGBC founder David Gottfried signed copies of his new book Greed to Green: the transformation of an industry and a life, after an inspirational speech about going beyond constructing sustainable buildings by building a sustainable life. Though attendance to the Trade Show was relatively light, the green roof exhibitors enjoyed a focused group of building owners, designers, and contractors who were seeking green roof information. Many of these visitors are required by the City of Chicago to install green roofs on new rooftops, and so it was natural for them to come and learn more about products for their current projects.
Emory Knoll Farms Ed Snodgrass at left gave an instructional presentation on green roofs, covering a variety of design considerations including project region, building use, waterproofing options, media formulation and plant selections. Ed also offered some statistical data regarding the benefits of green roofs in the area of storm water retention and roof surface temperature reductions. Among the trade show visitors were representatives from various Chicago City Departments such as The Department of General Services and The Chicago Transit Authority.
The facilities at McCormick Place are clean and spacious, and the exhibition areas and service were great - but very expensive. Events held at McCormick Place are hosted by the convention services provider GES. All deliveries are required to go through their offsite marshaling yard. This was a complicated procedure for those of us driving our own vehicles, as the system is really geared towards the use of commercial freight carriers. However, every effort was made to accommodate the do it yourselfers while not stepping on the toes of union dock workers. Factor in the $30 per day parking charges, and it probably makes better sense to leave the heavy lifting to the professionals, leave the van at home, and enjoy a nice flight.
Kelly Luckett in his new trade show digs at BDX.
As a result of the recent RFI, the City is really trying to find ways to lower green roof costs. As a follow up, I spent about two hours talking with some people in Mayor Daleys office while I was here to share my thoughts. Future trade show opportunities in the city of Chicago include The 49th Construction Specifications Institute Show and Convention to be held at McCormick Place April 20th through 22nd, Birds and Buildings 2005 Conference to be held at The Illinois Institute of Technology on March 11th, and The 2nd Greening the Heartland Conference to be held at The Palmer House Hilton May 31st through June 2nd. These events are sponsored in part by the USGBC and are all part of Mayor Daleys initiative to make Chicago the greenest city in America.
I'll be attending a lot of trade shows and conferences here in the U.S. and possibly in Europe again this year, so look for my comments soon. Check back here for coverage of the combined trade show for the Construction Specifications Institute and Total Facility Management held at McCormick Place April 20th through 22nd.
Kelly Luckett, The Roving Exhibitor
Publisher's Note: 3.07.05:
Tecta America sent us the following photos of their participation at BDX:
Left: Chicago City Mayor Richard Daley visited Tecta America's exhibit of a simulated green roof garden entitled "View from the Top"; Right: after his breakfast speech at BDX.
The opinions expressed by our
Guest Feature writers and editors may not necessarily reflect
the beliefs of Greenroofs.com, and are offered to our readers
to simply present individual views and experiences and
open a dialogue of further
discussion, debate and research. Enjoy, and if you have
a particular comment, please contact the author or send us an
email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to Top