GPW: Asphof Hen Unit

April 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Our Greenroof Project of the Week (GPW) is the rustic extensive 1,000 m ²   “Asphof Hen Unit” greenroof in the beautiful countryside of Rothenfluh, Switzerland.   A conglomeration of seven medieval villages, Rothenfluh is a picturesque municipality in the district of Sissach in the canton of Basel-Country in northern Switzerland.

Aramis and I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely area in September, 2005  where I presented my paper “An International Call for The Greenroof Projects Database” at the first  The World Green Roof Congress held at the University of Basel,  Switzerland.   The Congress was co-organized by ZHAW – Zurich University of Applied Sciences Institute of Environment and Nature Resources, Centre Urban Greening, Competence Centre Green Roofs (Hochschule Wädenswil) – and the  International Green Roof Association (IGRA),  among others,  and the tours were led by graduate students and volunteers from ZHAW/The World Green Roof Congress.

We jumped at the opportunity to join one of the local tours that encompassed “Green Roof Week” from September 12 -17.   Congress attendees had a choice of a wide-ranging excursion program ranging  from one to three-day trips, “showing examples of good practice on famous green roofs in Switzerland and the surrounding area of Basel.”    We opted for a one-day tour and wonderful host and guide was  Nathalie Baumann, MSc / Biogeograph, ZHAW Research Associate, who specializes in the ground-breeding Lapwing bird population nesting atop various brown and greenroofs in the area.

We visited six very different applications, from one of Nathalie’s research sites atop a huge pharmaceutical manufacturer to the largest solar roof installation with greenroofs in Switzerland, to a greenroofed cattle barn and this organic chicken farm with two greenroofed structures, where we enjoyed a fantastic Swiss lunch, too.

The owner, Matthias Eglin, really wanted to tread lightly upon the land in terms of blending the large chicken barn/coop into the landscape and providing  a literally cooler environment for his 2,000 organically-raised chickens.  

He turned to renown biodiversity researcher Dr. Stephan Brenneisen of Hochschule Wädenswil (also the coordinator of the  World Green Roof Congress and president  of the  Green Roof Competence Centre), who served as project consultant for the Canton Basle Rural’s Nature and Countryside Protection Commission – see the federal service project on ZHAW’s website.   Their intent was to establish  an extremely  low maintenance xeric landscape  on top of an agricultural utility building and have it eventually naturalize  to mimic the surrounding terrain.

So in 2002 they constructed the Asphof Hen Unit using inexpensive local materials – so local in fact that they harvested and shred Miscanthus sinensis (China grass/reed) from Mathias’ own property to serve as an inexpensive lower substrate and water retention layer.   They excavated  5 cm of loamy humus topsoil from their former orchard area and used it  as a free growing medium.   The annual Phacelia tanacetifolia (Lacy Phacelia), used extensively in Europe both as a cover crop and as bee forage, was included in the grass  seed to break up the soil mix and act as erosion control.   Other herbs were included in the roof as well.   Here’s the roof, below,  in 2002:

And below, three years later, in 2005:

The  natural temperature control reduces the heat by up to seven degrees in the summer (relative to outside temperatures), due to cooling effects of evaporation, resulting in more stress-free chickens!   When we were there it was fun to watch them roam freely about the property, hopping from one roof to the next.

Getting up to the roof took some care and trust that people were holding the ladder on both ends – and as usual I didn’t have the best shoes on..but it was fun!   And it was very grassy:

The second 1,200 sf greenroof is found on the Hay Shed Greenroof, constructed in 2005,  which shelters hay rolls used on the farm property.

Christine Thuring served as a Congress team member and guide on one of the other tours during the Congress.   Co-founder of Green Roof Safari (and Chlorophyllocity and, of course, one of our contributing editors), along with Jörg Breuning (of Green Roof Service, LLC)  she has lead tours here since, as well.   Green Roof Safari offers special access to the European greenroof industry with custom designed tours with multi-lingual guides specializing in highlighting current and historical trends in policy, research and design for the areas visited.

Christine shared these two photos with me and informed me that the roof continues to be monitored, especially the soil substrate and how it has developed with time – Dr. Brenneisen above with the group, and measuring the roof soil below:

Christine succinctly says of the project:

“The Asphof chicken shed demonstrates innovative, economic, simple success.” ~ Christine Thuring

So successful that they don’t even mow it – the roof meadow acts as a self-sustaining system, fully integrated into the landscape.

If you’re interested in seeing this project, you’re in luck.   Now in its sixth year Livingroofs.org Ltd will be again partnering with Hochschule Wädenswil for their famous “Swiss Green Roof Tour 2010” which  will be held on May 6-7, 2010.    You’ll not only get  Dr. Stephan Brenneisen, but also the indomitable Dusty Gedge, Director of Livingroofs.org, both of whom are internationally recognized for their work on greenroofs and biodiversity.   Much of the focus of the tour is how research in Switzerland has developed an approach to green roofing that has biodiversity at the heart of their design.

From roofs designed for lizards, to those that have been designed for rare bees, beetles and spiders, this year the tour includes visits to roofs where Swiss researchers are studying ground nesting birds – and to where chickens are happy, too, on the ground and on the roofs.

~ Linda V.

Enter the “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest

April 14, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Some of you may recall back a couple of years ago that Greenroofs.com was a semi-finalist in a competition from The Green on the Sundance Channel called “What’s the Big Idea?” Contest with our 60-second video “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!”  While we didn’t win, the tag line stuck with me – simple and direct.  April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and we are excited to honor Earth Day, really the entire Earth Month of April, with our first photo contest ever!

The “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Photo Contest is designed to be quick, simple, and fun.  Any and all types of greenroofs are eligible, any place on Earth.  Send us* your favorite shot of that special greenroof which graphically epitomizes its relationship to our planet – how it is a living example of loving the Earth.  We’ll be keeping everyone updated on Greenroofs.com with a special page for all the contest photos, and on Twitter.

Tell us how it is a living example in 285 characters or less for the write up on the Love the Earth, Plant a Roof! Voting Page next to your thumbnail photo to let people why they should vote for this particular project and you.  Include a photo source/credit, not part of the 285 count.

For the Greenroofs.com tweet, pare it down to the meat and bones in 120 characters for all to see (we need 20 characters for the link to your photo – so people can click and vote immediately!). Don’t follow us on Twitter yet?  Do so here.

Here’s an example for inspiration – this precious child is my own grandson, Nicky, at The Greenroof Pavilion and Trial Gardens of Rock Mill Park here in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA:

Example tweet @ 120 characters:

Vote Rock Mill Park! The design honors the land & Cherokee heritage with hands-on models & signage for young and old.

The contest is open to everyone, not just the roof owner or the designers of record.  And voting is open to everyone, too, as many times as you like, so tell your friends to vote for your submission!

Entries will be accepted today and voting will be open to everyone until Wednesday, April 28 at 5:00 p.m. EST – but, of course, you’ll increase your chances of receiving the most votes by entering early!  Enter now and rally your forces – don’t delay.

Vote as often as you wish by clicking on your selected photo.  Include your real name and contact info or it will be discarded.

The winner will be announced on the last day of Earth Month, Friday, April 30, 2010, in our Top 10 List for the “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Photo Contest.  The winner will have “their” project highlighted on Greenroofs.com as an upcoming Greenroof Project of the Week and we’ll feature you in a Sky Gardens interview so you can really tell us more about this living roof and why you love it so much.

And, as a humble token of our esteem, the winner will also receive your choice of a $100 gift card to either The Home Depot or Lowe’s for your spring projects or just a good old fashioned check!

Some requirements:

  • ~ You can enter as often as you wish, but only one photo per project for the Contest (send more photos and project description for the blog post if you win, but send the contest photo clearly identified as such).
  • ~ It has to be a real project, no Photoshopping!
  • ~ Didn’t take the photo yourself?  Make sure you credit the source and check for any copyright issues – we’re not liable!
  • ~ Don’t break any laws or bones while taking the photos!
  • ~ Minimum size: 491 x 367
  • ~ And, obviously, by submitting the photo you agree to its being published.

* Include your real name and contact information; a 120-character including spaces description for the tweet starting with “Vote (Name of Project)!…”; a 285-character including spaces (or less) description for the write up including Name of Project, City, State, and/or Country; any additional photos in case you win, but that can come later.

Submit away and good luck – start telling your friends now!  Vote for your favorite here on the Love the Earth, Plant a Roof! Voting Page.

Happy Greening for the Earth, ~ Linda V.

GPW: Private Seattle Green Roof Garage

April 11, 2010 at 11:57 pm

The Pacific Northwest in general is known for eco-friendly, sustainable building policies, high-performance green architecture, and local innovative building designs.   In fact, Seattle holds the distinct position of being the first U.S. city government committed to Silver LEED™ facilities, adopting its Sustainable Building Policy requiring new city buildings over 5,000 sf to  obtain the U.S. Green Building Council’s certification rating in 2000.   But the Seattle area also distinguishes itself in that it has an unusually high number of residential greenroof applications.

Our GPW through today is the lovely 280 sf “Private Seattle Green Roof Garage,” built in 2003 by architect Rob Harrison and his wife, Frith Barbat.   Located in a geographically diverse southeast Seattle neighborhood,  the area is filled with parklands, lakefront, wooded hills, and quiet residential streets and boulevards.   Aside from the living roof, construction methods were eco-conscious from the beginning as the homowners  capitalized on the property’s existing carport  foundation and built  the garage mostly with materials salvaged from the previous deck.   It’s really not surprising, since Rob Harrison, AIA, is a Certified Passive House™ Consultant and principal of HARRISON architects.  

The  Seattle, Washington firm  has been in business since 1984, with the last 18 years devoted to sustainable design.   HARRISON architects’ work is based in “lyrical sustainable design”: conserving energy and resources, using healthier materials and finishes, reducing long-term costs, and making poetic places.   By working with consultants, contractors and suppliers who share their values, the  experience  results in a convivial, collaborative design and construction process.    And when you’re the client/architect, and it’s easy to be creative in this environment.

“Since it was our own house (rather than a client’s!), we thought it would be a great opportunity to experiment with a less expensive residential alternative to $15/sf proprietary (and warrantied) green roof systems used on commercial projects, and so promote the use of green roofs in residential applications.” ~ Rob Harrison

And since Rob was a  member of the local chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, he had plenty of local expertise and volunteers for help.   The Northwest EcoBuilding Guild is an alliance of builders, designers, suppliers, homeowners, and partners concerned with ecological building in the Pacific Northwest.   Their mission is to provide leadership in education to transform the built environment and build a sustainable society.   In those years, hadj design  directed the greenroofing efforts for the Guild,  and the firm’s principal, Patrick Carey  (also our Architecture Editor), was one of the consultants and volunteers on this project, as seen below in the bucket brigade system used to haul the growing media up to the roof.

Originally, Rob designed the space to call his own for a “manly” workshop (the garage is featured on the cover of the book ManSpace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory by Sam Martin, about “dens, caves, lairs, hangouts, hideaways, workshops, studios, drinking sheds and man houses”).    The one-car garage  housed space for tools, one bicycle, two vintage motorcycles and  their  Mini Cooper.

But things have changed – at present, the garage now holds just one motorcycle (a new gas-efficient model with a catalytic converter) and the family’s six bicycles.    They sold  the car seven months ago, and have  been giving the car-free life a try – so far, so good!

Originally planted with Eco-Turf (a mixture of baby blue eyes, red clover, yarrow, and fescues) and a variety of drought tolerant sedums, they’ve also added strawberries, nasturtiums and poppies to the greenroof.

Venturing onto YouTube this past February, Rob came across the above advertisement for Pepsi’s new humanitarian/environmental effort, the Pepsi Refresh Project, and was surprised to see his own green-roofed garage!  He explains that a couple years ago fashion/rock star photographer Karen Moskovitz came over with a young model family to shoot some stock “lifestyle” photos and video using his garage as the backdrop.  He’s quick to point out that it’s not him watering the roof!

“We might do that if we’ve planted new plants up there and need to get them started, but otherwise, not,”  Rob says.   Actually, maintenance has been  really minimal – they only watered the first year during establishment and have only spent about one  hour’s worth total weeding and the occasional introduction of new plants during the first three years.   He adds, “It’s a bit odd to be shilling Pepsi, even if very indirectly, but I do like the idea that we are clearly living in some one’s idea of a better future!”

By the way, the Pepsi Refresh Project  is looking for people, businesses, and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact in their communities, and is giving millions of dollars in grants in the categories of Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods, and Education.

Any lessons learned with a greenroof so close to home that you can see daily?   In the more recent photos that Rob sent me, see above and below,  it’s obvious the roof has seceded to mostly grasses, so I asked him if is it still that way – Yes.

Rob says now that the roof is seven years old, in retrospect he would not have introduced any grasses on the roof at all, as the area planted in Eco-Turf has spread over the entire roof and overtaken the sedums, which  are still there, but are hard to see.   But he muses,  “The wavy grass does have its own attractions, especially in the dry summer here, where it reminds me of the Palouse in eastern Washington.”

Does he plan to keep it as it has naturalized or does he have other designs?   Rob’s response:  

“I’m of two minds on the secession of the roof to mostly grasses.  On the one hand I like the look of the grass, and the way the motion of the grass in the wind animates the building, and it’s tempting to let the roof do its own thing and see what develops naturally.   On the other hand, grass forms a dense mat of roots that is surprisingly impermeable.   We haven’t made a big decision to replant the whole roof yet, but we’ve been pulling out clumps of grass here and there, and planting more sedums as we acquire them from friends and neighbors.”

This beautiful private  Seattle vegetated roof  is one example of sustainability on a smaller scale in a city full of greening efforts.   It has been featured in many  publications  and tours, both public and private. The photo above  resulted from an AIA Seattle seminar on greenroofs held at  the architect’s  home in 2006, in conjunction with folks from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

Visible from the alleyway behind it and, more importantly, from the home’s  kitchen window, the Harrison/Barbat family agrees their Seattle garage greenroof is a pleasure to behold every day – in all seasons and all forms.

~ Linda V.

(Note:   See Patrick Carey’s  article about the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild  from June, 2003 here, and my August, 2004 Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture column about Seattle’s early sustainability leaders and efforts here.)

Own a Piece of D.C. Environmental Art: Project H

April 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm

If you’re a commercial business,  you  could call it  street art, if you’re a private homeowner perhaps it could be backyard art, but in any case if  you’re an environmentalist at heart then here’s your opportunity to own a piece of very unique greenroofed pop art  and support a  Washington, D.C.  non-profit champion, D.C. Greenworks.

DC Greenworks, a 501 c3 non-profit, is the U.S. national capital region’s preeminent greenroof advocate and educator, as well as a one-stop-shop for greenroof consultation, design, and installation.    They serve the Washington, D.C. community by providing training, tools, and techniques that utilize, protect and advance the environment.   More:

“DC Greenworks sees a vital connection between economy and ecology, employment potential and environmental sustainability.   We actively seek to discover, promote, and deliver cutting edge solutions that are cost effective, eco-friendly, and socially beneficial.  Our mission is to create livable communities using living materials.”

D.C. Greenworks is wrapping up one of their most successful public projects – Project H, a temporary environmental art installation in partnership with Washington, D.C.  Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Green Summer Job Corps.   For decades, little attention had been given to streetscaping along H Street, NE and after years of anticipation, two dozen DC youth built and painted 40 Project H Street planters last summer.

The result was a new, colorful streetscape that blossomed along the bustling H Street, NE corridor.   But this spring, new trees will begin to be planted along H Street, NE and that means DC Greenworks has these 40 vividly beautiful H-shaped planter boxes ready to become eye-catching environmental sculptures for your yard, home, or business.   The Project H planters come in blue, orange, yellow, pink, and purple and are available on a first come, first served basis, starting April 7.

“For each Project H planter box, we are asking for a minimum donation of $200 to be made payable to DC Greenworks.   We encourage you to give more to help us advance our work revitalizing urban communities and growing a sustainable economy by integrating natural systems into the built environment.   Every dollar is tax deductible.” ~ DC Greenworks

We’re long admirers here at Greenroofs.com of  D.C. Greenworks’ work and commitment.   In fact, we included a couple of their projects in our Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Design  for both 2008 in the #10 category, “Client Specific ‘Boutique Greenroofs: Greenroofs as Community Green Collar Job Opportunities”  and in 2009 we created a new category for such organizations offering education in the  #6 position, “Sustainable Stimulus: Green Buildings Creating Green Collar Jobs.”   They are committed to green mandates and achieving the highest possible LEED standards while offering job training for District youth.   For example, the 4,000 sf Franklin D. Reeves Center  roof was designed in 2007  to help reduce stormwater runoff into the Anacostia River and global warming while creating job training opportunities.   As a result of this project, twelve young adults received training in horticulture and greenroof installation through DC Greenworks.

Another current awesome D.C. Greenworks project offers free shade trees through this April for their neighbors in the D.C. neighborhoods of Atlas District and Trinidad – planting included!   For either program, contact Ashley Hanna  of D.C. Greenworks at: 202.518.6195,  ashley@dcgreenworks.org,  or visit their website.    By the way, volunteers are always welcome at D.C. Greenworks.   If you’d like to sign up to learn about greenroofing, hands on, in a day of volunteerism, please email them at: volunteer@dcgreenworks.org.

Help D.C. Greenworks  find green-loving homes for their 40 unique hand-made, freshly-planted, pop-art inspired planter boxes.   Along with corporate and social giants, you too, could have your very own piece of Project H at a reasonable cost!   For those of you with a philanthropic bent, celebrate spring with  these funky, living creations  from a group of caring and creative individuals  who  provide  hands-on green-centered apprenticeships for disadvantaged District youth.

Happy Greening ~ Linda V.