GPW: BCIT Green Roof Research Facility

August 13, 2011 at 8:01 pm Project of the Week: 8/8/11
BCIT Green Roof Research Facility
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
1,065 sf. G

Year: 2003
Centre for the Advancement of Green Roof Technology
Location: Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Building Type: Educational
Type: Extensive, Test/Research
System: Custom
Size: 1,065 sq.ft.
Slope: 2%
Access: Accessible, By Appointment

Project Description & Details

In response to a 2002 stakeholder workshop held in Vancouver, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) designed a dedicated Green Roof Research Facility with the support from a consortium of regional government, organizations, industry associations, and material suppliers. Commissioned in 2003, phase 1 (2002-2007) quantified green roof performance for stormwater mitigation, membrane durability and thermal efficiency in the climate of coastal BC. Phase 2 phase (2007-2010) expanded research themes to embrace acoustics, living walls, biodiversity, and materials research.

The Green Roof Research Facility has three independent roof surfaces – one reference roof and two green roofs – each with their own weather poles to measure climatic parameters. The green roof on the east side (GR1) has 75mm (3″) growing medium, while GR2 on the west side has 150 mm (6″). The reference roof is in the middle. In addition to researching stormwater source control and thermal performance of green roofs, the Centre also conducts product performance testing, serves for demonstration, and offers research-based education and training across disciplines. The Centre was built with the help of over 200 students from BCITs polytechnic stream, including the Architectural and Building Engineering Technology program, Carpentry, Structural Drafting, Steel Fabrication, Electrical, Electronics, Sheet Metal, Plumbing, Millwork and Finishing.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Architect: Randy Knill Architects
Greenroof Designers/Consultants: Maureen Connelly and Students, BCIT Department of Architectural and Building Engineering
General Contractor: BCIT Facilities Management
Engineer: for structural, electrical, and mechanical systems, Earth Tech Consulting Engineers
Landscape Architect: Cornelia Hahn Oberlander
Roofing Subtrade: Roofing Contractors Association of British Columbia and industry partners

Additional Info

Located within the School of Construction and the Environment at the  British Columbia Institute of Technology, the BCIT Centre  for Architectural Ecology (Previously known as the BCIT Centre for Advancement of Green Roof Technology or CAGRT)    is evaluating the function and performance of extensive greenroofs and living walls in the rainforest climate of coastal B.C with their Green Roof Research Facility (GRRF).   Through collaborations with industry, government and academic partners, their vision is to help advance the widespread adoption of these technologies in this region.

“The mission of the BCIT Centre for Architectural Ecology – Collaborations in Green Roofs and Living Walls is to conduct world-class, innovative research on green roof and living wall systems and to provide research-based education across disciplines, to students and practitioners.”

The BCIT Centre for Architectural Ecology conducts applied research that uses more than 500 channels of live data on green roofs and five weather stations in Vancouver and Victoria.  This research is used by architects, industry partners, policy-makers and professional builders.

As Canada’s premier polytechnic institution, the British Columbia Institute of Technology supports the advancement of the greenroof industry in western Canada through leading edge curriculum programming developed by the Centre for Architectural Ecology in the School of Construction and the Environment.  They are committed to improving public awareness of greenroof and greenwall systems through education and demonstration, both locally and globally.

The Centre integrates its research and technology transfer through its diploma and degree programs, as well as academic collaborations, and professional development for the design and architecture communities.  They have many courses in both greenroofs and living walls, see their courses page for the current schedule.

The team includes many fantastic people, but Maureen Connelly, B.Sc., B.E.D.S., M.Arch., MAIBC is the Director and  BCIT Project Manager, as well as Faculty, and has been the leading force behind the  the Centre for Architectural Ecology and a true greenroof champion.

“Combining a science background with a professional affiliation as an architect, Maureen Connelly developed the vision, oversaw the construction and instrumentation, and continues to direct the strategic research planning process at the Centre.  Maureen’s initial research focused on the architectural and planning impact of green roofs, which led to the Phase 1 research program.” ~ BCIT

If you want to see their early research, make sure you look at the Phase 1 document above, it’s full of detailed information with numerous research graphics and photos of the site  including  construction, plants, and people.

The BCIT GRRF features two green roof sections separated by parapets and a non-green reference roof (REF).  Both green roof systems include a  root barrier, non-reservoir drainage board and independent filter cloth, and the same growing medium composition consisting of 1⁄3 white pumice, 1⁄3 sand and 1⁄3 organic compost.

Green Roof 1 (GR-1) contained 75 mm of growing medium planted with sedum species  while Green Roof 2 (GR-2) contained 150 mm of growing medium planted with a mix of fescues and grasses.  The roof sections were fully instrumented to measure stormwater runoff characteristics and energy efficiency. Compare the roof from initially planted below in 2003 and then two years later in 2005:

The roof was monitored and performance data were  collected for one full year (January 1 to December 31, 2005).  The plants were fully established during this period.  Also see the November 2006 Technical Series 06-106 “West Coast Green Roof Performance at BCIT’s Green Roof Research Facility” from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which is a condensed version of the BCIT  Phase 1 research program report.

“The first year of observation showed that, in the temperate climate of Vancouver, a green roof system with appropriate plant species in 75 mm of growing medium can provide a similar level of stormwater mitigation and thermal benefits as a green roof system with 150 mm of growing medium. The preliminary findings suggested that buildings in Vancouver could benefit from lighter weight extensive green roof systems to realize the goals of stormwater retention and reduction of  thermal extremes.  A second phase of study will look at stormwater.” ~  West Coast Green Roof Performance at BCIT’s Green Roof Research Facility

The BCIT Green Roof Research Facility weather pole is shown above, including solar radiation sensor, relative humidity and temperature transmitter, and thermocouples followed by the cross-section of their roofing system showing principal components and location of various sensors.

The BCIT Technology Centre designed and built the  tipping bucket flow measurement system:

Below are two photos of the individual Roofing Evaluation Modules (REMs) at ground level at different times of the year and from different perspectives: one from the ground and one as seen from the roof of the adjacent Research Facility.

From 2006-2008, Christine  Thuring, our Student Editor,  was an adjunct  researcher at BCIT’s Centre for the  Advancement of Green Roof Research and involved in the research there (and is available for collaboration on special projects) – see her in the flowering summer shot below, pointing up:

In late July 2008, the BCIT Centre for Advancement of Green Roof Technology began a 2-year research project in partnership with Quad-Lock Building Systems, Ltd. The goal of this research was to provide objective data on the performance of various green roof structures.  Utilizing Quad-Lock’s Insulating Concrete Forms and Quad-Deck products, this Roofing Evaluation Module (REM) was the first all-concrete test structure at BCIT’s CAGRT.  This new REM was placed alongside wood frame REM structures that incorporate both green and conventional roofs.

Phase 3  commenced  in 2007, figures not included here in this profile, and include various sites at  BCIT’s Burnaby Campus which encompassed: instrumenting the 1,700 M2 (18,000 sf) extensive greenroof on the Electronic Arts (EA) Motion Capture Studio to monitor and evaluate stormwater runoff and membrane temperatures; calibrating and monitoring  the 135 M2  (1,450 sf)  White Rock Operations Building extensive green roof for its effectiveness as a stormwater source control tool; and the Elevated Research Platform (ERP), below.

This 1,300 M2  (14,000 sf) structure at BCIT Burnaby campus covers the carpentry students’ working area and hosts a replicated experiment trialing native Alpine plants in various substrate treatments.  Read more about all of Phase 3  here.

Watch Maureen on another Burnaby roof about to get greened in the short 1:27 “Snow and Safety Vests” Green Roofs at BCIT video from March 2009 below from YouTube.  She talks about getting ready to place the growing media and the monitoring of ambient weather data:


The BCIT Centre for Architectural Ecology has a long history of researching greenroofs and greenwalls with a deep commitment to the Vancouver, B.C. area and last year,  along with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, it co-hosted the  eighth annual Cities Alive 2010 Conference.  Maureen led the expert panel session “Taking Green Roofs and Walls to the Next Level in British Columbia – A Pathway to the Future!”

Maureen and BCIT are truly pioneers in greenroof technology, and if you have a chance to visit them and their  Green Roof Research Facility, you’ll certainly enjoy it! The    BCIT  Centre  for Architectural Ecology  offers Green Roof Tours which will commence again next month in September, so check their  website later for details.

“Rooftops are the untapped real estate opportunity of the 21st century. Green roofs provide tremendous benefits to the building owner, the local community, and the global community.” ~  Maureen Connelly, BCIT CAE GRRF Director and Faculty

Did we miss something? We’d love to hear from you! Click here to see more information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database. See how you can submit yours here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.