Intro to Tropical Green Roofs

March 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Welcome to the Greenroofs.com Tropical Green Roofs column on the Sky Gardens Blog.  As a third generation native Floridian, I’ll be hosting an ongoing series of posts focusing on green roofs and living walls in the tropics.

Tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems present a variety of unique challenges to the designer.  Heat, humidity, pests, cyclones and hurricanes, extreme temperature swings, severe droughts and other factors can all potentially influence a green roof system over a short period of time.

Despite challenges the tropical green roof and living wall technology I refer to as “vertical green” have faced, they are now rapidly becoming important environmental and sustainability trends across the equatorial belt.

Experts such as David Aponte in Puerto Rico, Jimmy Sterling of Jacksonville and Joe Webb of Houston, Texas are developing leading edge, tropical green roof technology and sharing their experiences and data.  Field trials are being conducted and important data accumulated.  But much of the information surrounding work with tropical green roofs is scattered across the globe.

Hopefully this Greenroofs.com column will help assimilate our collective knowledge of these unique green roofs.

My love for green roofs lies in a deep rooted passion of plants and sustainability.  My wife, Judy, and I have owned and operated plant nurseries for years.  I firmly believe urban core vertical green offers important benefits including cleansing of stormwater, providing habitat, sequestering carbon, removing toxic nutrients, pumping oxygen into the air, creating a sense of place, allowing for natural pest management and more.

My hope is for the Tropical Green Roofs column to offer an examination of a wide variety of topical issues facing our industry today.  Standards, plant selection, roofing materials, safety and liability issues, design modeling, resources and discussion of actual projects will form the basis of our discussions.

Though the challenges are many, the opportunities are unlimited.  Green roofs are sprouting in Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Asia, Mediterranean coastal areas and the Southeastern U.S.  Though buffeted with cyclone force winds and subjected to desiccation under extreme light and heat levels, ecologically important green roofs are being designed and successfully installed across the tropics.

Green roof projects such as Rob Overly’s residential porch plantings, the Genora Orth historic structure green roof (permitting was a real challenge through the Historic Preservation Districts), St. Johns Primer School and, of course, the Greenroofs.com Greenroof Project of the Week for June 27, 2011, the Breaking Ground Green Roof, have shown us many important issues concerning tropical vertical green.  Designing green roofs for the KEMH project in Bermuda was a real challenge, especially from the perspective of determining what truly was a Bermudian native plant species.  Another of our green roof designs is based on a Mexican homestead where the only source of water comes from the rare two or three annual rain events.

Yet even more demanding are those remedial projects where we come behind a landscape firm with a low price but no green roof experience.  Green Roof Professional (GRP) accreditation or equivalent proven knowledge is so important to designing and installing a tropical green roof that will continue to provide sustainability achievements throughout the years.

Sharing our experiences with plant selection, wind and light buffering, irrigation, dew and fog collection, soil composition, materials, systems, testing and permitting can only help each of us in our efforts to create profitable and ecologically sustainable green roof projects.

With the Tropical Green Roofs column we hope to examine both successes and failures, learning what does and does not work under the environmental and climatical conditions our projects are framed within.

I’d like to start next week by examining green roof site parameters and multiple design modeling approaches for determining system and plant selection.  As we analyze the various factors typically impacting tropical green roofs we will review case studies searching for improved approaches to maintenance and long term care.

You are invited to join us in our weekly post, adding your comments, constructive criticism and valuable insights.  Hopefully you will be inspired to join us in our journey across the tropics.

Tropical Green Roof Editor,
Kevin Songer, J.D., ISA Certified Arborist & Municipal Specialist, LEED AP BD+C

 

Kevin Songer serves as green roof expert for MetroVerde, a Florida based vertical green design company.  He was awarded the 2011 ‘Green Hero’ of the year award and the 2009 Innovation in Landscape and Water Conservation recognition by the Northeast Florida Chapter of the USGBC.  Kevin has spoken of the economic and ecological benefits associated with green roofs at numerous functions and seminars.  He served on Greenroofs.com’s “Wind. Water. Heat. Grow. Greenroofs.” Panel Session with Dr. Bill RetzlaffDavid Aponte, and Joe Webb during the 2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit.

Kevin writes a daily green roof blog, Living Green Roofs, and contributes green roof notes to the Native Plant and Wildlife Garden web project.  Kevin also holds an undergraduate degree in biology and the Juris Doctor degree from Florida Coastal School of Law with a focus in environmental law.

Contact Kevin at: 904.294.2656, or email him at: TropicalGreenRoofsEditor@greenroofs.com.