CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress – A World of Reasons to Come to Toronto

October 6, 2009 at 1:27 am

CitiesAlive! Banner, Photo Gardens in the Sky, Toronto

The first ever CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress will be held in Toronto in a couple of weeks and will be there.   In partnership with the City of Toronto, the World Green Roof Infrastructure Network (WGRIN), and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities  (GRHC),  CitiesAlive! is expecting a great turnout with over 1,000 participants.   Addressing the theme “Green roof infrastructure as a global solution to climate change,” the congress will host over 60 internationally renowned speaker presentations and expert roundtable discussions in greenroof design, policy, research and emerging trends in green infrastructure, and an industry trade show.

We’ve had multiple questions from readers about this conference, in terms of comparing it to the annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, which also  offers all  of the above.   GRHC is a founding member of WGRIN, who has been planning this congress for some time now, and since Toronto is at the forefront of greenroof policy in North America – plus it’s their home –  it’s only natural the inaugural  congress should be held in this beautiful international city.   But some people are asking me why it would be beneficial to attend in Toronto, especially if they had just come to Atlanta in June.   They’ve asked me about the focus of CitiesAlive! since we’ve always had global views and speakers at the seven Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conferences so far.

I recently asked Steven Peck, President, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, these questions on the differences between the two events, and he shared his views with me:

“There are a number of important differences. The main ones are that the focus of CitiesAlive! is on how vegetative technologies, including urban forests, can help us mitigate climate change and adapt cities to the negative consequences like heat waves and severe storms. We have invited various experts from around the world to give presentations. It is much more focused than our annual conference which includes a wider range of topics. Another major difference is that WGRIN is the co-host of this event, which is scheduled to be held in Mexico City next year. This event will have a greater international flavour and we are having a Mexican fiesta and international showcase of projects on Wednesday, October 21 at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

Toronto Botanical Garden, from their website, by Jenny

“We are also not having North American industry programs like the Awards of Excellence but a Student Design Contest instead – where 22 groups of students from around the world are redesigning a city block with multiple forms of green infrastructure for maximum sustainability benefits.

“We are also celebrating and acknowledging the policy and program leadership of the City of Toronto, which passed the first green roof construction standard and mandatory by-law for new buildings in North America.”

And Steven concluded, “So, CitiesAlive! is a different program with a broader scope of green technologies but more of a focus on positive climate change impacts. Cities Alive! is going to be a really unique, one-time event.”

OK, so we can expect greater green infrastructure beyond greenroofs and green walls,  encompassing broader living architecture technologies, with greater international focus and flavor – got it!   I love the inclusion of the  international student design competition, “Transforming the Face of Buildings“ – it sounds very promising, where students were asked to rethink the connection between built and biotic landscapes.   It will be very interesting to see the entries.   Also of note, the Congress is offering courses, many sustainable project tours, CitiesAlive! delegates can learn more about the new Toronto Green Roof Bylaw, and the Canadian Green Roof Professional (GRP) Accreditation launch will be held on October 19, 2009.  

Speaker highlights include Paul Kephart (Executive Director, Rana Creek, USA); Dusty Gedge (President, European Federation of Green Roof Associations and, England); Sadhu Johnson (Chief Environmental Officer, City of Chicago, USA); David Yocca (President, Conservation Design Forum, USA); Don Delaney (Environmental Solutions Manager, Flynn Canada); Sable (Director Marketing & Education, Green Screen, USA); and Jeffrey L. Bruce (Principal, Jeffrey Bruce & Co., USA).     Download the Agenda here.

CitiesAlive! logo and banner

The CitiesAlive! 2009 International Green Infrastructure Congress will be held from October 19 – 21 2009 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Downtown, 123 Queen St. West, Toronto, ON, Canada.   Visit for more information and to register.

It’s great to see the international greenroof community coming together again, and we’re very happy to be attending the CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress, too.  We  hope to see many of you there, including our Student Editor, Christine Thuring, the Green Wall Editor, George Irwin, and the Architecture Editor, Patrick Carey.   Aramis and I look forward to  taking  the Toronto Sustainable Roof Bus Tour,  sponsored by Tremco and Bioroof, and enjoying the sights and sounds of awesome downtown Toronto with friends and colleagues.

~ Linda V.

Green Construction, Healthy Inside & Out: Eco Insulation Alternatives from

September 24, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Paul James

September 26th is National Mesothelioma Awareness Day and we at are trying to raise awareness as much as possible.   The support we have received from eco bloggers, Realtors, and other organizations has been absolutely tremendous.   As you may know, homes built before 1980 likely have asbestos insulation in them.   When homeowners remodel, they may expose themselves to asbestos, which could lead to a fatal cancer known as mesothelioma.   There are many environmentally sustainable, healthy and GREEN ways to insulate your home and this is among the topics we’d like to discuss.

Eco alternative materials are available, inside your home and out!

With a growing amount of education and technology in eco-sustainable resources, many cities and states are leading the way towards a green paradigm of building and construction.   Environmental efficiency is on the rise because of technology and green building methods progressing rapidly.     Not only will these methods produce a healthier lifestyle, it will save you money.

We’re all aware of the benefits of utilizing environmentally sustainable green roofs, including: improvement of the urban heat island effect and even reduction of annual energy usage and costs.   And studies have shown that a green roof’s ability to retain water can greatly aid in an environment’s stormwater management policy because less water is released back into a city’s already overburdened sewer infrastructure, and that which does runs off  slower,  cooler, and cleaner.

The implementation of eco-construction and green energy solutions will play an important role in the transformation to a healthier and sustainable world.   We can all agree that green construction is healthy for a building’s occupants all around, from top to bottom and in-between.

Asbestos Info & Tips

Used throughout the 20th century as a form of insulation for piping, roofing, and flooring, asbestos’ flame resistant and highly durable qualities made it an ideal choice for manufacturers, before we knew of the potential hazards.   Many older homes built prior to 1980 may still harvest obsolete and corrosive building materials which can create health concerns.

If any asbestos is located in your home, the best thing to do is leave it un-disturbed until a home inspector can determine the best course of action.   In many situations, the best action is no action.   Asbestos that is disturbed or damaged due to age is known as “friable“ asbestos.   This is a concern because its toxic fibers can easily circulate and become inhaled.   The removal of asbestos from specified locations must be undertaken by abatement contractors who are licensed in their corresponding states.

Although asbestos exposure does not always lead a related illness, long term inhalation of its fibers can cause a rare but severe ailment known as mesothelioma.   Due to the fact many mesothelioma symptoms are similar to less serious ailments, diagnosis is one of the more difficult tasks physicians encounter. Lung Diagram

Recently, congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.   Included in this act were extensions to the tax incentives placed for energy efficiency in 2005, as well as new credits for homeowners who remodel or build using eco-sustainable methods.   Some of the measures that are eligible for tax credits include added insulation to walls, ceilings, or other part of the building envelope that meets the 2009 IECC specifications, sealing cracks in the building shell and ducts to reduce heat loss.   Storm doors paired with U-factored rated wood doors are also eligible.

Asbestos products from Asbestos.comThere are many green, eco-friendly materials that replace the need for asbestos and can reduce energy costs annually.   There is no need for any products used in construction to be made from asbestos, yet over 3,000 work and home-based materials still contain this toxin.

Green alternatives to asbestos include the use of cotton fiber, lcynene ® foam and cellulose.  These green options have the same beneficial qualities as asbestos, minus the health deteriorating and toxic components. Icynene ® Insulation Products

In this time of global awareness accumulating rapidly, implementing eco-friendly forms of building and construction is becoming a must for homeowners.   Many locations throughout the United States and beyond are swiftly changing their construction practices to suit both the environment and the health of human beings, inside and out.

~ Paul James, Awareness Coordinator at the Mesothelioma Cancer Center,, is committed to providing the latest, up-to-date information to our visitors in the hopes of spreading awareness about the dangers of asbestos cancer. This website offers a one-stop resource on all asbestos issues ranging from occupational exposure to mesothelioma treatment options. As the leading asbestos and mesothelioma resource, offers more than 3,000 pages of the most comprehensive and cutting edge information on the web.

For additional info, please contact Paul or Ben Grayson, National Awareness Coordinator, Mesothelioma Center at:   407.965.5755.

Submit a Guest Post to Sky Gardens ~

August 30, 2009 at 11:59 pm

I receive a lot of great info about a variety of topics from readers – tidbits and sometimes more elaborate – usually not quite enough to qualify as a Guest Feature on,  but certainly enough to pique our interest for a blog post.   Of course I don’t have unlimited time at my disposal to further research all of these newsworthy items, nor do our Contributing Editors, so we’ve decided to open up our Sky Gardens Blog to Guest Posts.  

Talking about our Contributing Editors, as it is I’m the one blogging the most anyway – they all have their real careers and companies to run, after all, so I think this will open up our piece of the blogosphere a bit – new blood and all that.

So how does it work and what are we looking for?   Posts will come through me, and I’ll determine if the topic is pertinent, appropriate, and in-line with  the tone  of “Sky Gardens ~ where cool green meets lofty blue.”   So what’s that, again?   From my bio in About Us:

“Cool green?”   Cool green architecture, cool green people, cool green environments, etc., you get the picture. “Lofty blue?”   As in sky high spaces, places, ideals, and ideas.  

Ask yourself, Will the greenroof community be eager to read this?   Is it  environmentally interesting, important, funny, or thought provoking?   Good examples are projects with greenroofs or green walls you visited or  articles/videos you came across, people and organizations who are working in the sustainable design field, commentary on green case studies, examples of best practices, links to industry news,  or media happenings in general.   No press releases, infomercials or advertorials, please!   If you want to advertise your product or service, great – we keep that separate, just visit Advertise with Us.   Also  see  our Submissions page for more.   If accepted, the author’s name will be followed by a comma and Guest Post, as in Jane Doe, Guest Post  to differentiate you from the Team at

Green Wall project by Enrique Browne Arquitectos, Chile, as seen in Inhabitat of 1.29.09

Guidelines are simple, please:

Informal and opinionated is fine, but no  nastiness or preaching will be tolerated.   Be clear and concise, edit and spellcheck your work – don’t make  us ask for clarifications!   If English is not your native tongue, that’s different and we’ll be more tolerant, so please state that.     But we will still not  publish poorly written work.

Include relevant references and websites; if you are lifting someone else’s work, put it in quotes and give the source.   When referencing an article or other post, it’s not considered polite to paste the entire story (not to mention legal in terms of copyright issues).   Most blogs post a summary or the first paragraph (40 words), then include a link to the rest of the story.   But I really don’t want copied articles that are just being regurgitated over the Internet – be creative and summarize in your own words!

Length:   About 250 words would be max.   Sometimes less is more, but it’s only a guideline.

Send great and  awesome photos, graphics and images, people!   How many?   At least two, more is better.   No one wants to read a bunch of words  going on and on about  some vague architectural philosophy  pertaining to  culture and the evolution/decline of man without some interesting photos to break it up.   Again, state the source and if the photo is copyrighted, get permission and  include the name of the photographer.

Send your posts to:

Format:   Word, TXT, or RTF; Photos:   JPG or GIF, no larger than 490 x 342 pixels

Here’s a new opportunity for to continue our onward and upward expansion into the greenroof world, as well as your opportunity to share your views with our readership.   So for those of you who want to be bloggers, here’s your chance!

As always, we welcome your ideas and comments ~ Linda V.

A Momentous Occasion for the Planners of Boston GreenFest

August 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm

The organizers of second annual Boston GreenFest 2009  have many ideals regarding their festival, what it represents,  and view it as an ethic to live by.   They have worked tirelessly to promote many aspects of green thinking, living and architecture – including green roofs, of course – but their scope is quite global and much more encompassing.   Karen L. Weber, Coordinator of Boston GreenFest and Executive Director of Foundation for a Green Future, Inc., told me that last Thursday, August 13, 2009 was indeed  “a momentous occasion for the planners of Boston GreenFest.”

Massachusetts State House's Grand Staircase; Photo taken by Halef Gunawan; Source: Boston GreenFest

Massachusetts State House's Grand Staircase; Photo taken by Halef Gunawan; Source: Boston GreenFest

Karen elaborates, “We held our first Green Town Meeting at the Massachusetts State House in front of the Grand Staircase with over 50 people in attendance.   Rep. Frank Smizik, Chair of the Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, opened the session.   He reminded everyone about the importance of energy efficiency and working to make the changes we need to go forward.   He also suggested that although Massachusetts has an excellent record about advocating for policy that addresses climate change, we must do more.   Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton, recommended that everyone continue to lobby and push hard for their legislators to strive for higher goals in regards to climate change and efficiency.   Ben Wright of Environment Massachusetts, a group that works hard to advocate the weatherizing of everyone’s home and ways to reduce the cost on homeowners, acknowledged the remarks of Smizik and Pacheco.”

Karen read the draft of the GreenFest Manifest to set the stage for  their brainstorming session, and continues, “Scotland Willis, a member of the GreenFest planning committee and candidate for City Councilor at Large, reaffirmed the work we had to do and the unique opportunity GreenFest provides to the community to bring everyone together.   Raking Williams spoke about the fact that we have entered a time for change, for all life to be revered.   Tito Jackson, another City Council candidate, praised us for doing the work we are doing.   Craig Altemose, law student at Harvard, local coordinator of Massachusetts Power Shift and Green Town Meeting Coordinator for GreenFest, set the parameters of our work today.   We were to break in three discussion groups, with reports back before lunch.   After lunch, we were to constitute new groups and refine our ideas from the ones proposed at report back.   Final summary at 1:45 – 2 pm.
“The GreenFest Manifest is a document that combines ideas and a plan for action.   We decided to create a way to bring everyone on board to making changes in ways that could impact energy conservation and efficiency, global warming, and respect for life in a way that could establish clear actions for our city and commonwealth.   We intend to read the Manifest publicly at Boston GreenFest and hope to have everyone at GreenFest sign it.   It will then by sent to President Obama and our world leaders at Copenhagen to show them what we are ready to begin doing, and to inspire them to do that much more on a global level.   We hope we can inspire every state around the country and groups across the globe to come up with their own Manifest and put it into action.”
Here is the preamble to the GreenFest   Manifest,   and when the final form is complete, Karen will share  it with us:
Whereas Boston GreenFest invites all of our communities to come together regardless of race, color, background, and diverse beliefs to learn, connect and celebrate, today we reaffirm our commitment to protect and nurture life in all of its forms; to explore a balanced relationship with our complete self and our world; and to use sincerity, justice, discipline, kindness, wisdom, and principled determination to achieve a better union and universal peace.

We pledge to eradicate hunger and war so that peace will reign in our world; to educate each other so that we can create a world in which we live in harmony with nature and our surroundings; a world in which our children will not have to worry about carbon counts or rising tides; a world in which a stable climate will continue to provide us with the blessings of all our natural systems as well as the blessings of agriculture; a world in which the ties of family and community are placed above material possessions.

We commit to the principle that in all our decisions, we will consider their impact on all future generations.

Participants and Volunteers from Boston GreenFest 2008; SOurce: Bostone GreenFest

How inspirational, and momentous, indeed!

~ Linda V.