I’m a GRP – thanks to NYC, a gracious host!

May 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Green Roof Professional DesignationI did it – I finally took my (GRP)  Green Roof Professional exam from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, passed, and am now part of the Class of 2009-10, the first year since the launch!

Of course you passed, my friends said, you’ve been at this since the late 1990’s, been called the “Queen of Greenroofs,” the Audubon Society said I was the “Dean of Greenroofs” several years back,  and Paul Kephart from Rana Creek  once told an audience in San Francisco that I  had a PhD in greenroofs!   I quickly thanked him for the educational upgrade, but explained  really I just have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture…

Hold on, while it wasn’t that hard, it also wasn’t that easy – I didn’t quite  ace it, and it took some studying of the four Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ courses – well, really three (I didn’t study Green Roofs 101 – I did teach it, though,  for one stint during the introduction in Portland, OR,  in 2004 along with Patrick Carey, Haven Kiers, and Wendy Wark, pictured at right).   But that’s the point of the exam – to ensure a certain level of  comprehension of the philosophy and application of greenroof methodology and  technology, which also means to know your basic understanding of the combined black and green arts, and to know when to call in a seasoned professional in  one of those  particular  halves when necessary.

Even though I’ve been at this for over ten years with several greenroofs designed under my belt (plus writing about them, speaking, compiling the Projects Database with 1,028 profiles so far, etc.), I felt it was very important to receive my GRP designation for many reasons.   (I became a LEED AP in 2004 for similar reasonings.)   I had planned to take it here in Atlanta  last June, 2009 at the inaugural exam held during the 7th annual  Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference (now Cities Alive) and said so when I interviewed Jeff Bruce, but didn’t because I missed the registration deadline!

In any case, I took a look at all the cities offering the GRP exam this year and jumped at taking it New York City on Friday, April 30 because it’s  such a great town and we have friends there.    Aramis and I  had great hosts in Wendy and Chris Wark – Chris is our new “Energy Editor” and they’re long time greenroof compadres.   To welcome us, we had dinner at their place the night before and since Wendy is now  a director at Metro North Railroad, and she promised us a special late afternoon “insider”  tour of Grand Central Station, after my morning GRP exam at Pace University.

There were about 30 of us taking the exam, and all went smoothly.   Since we had the afternoon free, we roamed a bit, first exploring New York’s historic South Street Seaport next to the Brooklyn Bridge at the tip of Manhattan.    Most important for us, though, was to visit the Ground Zero site, pay our respects, and see the construction progress.   We started at the beautiful St. Paul’s Chapel.   Opened in 1766,  it’s Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use – a place where George Washington worshiped and 9/11 recovery workers received round-the-clock care, and lingered at each of the memorials to the  victims of that horrific day – personal mementos, photos, and messages to lost ones.   We  also visited  the Ground Zero Museum Workshop  alongside a throng of international visitors, where we  reflected at rare, heart-pulling  images of the day  and  the models and plans of the new Freedom Tower and more.

Wendy then showed us the  bustling, beautiful and  massive Grand Central Terminal,  revealing seven little know secrets about its Beaux-Arts architecture and past…Did you know that the four-sided brass  clock in the center of the information booth in the main concourse holds the four largest opals in the world?   Drinks  at MAD46 were next – a trendy  rooftop lounge (of course!) followed by dinner at Guantanamera,  a wonderful  Cuban restaurant.

On Saturday Wendy, Chris, Aramis, and I  spent our last day in the Meatpacking District  touring the much publicized 1.45-mile (2.33  km)  High Line, which was packed with people sightseeing, pushing baby strollers and wheelchairs,  and even some taking in the  sun in  the extremely hot sunshine.   I found the High Line to be an extremely successful example of public space:  interesting  regenerative design in the form of  ecological reuse of a former urban blight.

Originally constructed in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets, it was abandoned in 1980.   But today the High Line is an elevated  public park owned by the City of New York and operated under the jurisdiction of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.  Designed by the landscape architecture firm of James Corner Field Operations and architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro with planting design from Piet Oudolf and engineering design by Buro Happold, the first section opened to the public in June, 2009.

“The park welcomes visitors with naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and with new, often unexpected views of the city and the Hudson River. Pebble-dash concrete walkways unify the trail, which swells and constricts, swinging from side to side, and divides into concrete tines that meld the hardscape with the planting embedded in railroad gravel mulch. Stretches of track and ties recall the High Line’s former use. Most of the planting, which includes 210 species, is of rugged meadow plants, including clump-forming grasses, liatris and coneflowers, with scattered stands of sumac and smokebush, but not limited to American natives.” ~ Wikipedia

Although I found the site’s modernist  hotel to border on hideous, I loved the High Line’s  overall design – its honesty to its railroad past – and the planting  flow of this linear park spanning 22 city blocks, which in effect is a very large greenroof!

Which brings me back to the reason for this post – to let you know I am a proud GRP, and if you are involved with our industry or are considering entering, I highly recommend you pursue this course of study and sit for the exam – even if you, too, have been doing this for over 10 years (or more!).

Thanks to the Warks and to NYC!   Speaking of New York City, look for our second installment of  Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World WebTV series in about a month or two.   Sponsored by Green Roof Blocks, we’re highlighting the fabulous Cook+Fox Architects Corporate Offices  and their 8th floor penthouse greenroof in Manhattan!

As usual, happy greening! ~ Linda V., GRP

The 2010 “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest Top 10 List

May 3, 2010 at 2:58 am

You know by now that the winner of our inaugural “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest 2010 is ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky, and here we go, following up with our Top 10 List of the entries accumulating the highest number of votes overall.

We received 30 photos of international living roof projects representing seven countries, including the United States (18), Canada (6), UK (2), Japan (1), Singapore (1), Germany (1), and Sweden (1).

Without further ado, here are the top votes in descending order – click on hyperlinks to learn more about each project – if they don’t have one, that means we don’t have a profile yet in The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database, but we will soon:

2010 “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest
Top 10 List

#1) ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – 735 votes

Overlooking one of Toronto’s busiest highways, this 7,500-sq-ft portable garden reduces urban heat, noise and stormwater runoff. It provides lush meeting space for staff and visitors, as well as habitat for birds and butterflies. It helps create a greener, healthier environment. Photo by Margaret Mulligan.

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#2)  parc24, Vero Beach, Florida, USA – 190 votes

Parc24 is taking a stand, and directing Vero Beach into the future, where business can be smart by design and green by nature. Photo by Leah Campbell.

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#3)  Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada – 158 votes

This green roof is the pinnacle of what a green roof should be. It combines Art, Architecture, Design, and Ingenuity, without sacrificing its Ecological Benefits. Photo by Patrick Biller.

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#4)  Bellevue Towers, Bellevue, Washington, USA – 86 votes

At nearly an acre in size, the rooftop garden’s bold, modern geometry is informed by the curvilinear tower design, which includes 27,100 square feet of intensive roof garden planting area and 6,400 square feet of extensive ecoroof.  The intensive gardens between towers provide a valuable, usable outdoor spaces for the residents and a visual asset to the condominium units above and adjacent office buildings. This project is certified LEED Gold. Photo by Ben Johnson.

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#5)  Longdrive Residential green roof, Long Eddy, New York, USA – 85 votes

Located on 63 acres in upstate New York the house sits at the edge of the woods overlooking a meadow.  The planted roof on three levels blends into the natural landscape and encourages the wildlife to creep in close to the house. Photo by Steve Chrostowski.

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#6)  St. Louis Children’s Hospital Rooftop Garden,  St. Louis, Missouri, USA – 71 votes

Just outside St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s eighth floor, patients have a unique setting to enjoy time with nature, a private walk or quiet reflection. The 8,000-square-foot Olson Family Garden , an interactive rooftop oasis designed expressly for children and families who want a place for privacy, solace and healing, is another reason why St. Louis Children’s Hospital is a special place for kids. Photo by Tom Tyler.

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#7)  Trent University, Peterborough, ON Canada – 47 votes

Trent’s roof top garden sits on our Environmental Sciences Building providing learning and volunteer opportunities for students.  In this garden we grow vegetables and herbs that are served in our organic campus cafe, the Seasoned Spoon!  Photo by Leslie Menagh.

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#8)  College of Law, Saskatoon, Canada – 36 votes

This 650 m2 green roof is thriving in an extreme climate. Pasture sage, a plant indigenous to the region, grows above the Native Law Centre. In late summer, the sage is harvested in a traditional manner by faculty of the NLC to use for smudging in ceremonies throughout the following year. Photo by Goya Ngan.

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#9)  Greenroof Pavilion at Rock Mill Park, Alpharetta, Georgia, USA – 32 votes

The Greenroof Pavilion design honors the land and Cherokee heritage in this historically and environmentally sensitive Big Creek Watershed with The Greenroof Trial Gardens display; hands-on models and interpretive signage inform young and old alike. Photo by Caroline Menetre.

Note:  FYI – Although I designed this, I did not vote for it, nor any other project for that matter.  This entry was submitted by Caroline Menetre, our Student Intern, who has helped me with planting, plant trial record keeping, and weeding duties – I like how she didn’t even bother to come up with her own narrative, but felt comfortable just copying my own example above!

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#10)  Miami Science Museum, Miami, Florida, USA – 21 votes

The Museum’s four green roof assemblies, each with varied depths and irrigation schedules, include interpretive signs and rain/ temperature sensors. They provide information for visitors and data for the designers of the Museum’s new building. Photo by Chris Trigg.

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See all the photo submittals here.  In my eyes, everyone who entered a photo is a winner, and I know we all enjoyed seeing this wide assortment of greenroofs.  Next year I promise to start earlier so you can have more time to get your “people” to vote for your favorite project – but it was fun, although a bit fast and furious!

Happy greening ~ Linda V.

Voting Closed for “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest

April 28, 2010 at 10:08 pm

Wow, Greenroofs.com received 30 entries from around the world in our first greenroof contest ever – the “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest – and the enthusiasm has been enormous!  We wanted a way to honor Earth Day and hear what you, in our greenroof world, have done to lessen our footprint, so I came up with this idea to highlight your efforts.

Voting and submissions are now closed.  Thanks to everyone who submitted a project – each beautiful, unique and special in their own way.  And let’s admit it – any roof that has been greened is a huge step up from the traditional conventional roof – hot, barren, and certainly unproductive (OK, unless you have solar or a reflective roof)!

We’ll announce the winner on Friday, April 30, the last day of Earth Month.  And we’ll soon get to learn all about the winning roof from the person who submitted it – we already know the What (a greenroof!), but how about the Who, Where, When and Why of the project?  Stay tuned!

Check out the entries here and look for our announcement on Friday.

Happy greening,

~ Linda V.

Happy Earth Day 2010!

April 22, 2010 at 11:15 am

Happy Earth Day 2010!   It’s the 40th anniversary of observing this date, and April has been unofficially dubbed Earth Month, too, in its honor.   April is also Landscape Architecture Month, a fitting selection for a profession so dedicated to respecting the Earth through responsible environmental design.

So how am I celebrating Earth Day and Month?   Well, you know we started our first annual “Love the Earth! Plant a Roof Earth Day Photo Contest”  – it’s open until April 28 for entering your favorite living roof and for voting.   By the way, there’s one clear early leader so far with over 200 votes!   Get your friends and colleagues to vote for your roof shot now.   We’ll announce the winner on April 30.

My hands-on project involves a local area  Daisy Troop – eleven young girls aged 7 and 8 who attend Birmingham Falls Elementary  in Milton, Georgia.   Their Girl Scout Leader, mom Sandra Nichols, contacted me a while back about speaking to the troop about the greenroof I designed at Rock Mill Park  in Alpharetta, GA.   The girls are working towards one of their badges, the  Clover Project, which involves preserving and protecting a local treasure and saving resources.   Since Sandra had been to the park before, she felt this would be a great learning opportunity to present the greenroof idea to the girls to educate them about saving water and reducing energy usage.

By the way, our Student Intern, Caroline Menetre – below, and I had just been up to the roof last week, doing routine weeding and taking notes to see which plants had fared well and which ones didn’t – more on that later.

Being a mom of three myself, and now a grandmom, of course I said yes!   I met with them this past Tuesday and had a blast speaking about rain water, stormwater, and an introduction to greenroofs to this lively and rambunctious group.   They especially loved touching all the plants in our four Greenroof Trial Garden tabletops – and they all got to try the garlicky Alliums in the Non-native Module!

I’ll be following up with them at their school this upcoming Tuesday to help them plant two 2′ x 2′ x 4″ greenroof modules of their own – both Green Roof Blocks and GreenGrid  donated a module each, which will be on display at the school for all the children to have hands-on experience and learn about different types of greenroof plants.   Thanks to Kelly Luckett of Green Roof Blocks, and Jim Lindell and Greg Harper of GreenGrid!   I should add a thanks to GreenTech as well – they offered their larger 4′ x 4′ x 8 1/2″ module, but it was decided  two smaller modules placed in two locations would better serve the students.

Also, Bobby Saul of Saul Nurseries  here in Atlanta and Alpharetta, GA, is donating the plants for both modules, as well as the growing media from ItSaul Natural.   After my little talk, I presented each girl with her own greenroof plant from Saul Nurseries to take home – a beautiful green  Jovibarba ‘Green Carpet’ –  succulent and spiky!   You know how kids like to touch things, well, they loved these!

I know that many of you are passionate about protecting the planet, and hopefully you are doing something this April to honor our land.   I’ll leave with this quote:

“Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.” ~ Rachel Carson

~ Linda V.