GPW: Breaking Ground Contracting Green Roof & Rooftop Garden

July 3, 2011 at 4:15 pm Project of the Week: 6/27/11
Breaking Ground Contracting
Green Roof & Rooftop Garden

Jacksonville, FL, USA
1,400 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2011
Owner: Breaking Ground Contracting
Location: Jacksonville, FL, USA
Building Type: Corporate
Type: Extensive, Test/Research
System: Custom
Size: 1,400 sq.ft.  
Slope: 100%
Access: Accessible, By Appointment

Project Description & Details

The purpose of Breaking Ground Contracting’s living roof is an ongoing sustainability statement through support of wildlife biodiversity, affording economic development, offering educational opportunities to a broad range of people and providing a healthy, organic food alternative in the Urban Core.  The green roof project is part of a LEED registered project through Green Building Certification Institute and is currently on track for LEED Platinum certification.  It is also the first green roof in Florida to incorporate native plants, rooftop permaculture and Florida-friendly landscaping.

Breaking Ground’s green roof is comprised of three main component ecosystems, including native wildflowers, shrubs, small trees and an intense permaculture food and herb garden.  In addition to the green roof, this project also incorporates a 10kW photovoltaic (electric) solar system, a solar thermal (hot water) system, living walls, a rain garden, low and no VOC interior paints and finishes, extensive reuse of materials from the demolition of the original building, high efficiency HVAC system with individual occupant controls, outside views for all occupants, and much more. The system is irrigated with condensate from the HVAC units and is designed using hurricane simulator tested components.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Green Roof Designer: Kevin Songer, MetroVerde
Greenwall Installation: Jimmy Sterling, C. Sterling Quality Roofing
Solar Photovoltaic System Design & Installation: Sun Works Solar
Waterproofing: Firestone ReflexEON TPO
Drainage: Colbond

Additional Info

Breaking Ground Education Services provides a variety of training sessions, consulting services, seminars, workshops and presentations on sustainability and safety with a focus on green and LEED building and Green Advantage ® training, as well as OSHA safety and NCCER instructor and core training.  So it’s obvious they have a healthy respect for the environment, and showed leadership by installing so many sustainable features here, including the beautiful greenroof.

Kevin Songer of MertroVerde has been involved with the Breaking Ground Contracting Green Roof & Rooftop Garden  from the start and felt it needed to serve as an important model for the Jacksonville, FL community and beyond.  Yet, because of its coastal location, it also need careful design considerations for not only the correct growing media and plant selection, but perhaps more importantly, resilience to hurricane winds.  In fact, Kevin spent last three years working with both the Ag Engineering and Civil Engineering departments at the University of Florida on hurricane testing.

Both he and Catherine Burkee author the Breaking Ground Green Roof Blog, which is full of some really great information and commentary plus plant and animal biodiversity research.  For example, Catherine writes about the visiting  Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica), below, just one of the many pollinators who seem to enjoy the festival of flowers and plants on the Breaking Ground green roof in Jacksonville, FL and also the Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia viridan) as one of the “new critters arriving daily.”

Kevin creates videos and a contributes informational blog posts on Breaking Ground Green Roof, including about their great variety of vegetables. Corn, peas, peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes and butternut squash are just a few of the edible plants found here.  He believes roofs are the new frontier for agriculture in the State of Florida and in urban areas across the world.

Kevin says the average growing media depth is 50-60mm only, about 2 inches or so – it goes from 1 inch to 3 or 4 inches in spots – across the entire roof.  Can you believe they grow corn in just a few inches?  Check out some of the veggies:

There’s simply too much to mention here, but there is an area on the blog for students and teachers, too.

At the end of May Kevin finished inventorying the Breaking Ground Contracting Green Roof.  The Plant List is divided into Family, Genus and Species; Breaking Ground boasts 37 plant families represented, 84 genus represented and well over 100 species.

Kevin says,

“The breakdown is interesting.  There are five plant families comprising the bulk of the individual species.  The top five plant families used on the Breaking Ground Green Roof are;

  1. Asteraceae
  2. Solanaceae
  3. Poaceae
  4. Lamiaceae, and
  5. Fabaceae

Good green roof design for biodiversity support follows the 10-20-30 rule. The 10-20-30 rule specifies that no more than 10% of the green roof plants should come from any one plant Family, 20% from any one Genus and 30% from any one Species.  We have easily met and exceeded the 10-20-30 rule.”

He also feels that “Green roofs are always full of surprises.  Any given day you may see a variety of pollinators, reptiles and other wildlife.”  Such was the case as a Louis Philippe antique China rose – aka Cracker Rose was unexpectedly  found amidst  the mass of Echinacea, Bidens and Muhly grass:

“But even more surprising was how well it is growing and blooming there on the periphery of the green roof’s harshest southerly exposure, subject to hot, dry winds and  overwhelming  solar heat, Kevin writes.

Watch a lovely video of Kevin and the Breaking Ground Contracting Green Roof & Rooftop Garden  below:

Visit the Breaking Ground Green Roof Blog  here for much more, and check out the very cool Interactive, Educational Green Roof Plant Maps at Kevin’s  MetroVerde website where you can select the green roof area where you wish to study the plants growing and click for larger view:

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.

GPW: NYC Parks Five Borough (5-Boro) Administrative Building

June 21, 2011 at 10:36 pm Project of the Week: 6/13/11
NYC Parks Five Borough (5-Boro)
Administrative Building

Randall’s Island, New York City, NY, USA
29,000 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2007-2010
Owner: New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Location: Randall’s Island, New York City, NY,  USA
Building Type: Municipal/Government
Type: Extensive, Semi-Intensive & Intensive, Test/Research
System: Other
Size: 29,000 sq.ft.  
Slope: 1%
Access: Accessible, By Appointment

Project Description & Details

In spring 2007, the Five Borough Technical Services Division of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation began a program of installing green roofs of various designs atop the Five Borough Complex on Randall’s Island where it is headquartered. Starting with the installation of a modest 800 sf system, to date the division, together with Parks’ Green Apple Corps, has installed 24 systems covering over 29,000 sf of roof on the west wing of the building. Together, the systems here will, arguably, comprise the fifth largest green roof in New York City. These systems vary by types of growing medium, depth of growing medium, and plant selection. There are also other non-traditional green roof systems here including a green wall, container systems, a “walkable” atrium system, as well as planters on top of parapet walls.

Serving as an experimental station in which the performance of many different systems can be monitored and compared, the Technical Services’ green roof at Five Borough is truly at the forefront of green roof technology with some of the most innovative systems available. It has 19 traditional systems, 4 non-traditional systems, and one green wall making it the only roof in the nation (quite possibly the world) that has such a vast array of green roof systems side-by-side. It serves as a working laboratory for green roof design and construction, providing knowledge to the rest of the agency and other groups while at the same time conserving and giving back to the City of New York. A sophisticated green roof monitoring system and storm water retention system has also been incorporated into the display complimenting the working laboratory. Visits by appointment are welcomed.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record
Development & Design: Artie Rollins, Chief of  Technical Services and John Robilotti, Senior Project Manager, NYC Parks Department
Roofing Material Donation: Barrett Company
Modular Green Roof Systems: GreenGrid™, Green Paks™,  BioTrays™, Bioroof™, Custom
Layered Green  Roof  Systems: Xero Flor™, custom
Growing Medium: GaiaSoil™, rooflite ®, Metro-Mix 510, custom mixes
Plant Material: NYC Parks Native Plant Center, Emory Knoll Farms, Sempergreen
Greenwall System: ELT Easy Green
Installation: Five Borough Technical Services, NYC Parks Summer Interns, Green Apple Corps, FedEx’s Energy Smart Outreach, Columbia University students, Million Trees Volunteers,  NYC Parks Weatherization Crews

Additional Info

The NYC 5-Boro greenroof project has been so dynamic since its creative inception that it has been hard to keep up with them!  We have received updates over the years, though, from many people.  In fact, that’s what triggered its selection of our Greenroof Project of the Week.  Artie Rollins and  John Robilotti sent us an update which has grown to become our Guest Feature Article for June, which should be up in a few days, and so I figured we should also highlight it as a June GPW.

The truly inspiring aspect of the project is the dedication by John and Artie to initiate the project back in 2007 and, along with the combined efforts of many others, to continue to add different systems and components each year.  The amount and plant material alone – both native and non-native – is astounding.

Other new green technologies being trialed on the 5-Boro greenroof are: the addition of both solitary bees and honey bees taking up residency on Randall’s Island; an overhead trellis with a surface area of 650 square feet, but a roof foot print of only 90 square feet; a wood parapet system along the atrium parapet wall; a metal parapet wall along the west wing’s perimeter; and a small hydroponic system that can hold 20 plants.

In any case, the NYC Parks Five Borough Administrative Building manages to serves  many ecological purposes, including stormwater retention – both via the greenroof and collection tanks, mitigating the urban heat island effect, energy conservation, and food production, just to name a few.

The fact that it also provides  a variety of educational components, such as collecting plant, growing media, stormwater retention and other data; various interpretive signage; and allowing tours of the greenroof, is some really green icing on the cake.

I look forward to learning more about all the interesting and different traditional and non-traditional roof greening systems – look for the article soon here on from John and Artie,  two very hands-on NYC Parks Department professionals:

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.

GPW: Ruthven Garage

June 10, 2011 at 12:30 am Project of the Week: 6/6/11
Ruthven Garage
Tacoma, WA, USA
441 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2010
Owner: Sandra and Jeff Ruthven
Location: Tacoma, WA, USA
Building Type: Single Family Residential
Type: Extensive
System: Custom
Size: 441 sq.ft.  
Slope: 45%
Access: Inaccessible, By Appointment

Project Description & Details

As a horticulture student at Oregon State University, in 2010 Jenny Ruthven wanted to design and install her own greenroof, and her parents’ garage seemed like the perfect spot. Family and friends joined in and additional structural support was added in ceiling joists, collar ties, ledgers, vertical braces between joists and rafters, and plywood next to the double doors for increased vertical stability.

Old shingles were removed and since the plywood underneath was still in good condition, they stapled felt paper on top to protect the 20′ x 30′ piece of EPDM waterproof membrane.  The 35 degree slope required soil stabilization in the form of pressure treated 2×4’s placed on end in a grid pattern to ensure minimal slumping of the soil.  A custom 3-4″ growing medium was used and they planted 432 plants – about 60 different species and varieties total including: 24 types of Sedums, bugleweed, heather, ice plant, wintercreeper euonymous, purple leafed heuchera, candytuft, Lithodora, Bee Balm, and Black-eyed Susan.  Soaker hoses cover irrigation needs.

Designers/Manufacturers of RecordGreenroof Designer & Project Manager: Jenny Ruthven
Designer: Brendan Fishback
Structural Help: Jill Sousa and Bob Drury
Construction: Brendan Fishback, Kevin Drost and Jerry Ruthven
Media Mixing: Jenny Ruthven, Megan Ruthven and Shiori Oki
Planting: Jill Sousa, Lisa Snyder, Jenny & Jerry Ruthven, Wynne Brown, Janice Mabin, and Brendan Fishback
Planting Design: Sandra Ruthven

Additional Info

Jenny’s parent’s garage wasn’t ugly beforehand, as you can appreciate below, but it wasn’t particularly interesting either –  let alone green in any way:

Before actually greenroofing it, Jenny Ruthven spent a lot of time online researching greenroofs, especially and how to install the membrane, edging and soil stabilization boards.  Her friend Brendan and she also attended the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Sciences two day ecoroof seminar series, to whom she credits much of their success.

Jenny also credits her  Grandpa Jerry Ruthven, above right, for his help and ideas, and to Jill Sousa and Bob Drury for structural suggestions.

After structural considerations were addressed, the team tackled the roof itself. After the 29-year old shingles and tar paper were torn off and new EPDM was installed, 1 x 6 cedar boards were placed on either end of the roof.  The membrane was wrapped up and over the boards, with metal flashing placed on top.  On the front and back Trex boards with L-brackets were used, screwed down through the membrane into rafters below every 2 ft.

Jenny decided to concoct her own growing media blend – it sounded a bit high on on the organic side to me, but she made a custom made blend consisting of about 52% inorganic and 48% organic.  The inorganic potion is all pumice, with a bit of perlite thrown in, and half of the organic component is cedar grove compost – the rest is coconut fiber, peat moss, mushroom compost, chicken compost, and steer compost.

Since Jenny’s mom, Sandra, is a plant person (she works at Portland Avenue Nursery), she handled the planting design and selection and decided to use 4″ pots and plant one per sf.  She even propagated about 75% of the plants herself in the months before.    As with everything else, on planting day the Ruthvens had a lot of help and planting!  This is what it looked like right afterwards:

And this is what the Ruthven Garage looks like now, in mid-May – the south-facing side (below top) is growing more abundantly in comparison to the north-facing slope (below bottom):

In retrospective, Mom Sandra says that she  figured that she’d really like her greenroof, but had never anticipated how much.

“Green roofs are amazing!  The plants grow so fast and I had so much fun propagating and designing the roof.  We have since done another green roof on my mom’s garage that we planted late March of this year.  And I want to do more in the future.  I’m always up on the ladder just looking to see how everything’s doing.  I’m definitely hooked on them.” ~ Sandra (Sass) Ruthven

In mid May, 2011 after about a year after from installation, Jenny told me:

“We’ve had really good survival with the plants.  Only lost a few mondo grass and some lithodora.” ~ Jenny Ruthven

She also says the total materials cost of the Ruthven Garage project was a mere $4.18/sf, and on a side note, during the roof’s first real rainfall of 2010 it rained .17 inches, and had a 91 % retention rate!

Jenny says she’s up for to questions or if you would like help with a project in the Portland or Tacoma area, contact her at:

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.”™s “This Week in Review” on GreenroofsTV: June 3rd, 2011

June 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Each week you can expect to learn What’s New here on through our “This Week in Review” video.   Here’s the transcript from June 3, 2011 from our daughter, Anjuli –  click on the photo below to see the video, or here.   Enjoy!

– Hello, I’m Anjuli Velazquez and welcome to This Week in Review for June 3rd, 2011, on    GreenroofsTV.

–  Project of the Week

–   Our project of the week is the Southface Eco Office built in 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia.  After receiving its ENERGY STAR label and Platinum LEED certification in 2009, the Southface Eco Office officially opened with its beautiful rooftop greenroof.  The Turner Foundation Green Roof on top of the third floor expands the office space into a rooftop patio with a magnificent view of downtown Atlanta.  The growing media is about 4 inches deep, and was planted with a variety of Sedums, Delospermas, Talinums, and Hens and Chicks in March of 2008 by Southface staff and volunteers.  Some of the highlights of this greenroof include: Walkway squares made of recycled rubber which were salvaged from a nearby building project; Louisiana Pacific Weatherbest decking, which is a composite product made from HDPE plastic and post-industrial recycled wood, and, of course, the succulent plants that reduce the heat island effect, as well as manage stormwater run-off by filtering and diverting water to the site cistern.

–  To learn more about the Southface Eco Office  greenroof, click on our project of the week photo on our homepage.

What’s New“

–  Advertiser Press Releases:

–   Skyland USA – rooflite ® Announces Ryan Paxton as the New CRM Program Director.

–  Bison Innovative Products supports Green Roofs for the West Symposium in Denver, Colorado on June 16th, 2011.

–  Industry News

–   The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Philadelphia Water Department will sign a groundbreaking agreement that will allow the PWD to officially implement its Green City, Clean Waters plan.  PWD plans to spend approximately $2 billion over the next 25 years to use largely green infrastructure to transform manmade surfaces that repel the rain into green acres that capture, infiltrate and manage rainwater runoff””just like Mother Nature.

–   Read our new Guest Student Article, “Ecological, Social, and Policy Factors Influencing Biodiversity on Green Roofs“ by Bracha (Y.) Schindler.  Last year she studied six different greenroofs in the Boston area and discusses how a diversity of arthropods may improve greenroof functioning by resulting in pest control and decomposition of organic materials in the soil.

–   Over at the Sky Gardens Blog, make sure to check out Linda’s latest posts for our GPW, the Southface Eco Office, last week’s “This Week in Review“ on GreenroofsTV, and “Come see 401 Richmond this weekend in Toronto – doors are open!“

–   “Upcoming Events“

–   June 4th – 5th: there is a Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington.

–   June 5th: is World Environment Day!

–   June 8th: is a Green Roofs for Healthy Cities – Green Roof Professional Exam in New York, New York.

–   And June 9th: is the Green Roof and Wall Networking and Information Evening in Toronto, Canada.

–  For more Upcoming Events visit our homepage.

–   “In the News“

–   Adam Crisp of reports on “Red Bank High School students plant green roof, promote unconventional urban agriculture.”  Along with absorbing rainwater and cooling the high school, the Red Bank greenroof in Chattanooga, TN, is growing vegetables for its students.  Teacher LuShan Webb said, “It gives the students valuable hands-on experience outside the classroom…It teaches them how you can do sustainable agriculture in small areas.”  Advanced placement biology students are maintaining the greenroof as well as using it as an outdoor lab.

–   Susan DeFreitas of EarthTechling says “Bon Jovi Gets Behind Affordable Green Housing.”  Project H.O.M.E. and Bethesda Project have announced that Conelly House, the first LEED-certified, affordable housing facility in the city center of Philadelphia is now complete.  Also involved in the announcement were Mayor Michael A. Nutter, rock star celebrity Jon Bon Jovi, Cardinal Justin Rigali and Brian Hudson from the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency.  Among others, eco-friendly elements for this building include highly insulated walls, a rainwater collection system for irrigation and non-potable use, high-efficiency mechanical and lighting  systems, and a greenroof.

–   To learn more about these stories and new ones posted daily, go to our  In the News or  newslinks section of our website.

–   Have something you think we should know about and post on our website?   You can send us your green articles, videos and images to

–   Stay up-to-date with what’s going on at by subscribing to our  greenroofsTV channel on YouTube, following us on  Twitter, liking us on  Facebook and being a member of our network on  LinkedIn.

–   This has been This Week in Review for June 3, 2011 on GreenroofsTV.  I’m Anjuli Velazquez and I’ll see you next week!

*This week’s episode is sponsored by  The Greenroof Directory, brought to you by*

Did we miss something?   We’d love to hear from you!

~ Linda V.