A Look (Again) at Airport Greenroofs

February 25, 2011 at 11:37 am

We all know that airports occupy and consume huge areas of land mass, destroying ecosystems and creating massive urban heat islands of impermeable, hot surfaces.  Take, for example, the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) shown below – notice how the highest temperatures, shown in red, are the roof surfaces of the ATL terminal and concourses, followed by runways, parking and cargo areas:

You may remember that back in 2005 I wrote the paper “European Airport Greenroofs – A Potential Model for North America,” which looked at impacts of using a greenroof within airports as well as some of the potential barriers to greenroofs.  I highlighted three massive and highly successful examples of greenroofs in place at the Amsterdam,  Zürich, and Frankfurt International Airports.

At the time, only one greenroof had been installed at aviation facilities within the U.S. or Canada – at the King County International Airport Terminal Building (2003).  The FAA and others had been hesitant given wildlife management issues, in particular the real threat of bird strikes.

Since then, many additional  greenroofs have been constructed at airports worldwide with, not surprisingly, the City of Chicago leading the pack as part of their O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP).

I had the pleasure of revisiting the issue last week at the Atlanta Aero Club at the beautiful Capital City Club in downtown Atlanta, where I was invited to give a short 5-minute presentation for their bi-monthly luncheon by the Club’s President, Steve Champness.

Steve and his better half, Nancy Petroline, (both pilots) are friends of ours and felt the mixture of my passion for greenroofs and the very important fact that the President of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, was the Keynote Speaker was prime for me to address greenroofs as sustainable design at airports here.  Plus, the President of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Joe Lombardo, was also on hand and both airline leaders received awards to celebrate their unique and important contributions to the airline industry.

“The Atlanta Aero Club is dedicated to providing a forum for matters affecting aviation in the Atlanta area, both commercial and general; recognizing and awarding those making the greatest contribution to furthering aviation in the Atlanta area; communicating and disseminating information affecting aviation; and promoting all aviation and recognizing its importance to the metropolitan area and to the State of Georgia.”

It was great to hear Ed Bastian again, and he shared his own passion for Delta Air Lines as a successful company coming through restructuring as well as a firmly dedicated hometown company (the number 1 employer here in Atlanta), highly invested in both its customers and employees.  In fact, last month Delta marked 70 years in Atlanta with a celebration for employees and partners, and a $1.4 billion profit profit sharing payout was distributed on February 14.

Regarding investments, Delta’s plan is to allocate more than $2 billion in enhanced global products, services and airport facilities through 2013.  In addition to improving Sky Clubs and upgrading its domestic fleet, Delta will offer full flat-bed seats on more than 100 widebody aircraft, feature personal, in-seat entertainment for both BusinessElite and Economy class customers on all widebody flights, and complete new terminal facilities for international customers at its two largest global gateways – Atlanta and New York-JFK.


I was excited to speak to the approximate 150 members and guests of the Atlanta Aero Club, who were mostly pilots.  Although  I’m not a pilot, many of you who have been following me for years know that greenroofs is my second career ~ in January, 1996 I went back to school and received a Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture from The University of Georgia in 2000 ~ while flying internationally as a flight attendant for Delta Air Lines (which I still do, at a minimum).  I feel very fortunate to be able to combine my two careers – so you can see my particular interest in greening our airport roofs!

After some additional research and feedback, I began to add to the list of aviation profiles we have listed in The Greenroof & Greenwall  Projects Database.  Here’s the scoop:

We know that Chicago has led the way in North America in greenroof implementation for the past decade, including its airports.  Above is an an aerial photo with “Urban Heat Island Priority Tiers” superimposed which identify hot spots at the O’Hare International Airport (ORD) while showing current and proposed greenroofs here.

Although Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) has a combined coverage of over 500,000 sf, the largest individual continuous greenroof at any airport in the world is found on the 4-acre FedEx Main Sort Building at O’Hare.

Located next to an active runway, the 174,442 sf roof was installed in May of last year and is just one of four buildings with vegetated roofs comprising the massive FedEx Cargo Relocation Project, totaling about 190,000 ft.

O’Hare also boasts the first FAA Control Tower in the U.S. with a greenroof, so we must be feeling pretty good about constructing them now at airports, now, don’t you think?  According to the Chicago Department of Aviation, there is currently 229,355 sf of green roof space at O’Hare International Airport, with an additional 108,816 sf proposed at the United Airlines Cargo Facility (as of February, 2011).

Chicago’s Midway Airport (MDW) currently has 3,179 sf of greenroof space on the parking garage, with another 17,640 sf of greenroof proposed for the Consolidated Rental Car Facility.  To learn more about Chicago’s greening initiatives at airports, see their Airports Going Green website (where you can even see PowerPoint presentations of the last two annual Airports Going Green  Conferences), the Sustainable Airport Manual, and visit the Chicago Department of Aviation’s FlyChicago.com website.

In the U.S., we now have at least 17 airport area greenroofs totaling almost 300,000 sf, and Chicago’s not the only government leader, either.  Take Portland Oregon (PDX), above, for example, the U.S. Army and Air Force, and Heritage Flight, below:

And Canada has at least 3 totaling about 3,000 sf, an intensive greenroof (below) and extensive greenroof at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) – not to mention their stunning greenwall at YVR Canada Line Station 4 – and an extensive greenroof at Toronto International (YYZ):

Here are some other cool living roofs atop airport buildings found internationally:

See what we have by searching The Greenroof & Greenwall  Projects Database by selecting “Aviation” under Building Type > Application Type – if you want to define it, select a country, city, etc.

Does this mean that’s all there is?  Of course not.  This Projects Database is a living research document and because it’s community driven, we reply on everyone to help us keep it up to date.  In fact, I have seen airport greenroofs myself at Narita International in Japan (NRT), Madrid (MAD), and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (CDG) – (see a couple of photos below) – that aren’t included in the Projects Database because I don’t have enough info yet.

And I know there’s more at Paris’ Orly International Airport (ORY), Bordeaux (BOD), Stuttgart (STR), Münich (MUC), Bremen (BRE) and Düsseldorf (DUS), with many others planned or on the boards.  So, I’d like to ask our greenroof community to please send in your photos and info on greenroofs across the world and I’ll share the profiles for all to see, like Jörg Breuning, of Green Roof Service, has been doing for years – see below the Fire Brigade at Stuttgart International Airport:

Because of time constraints, I couldn’t get into key design considerations with regard to the correct site selection of growing media and plants, but just touched on the importance of having a multi-disciplinary team on the Airport Wildlife Landscape Management team.  Here’s my updated version of the “An Overview of Greenroofs at Airports: Greening Rooftops as Sustainable Design” Power Point which I presented last week to the Atlanta Aero Club:

Even though I was limited to just five minutes, I ended with a few slides of examples about combining photovoltaics with greenroofs – hey, if we’re going to be sustainable, we may as well go all the way!

I’d like to give Steve Champness another big Thankyou! for offering Greenroofs.com and me this great opportunity to introduce vegetated roofs to many, and encourage sustainable design with greenroofs (and walls) at our public, private, and military airports worldwide.  We need more leaders such as the City of Chicago, the City of Portland, OR, and others to continue to push building integrated greenery forward.

It’s easy to understand how Atlanta’s largest urban heat island, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, can be significantly mitigated by incorporating living, breathing, greenroofs.   Maybe Hotlanta won’t be so hot any more with some local support, strategic planning, and government and corporate visionaries.

Count me in for local support here in The ATL!

Ed Bastian, President of Delta Air Lines, and me on February 16, 2011 at the Atlanta Aero Club Luncheon.

~ Linda V.

The 1st National Green Roof Student Conference @ The Green Roof Centre

February 17, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Eleven years since Britain’s first (peer-reviewed) green roof experiment, this field of research has attained a zenith of sorts.  Never before have so many postgraduate (PG) students across the land been engaged by Master’s and PhD degrees as direct contributions to green roof research and application.

To celebrate and unite young researchers in Britain and beyond, the University of Sheffield and  The Green Roof Centre are proud to announce the 1st National Green Roof Student Conference, 16th- 17th May 2011.   In addition to sharing findings and facilitating discussion, the aim of the conference is to help develop a community of early stage researchers focused on green roof function, performance, benefits and design.

This 1st National Green Roof Student Conference partly represents the critical mass that green roofs are approaching in Britain, but it also reflects momentum hosted in Sheffield. Currently, at least 10 postgraduate (PG) students are doing green roof research at the University of Sheffield, and several departments are involved in green roof projects at undergraduate levels.   A major cause of momentum is possibly the biggest international green roof research projects ever, as supported by a  EU Marie Curie Industry Academia Partnership grant.

Overall, the Marie Curie project is supporting 6 early career researchers (including 3 PhDs), 3 experienced researchers, and the exchange of permanent staff between the University of Sheffield and its industry partner in Germany,  ZinCo GmbH.

I’m one of the PhD students in this scheme, and am hosted by the Department of Landscape to work on the plants package (I may share a blurb of my work soon, so stay tuned!).   Another PhD student, Gianni Vesuviano, is in the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering and looking at matters of hydrology and modelling.   The third PhD student will start next year, with the role of whole systems investigation.


The University of Sheffield has a global reputation for both teaching and research, but also for innovation in the structure and delivery of graduate education.   According to Shanghai Jiao Tong Institute’s Academic Ranking of World Universities 2003, out of more than 500 European universities, Sheffield ranks 18th.   It is also one of the largest UK universities, with over 23,000 students (5,000 postgraduate) from over 120 countries.

With regards to green roof research, the Green Roof Centre at the University of Sheffield has built significant networks with public end-users in the UK (e.g., municipal authorities).  The Green Roof Centre is the only British research group to join the informal network of green roof associations around the world (e.g. Sweden, Switzerland, U.S., Canada).   Outside of big-city London, Sheffield has the most green roofs of any city in Britain.


Update: Abstracts to the  1st National Green Roof Student Conference must be submitted by 25th  March to the Green Roof Centre.  Full papers are due by 25th April.   The conference fee ( £25) must be made by cheque to ‘University of Sheffield’ before the event.   Please see the Green Roof Centre link for complete details.

I hope to see you there!

~ Christine

Launch of The GRO Green Roof Code for the UK

January 27, 2011 at 10:57 pm

By Jeff Sorrill

New industry supported code is set to raise the bar for green roofs in the UK, thanks to European funding.   Green roofs have become more common features in our towns and cities over the last five years, but maximum environmental benefits have not always been realised, due to a lack of UK specific guidance.  In response to this, the Green Roof Organisation (GRO) has developed and launched a UK code, with LIFE+ funding, secured by Groundwork Sheffield.

Published on January 18 of this year, The GRO Green Roof Code provides clear and practical guidance on green roof best practice in the UK.  Funded by the European Commission LIFE+ fund and Groundwork Sheffield, The GRO Code is also financially supported by the Homes and Communities Agency, The Green Roof Centre, Livingroofs.org, and is facilitated by the National Federation of Roofing Contractors  (NFRC).

GRO is an industry forum facilitated by the  NRFC, and  GRO also acts as the technical arm of  Livingroofs.org, founded by Dusty Gedge.  Members include industry providers, government bodies, researchers and awareness raising organisations.   GRO’s remit is to establish guidelines for all parts of the green roof design, specification, installation and maintenance process.

Groundwork Sheffield is a federation of local trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which help people and organisations make changes in order to create better neighbourhoods, build skills and job prospects and to live and work in a greener way.   Groundwork Sheffield gained €914,213 in funding from LIFE+ to develop the UK code of best practice.

The LIFE+ programme is the European Union’s funding instrument for the environment.  The general objective of LIFE is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation by co-financing pilot or demonstration projects with European added value.   LIFE began in 1992 and  since then,  LIFE has co-financed some 3,104 projects across the EU, contributing approximately €2.2 billion to the protection of the environment.

NFRC’s Chief Executive, Ray Horwood CBE, says:

“A UK specific code of best practice is long overdue, and the launch of The GRO Green Roof Code is welcome news for everyone involved in the green roof industry. By adhering to best practice, the numerous benefits of green roofs can be maximised, and the long term sustainability of green roofs ensured. The GRO Green Roof Code will set the benchmark for the industry.”

As with other green roof guidance around the world, The GRO Green Roof Code has its foundations firmly set in the German FLL Guidelines.  However, only the most technical of data needs to be traced back to the FLL – Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung Landschaftbau  (Landscape Research, Development and Construction Society).  The GRO Code aims to provide the vast majority of the information required by most designers, specifiers, installers and maintenance providers.

Read more at  our The Green Roof Centre’s Green Roof Code page here, and download The GRO Green Roof Code here (PDF).

~ Jeff Sorrill

Jeff is Centre Manager of The Green Roof Centre, in Sheffield, England.   Contact him at:   Tel: 01142 227131, J.Sorrill@sheffield.ac.uk    or visit The Green Roof Centre.

The Green Roof Centre is the National Centre of Excellence for green roofs.   Based in Sheffield, The Green Roof Centre was founded by the University of Sheffield, Groundwork Sheffield, and the four surrounding local authorities (Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham).   Our primary aim is to promote green roof development and implementation through research, education, demonstration, information and technology transfer.

The University of Sheffield is the leading research establishment in this field in the UK, with an unrivalled range of expertise in the green roof arena.   It has developed an international reputation for excellence in green roof studies.   The Green Roof Centre operates with partners nationally to demonstrate the potential of green roof uptake in the UK.


2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design

October 28, 2010 at 12:41 pm

2010 marks the  fourth year of our  “Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall  Design” – download the Press Release here.  

Compiled by our Design Editor, Haven Kiers, and I, this year’s list of categories represents amazing examples of  both vegetated roofs and walls since the concept of “Building Integrated Greenery”  knows no boundaries,  and in fact blurs the distinction  between  a structure’s various planes.

As usual, we search the globe for the new and newsworthy and look for common threads among the most-often times spectacular and  uncommon, projects.   Our favorite sites are Inhabitat, designboom ®, ArchDaily, JETSON GREEN… just to name a few – and we also get project news from the designers themselves, as well as members of organizations such as Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the International Green Roof Association, Livingroofs.org, etc., in addition to our own Greenroofs.com readers!

The focus of the Top 10 Trends of 2010 illustrates global shifts in thinking about how we can manipulate the built environment through design to lessen its burden on the Earth’s climate, energy, and natural resources, and increase the overall productivity of our built structures.   Showcased are simply stunning and important  built projects, those that are still on the boards, and several amazing, beyond forward-thinking conceptual designs that hopefully will materialize in the future!

Without further ado:

Top 10 List

10) Client Specific “˜Boutique’ Greenroofs
We’ve had this category each year, and it’s kind of a catch all for projects that are too unique to fit into their own category

9) Green Sporting Venues
From construction jobs, to parking, ticket sales, and concessions revenue, sporting venues bring in big bucks to a community and can be the lifeblood of a local economy. It should come as no surprise, then, that the trend in sporting venue construction is high end and green to attract an upscale clientele while simultaneously bringing in government subsidies. New baseball   & soccer stadiums, basketball arenas, tennis centers and even Olympic stadiums are sporting greenroofs these days.

8)  A Symbiosis of Ecology & Architecture
It’s not enough to just design beautiful buildings any more. These days, structures need to be aesthetically stunning, sustainable. and more. Form still follows function, but we’re finding ways to design with nature, not just on top of it.

7) Greenwalls as Public Art
We’ve seen greenwalls used to advertise products, feed the homeless, and remove particulate matter from the air, but what about greenwalls as objects of art, themselves? Vegetated murals are the newest form of public art.

6) Daylighting Greenroofs
If there’s anything we’ve learned from the green building movement, it’s the importance of natural light to reduce energy consumption, connect people to the outdoors, and improve employee & student satisfaction and productivity. Pairing skylights and windows with greenroofs is the natural next step in sustainable design.

5) The Greening of Latin America
European, Asian and North American greenroofs have hogged the spotlight for long enough. Slowly but steadily, greenroofs and greenwalls have been sprouting up throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America – all with a unique, local Latin flair.

4) Building Integrated Greenery for a Cooler Planet
We all know that vegetation helps cool buildings, and designers are taking it to a new level. Building Integrated Greenery – greenwalls and greenroofs – are increasingly integrated with sustainable building design to naturally manufacture cool air that reduces the need for energy hogs like air conditioners.

3) Biomimicry as Eco-literacy & Holistic Design
Designers are increasingly taking the lead from Mother Nature by creating structures that operate like natural organisms. Biomimicry informs the public by incorporating principles from the natural world into the design and function of buildings.

2)   Megacities & Redevelopment Enveloped in Green
What more can  we say?   Designers and city planners are thinking bigger and greener!

1) Tower Oases as Skyrise Urban Ag
Last year our #1 category was “Towers of Power” – Mega Vertical Structures Linking Earth and Skywhich blurred the distinction between greenroofs and greenwalls.

For 2010 we continue on that theme – burgeoning populations and rapid urbanization are making vertical urban agriculture hot these days.   Most of these visionary projects are still in the conceptual phase, but with the support of governments and the exploding imagination of designers, building integrated agriculture is well on its way to becoming a towering urban reality.

I presented the 2010 Top 10  a couple of weeks ago in Mexico City at the WGIN World Green Roof Congress (an awesome conference – more on that later!), and will be presenting it next week in Singapore for the 2010 International Skyrise Greenery Conference, and both Haven and I will be hand for the 8th Annual 2010 Green Roof and Green Wall Conference – CitiesAlive! in Vancouver, B.C. in December.     Because of the time limitations for presenting at these conferences, ranging from 20 – 30 minutes, we can only show 4 or 5 representative projects in each category, although there are many more out there!

You can view the 2009, 2008 and 2007 PowerPoint presentations of the Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Design,  and we’ll be posting  our 2010 PowerPoint in mid December, where we’ll post additional projects, too, for our newly titled “Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design.”

Happy Greening!

~ Linda V. and Haven K.