GPW: Asphof Hen Unit

April 17, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Our Greenroof Project of the Week (GPW) is the rustic extensive 1,000 m ²   “Asphof Hen Unit” greenroof in the beautiful countryside of Rothenfluh, Switzerland.   A conglomeration of seven medieval villages, Rothenfluh is a picturesque municipality in the district of Sissach in the canton of Basel-Country in northern Switzerland.

Aramis and I had the pleasure of visiting the lovely area in September, 2005  where I presented my paper “An International Call for The Greenroof Projects Database” at the first  The World Green Roof Congress held at the University of Basel,  Switzerland.   The Congress was co-organized by ZHAW – Zurich University of Applied Sciences Institute of Environment and Nature Resources, Centre Urban Greening, Competence Centre Green Roofs (Hochschule Wädenswil) – and the  International Green Roof Association (IGRA),  among others,  and the tours were led by graduate students and volunteers from ZHAW/The World Green Roof Congress.

We jumped at the opportunity to join one of the local tours that encompassed “Green Roof Week” from September 12 -17.   Congress attendees had a choice of a wide-ranging excursion program ranging  from one to three-day trips, “showing examples of good practice on famous green roofs in Switzerland and the surrounding area of Basel.”    We opted for a one-day tour and wonderful host and guide was  Nathalie Baumann, MSc / Biogeograph, ZHAW Research Associate, who specializes in the ground-breeding Lapwing bird population nesting atop various brown and greenroofs in the area.

We visited six very different applications, from one of Nathalie’s research sites atop a huge pharmaceutical manufacturer to the largest solar roof installation with greenroofs in Switzerland, to a greenroofed cattle barn and this organic chicken farm with two greenroofed structures, where we enjoyed a fantastic Swiss lunch, too.

The owner, Matthias Eglin, really wanted to tread lightly upon the land in terms of blending the large chicken barn/coop into the landscape and providing  a literally cooler environment for his 2,000 organically-raised chickens.  

He turned to renown biodiversity researcher Dr. Stephan Brenneisen of Hochschule Wädenswil (also the coordinator of the  World Green Roof Congress and president  of the  Green Roof Competence Centre), who served as project consultant for the Canton Basle Rural’s Nature and Countryside Protection Commission – see the federal service project on ZHAW’s website.   Their intent was to establish  an extremely  low maintenance xeric landscape  on top of an agricultural utility building and have it eventually naturalize  to mimic the surrounding terrain.

So in 2002 they constructed the Asphof Hen Unit using inexpensive local materials – so local in fact that they harvested and shred Miscanthus sinensis (China grass/reed) from Mathias’ own property to serve as an inexpensive lower substrate and water retention layer.   They excavated  5 cm of loamy humus topsoil from their former orchard area and used it  as a free growing medium.   The annual Phacelia tanacetifolia (Lacy Phacelia), used extensively in Europe both as a cover crop and as bee forage, was included in the grass  seed to break up the soil mix and act as erosion control.   Other herbs were included in the roof as well.   Here’s the roof, below,  in 2002:

And below, three years later, in 2005:

The  natural temperature control reduces the heat by up to seven degrees in the summer (relative to outside temperatures), due to cooling effects of evaporation, resulting in more stress-free chickens!   When we were there it was fun to watch them roam freely about the property, hopping from one roof to the next.

Getting up to the roof took some care and trust that people were holding the ladder on both ends – and as usual I didn’t have the best shoes on..but it was fun!   And it was very grassy:

The second 1,200 sf greenroof is found on the Hay Shed Greenroof, constructed in 2005,  which shelters hay rolls used on the farm property.

Christine Thuring served as a Congress team member and guide on one of the other tours during the Congress.   Co-founder of Green Roof Safari (and Chlorophyllocity and, of course, one of our contributing editors), along with Jörg Breuning (of Green Roof Service, LLC)  she has lead tours here since, as well.   Green Roof Safari offers special access to the European greenroof industry with custom designed tours with multi-lingual guides specializing in highlighting current and historical trends in policy, research and design for the areas visited.

Christine shared these two photos with me and informed me that the roof continues to be monitored, especially the soil substrate and how it has developed with time – Dr. Brenneisen above with the group, and measuring the roof soil below:

Christine succinctly says of the project:

“The Asphof chicken shed demonstrates innovative, economic, simple success.” ~ Christine Thuring

So successful that they don’t even mow it – the roof meadow acts as a self-sustaining system, fully integrated into the landscape.

If you’re interested in seeing this project, you’re in luck.   Now in its sixth year Livingroofs.org Ltd will be again partnering with Hochschule Wädenswil for their famous “Swiss Green Roof Tour 2010” which  will be held on May 6-7, 2010.    You’ll not only get  Dr. Stephan Brenneisen, but also the indomitable Dusty Gedge, Director of Livingroofs.org, both of whom are internationally recognized for their work on greenroofs and biodiversity.   Much of the focus of the tour is how research in Switzerland has developed an approach to green roofing that has biodiversity at the heart of their design.

From roofs designed for lizards, to those that have been designed for rare bees, beetles and spiders, this year the tour includes visits to roofs where Swiss researchers are studying ground nesting birds – and to where chickens are happy, too, on the ground and on the roofs.

~ Linda V.

GPW: Private Seattle Green Roof Garage

April 11, 2010 at 11:57 pm

The Pacific Northwest in general is known for eco-friendly, sustainable building policies, high-performance green architecture, and local innovative building designs.   In fact, Seattle holds the distinct position of being the first U.S. city government committed to Silver LEED™ facilities, adopting its Sustainable Building Policy requiring new city buildings over 5,000 sf to  obtain the U.S. Green Building Council’s certification rating in 2000.   But the Seattle area also distinguishes itself in that it has an unusually high number of residential greenroof applications.

Our GPW through today is the lovely 280 sf “Private Seattle Green Roof Garage,” built in 2003 by architect Rob Harrison and his wife, Frith Barbat.   Located in a geographically diverse southeast Seattle neighborhood,  the area is filled with parklands, lakefront, wooded hills, and quiet residential streets and boulevards.   Aside from the living roof, construction methods were eco-conscious from the beginning as the homowners  capitalized on the property’s existing carport  foundation and built  the garage mostly with materials salvaged from the previous deck.   It’s really not surprising, since Rob Harrison, AIA, is a Certified Passive House™ Consultant and principal of HARRISON architects.  

The  Seattle, Washington firm  has been in business since 1984, with the last 18 years devoted to sustainable design.   HARRISON architects’ work is based in “lyrical sustainable design”: conserving energy and resources, using healthier materials and finishes, reducing long-term costs, and making poetic places.   By working with consultants, contractors and suppliers who share their values, the  experience  results in a convivial, collaborative design and construction process.    And when you’re the client/architect, and it’s easy to be creative in this environment.

“Since it was our own house (rather than a client’s!), we thought it would be a great opportunity to experiment with a less expensive residential alternative to $15/sf proprietary (and warrantied) green roof systems used on commercial projects, and so promote the use of green roofs in residential applications.” ~ Rob Harrison

And since Rob was a  member of the local chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, he had plenty of local expertise and volunteers for help.   The Northwest EcoBuilding Guild is an alliance of builders, designers, suppliers, homeowners, and partners concerned with ecological building in the Pacific Northwest.   Their mission is to provide leadership in education to transform the built environment and build a sustainable society.   In those years, hadj design  directed the greenroofing efforts for the Guild,  and the firm’s principal, Patrick Carey  (also our Architecture Editor), was one of the consultants and volunteers on this project, as seen below in the bucket brigade system used to haul the growing media up to the roof.

Originally, Rob designed the space to call his own for a “manly” workshop (the garage is featured on the cover of the book ManSpace: A Primal Guide to Marking Your Territory by Sam Martin, about “dens, caves, lairs, hangouts, hideaways, workshops, studios, drinking sheds and man houses”).    The one-car garage  housed space for tools, one bicycle, two vintage motorcycles and  their  Mini Cooper.

But things have changed – at present, the garage now holds just one motorcycle (a new gas-efficient model with a catalytic converter) and the family’s six bicycles.    They sold  the car seven months ago, and have  been giving the car-free life a try – so far, so good!

Originally planted with Eco-Turf (a mixture of baby blue eyes, red clover, yarrow, and fescues) and a variety of drought tolerant sedums, they’ve also added strawberries, nasturtiums and poppies to the greenroof.

Venturing onto YouTube this past February, Rob came across the above advertisement for Pepsi’s new humanitarian/environmental effort, the Pepsi Refresh Project, and was surprised to see his own green-roofed garage!  He explains that a couple years ago fashion/rock star photographer Karen Moskovitz came over with a young model family to shoot some stock “lifestyle” photos and video using his garage as the backdrop.  He’s quick to point out that it’s not him watering the roof!

“We might do that if we’ve planted new plants up there and need to get them started, but otherwise, not,”  Rob says.   Actually, maintenance has been  really minimal – they only watered the first year during establishment and have only spent about one  hour’s worth total weeding and the occasional introduction of new plants during the first three years.   He adds, “It’s a bit odd to be shilling Pepsi, even if very indirectly, but I do like the idea that we are clearly living in some one’s idea of a better future!”

By the way, the Pepsi Refresh Project  is looking for people, businesses, and non-profits with ideas that will have a positive impact in their communities, and is giving millions of dollars in grants in the categories of Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods, and Education.

Any lessons learned with a greenroof so close to home that you can see daily?   In the more recent photos that Rob sent me, see above and below,  it’s obvious the roof has seceded to mostly grasses, so I asked him if is it still that way – Yes.

Rob says now that the roof is seven years old, in retrospect he would not have introduced any grasses on the roof at all, as the area planted in Eco-Turf has spread over the entire roof and overtaken the sedums, which  are still there, but are hard to see.   But he muses,  “The wavy grass does have its own attractions, especially in the dry summer here, where it reminds me of the Palouse in eastern Washington.”

Does he plan to keep it as it has naturalized or does he have other designs?   Rob’s response:  

“I’m of two minds on the secession of the roof to mostly grasses.  On the one hand I like the look of the grass, and the way the motion of the grass in the wind animates the building, and it’s tempting to let the roof do its own thing and see what develops naturally.   On the other hand, grass forms a dense mat of roots that is surprisingly impermeable.   We haven’t made a big decision to replant the whole roof yet, but we’ve been pulling out clumps of grass here and there, and planting more sedums as we acquire them from friends and neighbors.”

This beautiful private  Seattle vegetated roof  is one example of sustainability on a smaller scale in a city full of greening efforts.   It has been featured in many  publications  and tours, both public and private. The photo above  resulted from an AIA Seattle seminar on greenroofs held at  the architect’s  home in 2006, in conjunction with folks from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

Visible from the alleyway behind it and, more importantly, from the home’s  kitchen window, the Harrison/Barbat family agrees their Seattle garage greenroof is a pleasure to behold every day – in all seasons and all forms.

~ Linda V.

(Note:   See Patrick Carey’s  article about the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild  from June, 2003 here, and my August, 2004 Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture column about Seattle’s early sustainability leaders and efforts here.)

GPW: Forest Park Forever Playground, the Dennis & Judith Jones Variety Wonderland

April 2, 2010 at 11:59 pm

 

Our GPW is the Dennis and Judith Jones Variety Wonderland, a delightful children’s playground in historic Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri.   One of the largest urban parks in the United States, Forest Park opened in 1876 and is the former site of The World’s Fair of 1904, drawing more than 20 million visitors from around the world.   At 1,293 acres (5.2 km ²), Forest Park is over 50% larger than New York’s Central Park (843 acres or 3.41 km ²)!

Home to the region’s major cultural institutions””the Zoo, Art Museum, History Museum, Science Center and the Muny Opera, today Forest Park attracts more than 12 million visitors a year.   It also serves as a sports center for all kinds of  activities and the park serves as a natural oasis for the city (see a Visitor’s Guide here).

The Dennis and Judith Jones Variety Wonderland is the City of St. Louis’ first inclusive public playground.   Designed in 2005 so that all children, able-bodied children and children with disabilities, could experience playtime together, it all began with feedback from a local organization: the Variety Family Council.   Now Variety, the Children’s Charity of St. Louis,  they couldn’t find a public playground where their children with disabilities could play with their siblings – and so a saga was born.    Variety  serves children with physical and mental disabilities in the region from infancy to the age of 21. Variety Week is April 17-24, 2010, and serves as a means to maximize awareness and fund-raising opportunities to benefit community children.

“We wanted this to be a place open to all children,” said Jan Albus, executive director of St. Louis Variety. “The most important thing was that it make it so children with disabilities could play right along with all other children.”

Three years, seven local donors, and a lot of hard work later, the $2 million state-of-the-art playground design includes 29 pieces of equipment on a soft, porous 10,100 sf surface.   The Dennis and Judith Jones Variety Wonderland playground is divided into  five sections designed according to age, physical strength and abilities.

“First Adventures” is  for children ages 2-5 and  “Big Adventures” for children ages 6 to 12.    Specialty areas are the “Observation Relaxation Deck,” “Living Shelter,” and the “Secret Garden.”   The Secret Garden contains 14 colorful perennials that attract, feed and house butterflies.   Learning stones will teach children about the life cycle of Monarchs here amidst the natural habitat.

Constructed to ADA standards for handicap accessibility, equipment includes a slide for children with cochlear implants, Braille and clock panels for the blind, talk phones, surface fountains and 8′ high ramping so children can experience a tree house affect.   You’ll also find a spyro slide, double slide, corkscrew climber, swings with bucket seats, spring pods, disc swing monkey bars with a vertical ladder, a pipe barrier with a steering wheel, and more.
 

This all-inclusive playground is located adjacent to the Dennis and Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center.   Formerly the Lindell Pavilion, it was built in 1892 as a shelter for streetcar passengers, and after a $4 million restoration, the facility is now home to Forest Park Forever, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising private funds for the restoration of Forest Park.

Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, GRP, and President of Green Roof Blocks (and one of our contributing editors, also known as “The Green Roof Guy“), was responsible for the lovely modular  greenroof atop the walkway pavilion that connects from the Visitor and Education Center and greets children to the play area.   I asked him how he became involved with Forest Park Forever, and he replied:

“I did a lunch and learn for Powers Bowersox Associates, a St. Louis architectural firm.   After lunch, they showed me the preliminary sketches of the project and said they wanted to do a green roof on the structure so that it better fit into the green landscape of Forest Park.   They liked the portability of the modular concept that allowed us to pre-grow modules so the plants were more mature for the dedication ceremony.”

The roof is constructed of 60 mil reinforced EPDM fully adhered to poly-isocyanurate over metal deck, and 76 Green Roof Blocks were grown offsite  at Jost Greenhouses for approximately 10 weeks allowing the plants to mature to 80% coverage at the time of installation.

Green Roof Blocks are low-maintenance, self contained, portable units consisting of a 24″ x 24″ module fabricated of heavy gauge anodized aluminum.   Walk pad material is fastened to the bottom, serving both to protect the roofing surface and to allow drainage under the Green Roof Blocks.  The walk pad material used is procured from the manufacturer of the building owner’s roofing system to insure compatibility and warranty integrity.

Powers Bowersox  did not like the look of the sides of the aluminum modules and they requested Kelly  to design a sheet metal trim piece that could be painted to match the edging of the roof, so a  red  metal skirt was installed at  the Forest Park playground  around the perimeter Blocks.

Remarkably, from a survival point of view (let alone plant diversity), the Green Roof Blocks were propagated with a  single  Sedum floriferum  cultivar  named ‘Weihenstephaner Gold,’ which performs beautifully in USDA Heat Zones 3-7.   Although quite  luscious in its profusion of yellow  and pink-hued summer blossoms (see above in flower from last spring 2009) as well as being  and very effective and successful, it was the company’s  last foray into  a mono-crop green roof palette.    As current policy, Green Roof Blocks  since uses multi-species for all projects.   Kelly explains:

“The plant species was selected for the evergreen characteristics, though we have since moved away from single species planting strategies for our green roof projects.   Only having one plant species planted on a green roof leaves the project vulnerable to weather anomalies or species specific pest that could affect the entire green roof.   We now plant at least five different species within each module.  This strategy establishes a diverse eco system more closely mimicking what we see in nature.   The plants on this project continue to thrive in part because the green roof plants have been included in the hundreds of thousands of plants that are under the constant watchful eye of the Forest Park Forever horticulturists.”

The growing media here  is a 4″ deep blend of 80% red lava rock and 20% composted pine bark.  The plants were initially fertilized using Scotts Osmocote with a 12 to 14 month release.   Kelly says that each year  since, he has  picked up Vic  (of Jost Greenhouses) and driven to each of their St. Louis green roof projects for maintenance and assessment.

“We give each one the spring feeding of slow release fertilizer, the plants get inspected by the trained eye of horticulturist Vic Jost, and I get a chance to get fresh photos of another year of plant growth.   We do not provide routine maintenance on our projects in other parts of the country.   Our St. Louis customers find this added perk to be a nice touch,”   Kelly Luckett adds.

Kelly says he is pleased that some stakeholders even make it a point to be present so they can discuss the project with Vic and  himself, and looks forward to  their  maintenance visit  each year.   So for almost five years, this simple vegetated roof has not only survived with minimal maintenance, by all accounts it has flourished quite nicely.

Aramis and I had the opportunity to visit  the stunning Park Forest grounds and this beautiful playground in late June of 2006 when I was invited by Dr. Bill Retzlaff  of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, IL (SIUE) and Kelly Luckett to speak at the SIUe Green Roof Symposium.   By the way, Kelly is also the author of “Green Roof Construction and Maintenance” (GreenSource Books), 2009 from The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.  – a great resource, full of detailed, useful information for all of us.

Kelly and his wife Trish played wonderful hosts to us and showed off their lovely city by highlighting the Forest Park Forever playground, where I found a very cool drinking fountain feature, above, and also taking us to many attractions – the  iconic image of St. Louis –  the Gateway Arch, a Cardinals baseball game, and  the awesome and sometimes surreal  glass-blown designs of Dale Chihuly at the Missouri Botanical Gardens “Glass in the Garden” exhibition, below.

Forest Park is really a midwestern gem – a peaceful place to relax and reflect in a lush, green space filled with water, trees and sky.    As we all know, playtime is one of the strongest teachers and in such a fun and accessible environment, children will learn naturally about various forms of diversity, disability and acceptance while developing increased strength, coordination, confidence and social skills.

I had the pleasure of seeing kids of all ages and abilities benefit  while playing in this charming and educational wonderland, and I sure had a good time, too!

An important urban oasis  of green within metro St. Louis,  Forest Park  offers a respite for migrating birds and butterflies, and an integrated ecosystem where humans and nature interact – especially on one albeitly  small playground and its simple greenroof.

~ Linda V.

GPW: The U.S. Postal Service, Morgan Processing and Distribution Center

March 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Since 1995 the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has been honored with more than 75 major environmental awards, including 40 White House Closing the Circle awards for environmental stewardship, and the 2009 Climate Change Champion of the Year Award for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.   Consistently looking for ways to reduce their environmental impact,  last  July the USPS opened its first greenroof facility atop the seven-story Morgan Processing and Distribution Center  (P&DC) in midtown Manhattan, one of the largest mail processing facilities in the country at 2.2 million sf.   Part of a larger facility modernization scope, construction of the project began in September 2008 and was completed less than a year later in July, 2009, and on budget.   At the opening ceremony, Sam Pulcrano, Vice President of Sustainability said:

“Not only does it provide employees with a beautiful, serene outdoor environment, the green roof will help us meet our goal to reduce energy usage 30 percent by 2015.”

Currently the largest in New York City, the 2.5 acre living roof also serves as a park of sorts for employees who have access to the eco-friendly recreational space.   For example, planters and benches of the dense tropical hardwood Brazilian ipe wood, certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council, provide areas for relaxation and require no sealants or staining – which in turn reduces VOC’s from entering the atmosphere and the stormwater system.   High Solar Reflectance Index (SRI) value concrete utility pavers and roof ballast aggregate  were used,  and the light poles and bollards meet cutoff standards for light pollution.   In addition to providing a spectacular panoramic view of midtown Manhattan and the northern New Jersey shore, the Morgan P&DC greenroof is expected to  reduce the amount of stormwater runoff by as much as 75% in summer and 40% in winter, and is projected to save the Postal Service $30,000 yearly on heating and cooling costs.

Built in 1933,  the Morgan P&DC was designated a historical landmark in 1986.   When the previous 109,000 sf roof needed replacing, engineers deemed the structural loading capacity strong enough to support the additional weight of the growing medium and vegetation needed for  a greenroof, so the USPS decided upon a pilot project.   J.P. Patti Company, a TectaAmerica company, was contracted to re-roof the Morgan Building.   During construction only about 15,000 sf needed to be removed and replaced, and nearly 90% of the original roof was recycled and reused on the roof.   The new roof system consists of a Sika Sarnafil ® 80 mil membrane and gypsum roof board over several layers of extruded polystyrene insulation.   Materials were loose laid over the existing roofing and selected roof areas were covered.  J.P. Patti blew the engineered soil  up to  a height of 95 feet and across  the 300 foot-wide roof area.   The original 176 copper column caps, now green due to natural oxidation, continue to define Morgan as a historic building among the grasses and sedums.   The new roof is expected to last at least 50 years.

The firm  in charge of  the design of the new  safe and sustainable rooftop with the  beautifil swaying native Calamagrostis, trees,  and other vegetation is Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architects (EKLA), a multidisciplinary firm, who was brought in as the greenroof  designer in 2007.   In July of last year, Damian Holmes of World Landscape Architect  interviewed Elizabeth J. Kennedy, Principal of EKLA, about the Morgan Processing facility.   EKLA and junior landscape architect Sigal Ben-Shmuel, who served as  project technical coordinator for the greenroof, were responsible for the rooftop layout,  media and plant selections, and planting plan.   The EKLA team also worked closely with  the engineering firm, URS Corporation,  to adhere to strict budget limits.  Elizabeth stressed their  goal in keeping the  “concept to a simple, elegant solution that could be completed on time and within budget without sacrificing the essentials of good design.”

Additional  U.S. Postal Service greener facilities strategies include using hybrid electric vehicles and other alternative fuel technologies.   With nearly 220,000 vehicles traveling more than 1.2 billion miles a year in their fleet (the largest civilian fleet in the world), they plan to meet  their goal of reducing fuel usage by 20% over the next five years.   The Postal Service also has expanded its recycling program in New York City to include mixed paper and cardboard, resulting in nearly 400 tons of materials recycled each month.   And last November they unveiled their revamped usps.com/green website, which provides a myriad assortment of useful info to help consumers make environmentally responsible decisions about their mail.   Did you know that the Postal Service is the only mailing and shipping company in America to be Cradle to Cradle™ certified for the environmental and health standards of its packaging?   They state that their packaging supplies are so green, the half billion pieces provided to customers last year prevented more than 15,000 tons of carbon emissions!

Here are some USPS  environmental achievements in 2009:

“¢ Saving $3 million and nearly 100 million kilowatts in an agency-wide energy challenge
“¢ Avoiding $1.05 million in costs via green information technology initiatives
“¢ Helping customers divert 24,000 tons of paper from landfills by recycling in 6,000 Post Office lobbies
“¢ Increasing alternative fuel use 61 percent since 2005
“¢ Using electric, propane and natural gas delivery vehicles and retiring 10,000 non-energy efficient vehicles

Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx and now principal of Majora Carter Group, was on hand at the July 22, 2009, dedication ceremony and commented how this roof was not just a roof. “This is going to be the type of education center that teaches people from around the country,”  she said.  And Tom Samra, Vice President of Facilities, reiterated:

“The Postal Service is taking the lead when it comes to making a positive impact on the environment. We’re proud to dedicate our first green roof, and we are pleased to showcase this environmental oasis today in New York City.”

Submitted for LEED certification, the U.S. Postal Service Morgan Processing and Distribution Center  serves as a shining example of federal agency environmental leadership and commitment to green initiatives  in New York and the  rest of the U.S.   Read more about the U.S. Postal Service’s  sustainability efforts in the January 27, 2010 “Statement by Vice President of Sustainability Samuel M. Pulcrano to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs”  here.

Happy Greening!   ~ Linda V.