GPW: YVR Canada Line Station 4 Living Wall

March 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Last week’s  Greenwall Project of the Week (GPW) was the beautiful YVR Canada Line Station 4 Living Wall, located at the Vancouver International (YVR)  Airport’s SkyTrain station.   The first Canadian airport to install a greenwall, international visitors to this beautiful city are greeted by the living tapestry, just one of the sustainable initiatives and ecological solutions for the airport.   Since YVR is situated within the estuary of the Fraser River on Sea Island, a large conservation project was created here to offset the environmental impact the airport causes, including a wildlife preserve and public beaches.

Inaugurated  early in August 2009, months in advance of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic  and Winter Paralympics, the $1.9 billion (CAD)  Canada Line is a rail-based rapid transit line linking central Richmond, Canada, the Vancouver International Airport and downtown Vancouver, B.C.    The Canada Line terminus at YVR-Airport Station is linked by a bridge to an award-winning $125-million (CAD), five-story steel and glass structure known as the Link.   Connecting to both the international and domestic terminals, the Link’s  signature  oval structure provides a unique visual connection to the land, sea and sky that surround the airport.  

Designed to eliminate visual interference, the  YVR Canada Line Station 4 station sits  60 feet high straddling a road.   Both the YVR Station and the Link were designed by Kasian Architecture with Read Jones Christoffersen as structural engineers,  and  Sharp Diamond Landscape Architecture was brought in to design the massive green wall and other features.

One of the largest living walls in North America (the largest at the time in 2009), it measures 17.0m high and 11.6m wide (about 55.8 feet x 38  feet), and houses a total of 27,391 individual plants!   Landscape architect Randy Sharp used a modular system by G-Sky, a B.C. based company, for this living wall that encompasses  2,107 stainless steel  panels.    His design concept stresses the connection of the vegetated wall  to the rapid transit station to the ground.

Randy was also  involved with the Landscape Master Plan for the Vancouver International Airport and its unique ecological environment.   He says his overall vision for the Grant McConachie Way corridor, which leads into YVR,  was to serve as a natural gateway linking Vancouver to B.C., Canada, and the world beyond.   Drawing upon the estuary thematics of Sea Island, he desired the landscape experience  to feature a four-season effect in a bold design that would grow and evolve over time.   Highlights include major tree and shrub planting to enhance view corridors, other landscape designs for various Canada Line Stations, the ongoing development of a multi-use trail system for Sea Island, and a gateway feature signage program.

“Green facades and living walls provide an exciting fresh canvas for landscape architects and designers to be creative.     These vertical landscapes provide as yet unexplored opportunities for biodiversity, greywater treatment, urban agriculture and energy performance, not to mention the creation of green collar jobs.” ~ Randy Sharp

But the stunning greenwall isn’t the only green  element here – two  greenroofs, one extensive and the second intensive – are also featured.   First Nations art inside and outside the terminal grace the property, too, and enhance the sense of place.

Randy has designed and installed another  of metro Vancouver’s most significant living walls, the  Aquaquest, the Marilyn Blusson Learning Centre, Vancouver Aquarium  – the first modular living wall in North America, as well as many greenroofs, too.   In fact, he and his company have received multiple awards in design excellence for both greenroofs and walls.

There’s been a lot of public commentary (and pride) about the green design of  YVR Canada Line Station 4’s living wall, particularly in the blogosphere.   While not everyone appreciates the environmental benefits of greenwalls, everyone loves the aesthetics.   Responding to a blog post last summer in Price Tags, John Wilson retorted:

“This specific green wall sends a message to everyone visiting Vancouver (and Canada). That message is that we’re a progressive cosmopolitan city that cares about the world and the environment, and we’re open to using new methods and technologies because we’re also big on innovation. We’re a player in the world. Interesting things are happening here.”

Vancouver, B.C., is indeed a progressive,  green city that’s always included  at the top of the world’s most livable cities.   The Vancouver Airport Authority also maintains a Public Observation Area here where people of all ages can see take-offs and landings and learn about the area’s unique ecology and history, too, with all sorts of hands-on activities.   See a video about it here.

Next time you’re at YVR, check out their new green wall  at Canada Line Station 4.   According to locals, the best views are from the parkade bridge connecting the International Terminal at Departures level 3, or from Chester Johnson Park, International Terminal Arrivals level 2.

~ Linda V.

GPW: Oregon Health & Science University Center for Health & Healing

March 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm

I’m a little late for profiling last week’s Greenroof Project of the Week (GPW), the stunning Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Center for Health & Healing (CHH)  – because we were in Portland last week for Ecoroof Portland, which I’ll be blogging about next.   I’ve  been a fan of  this project for a few years – in 2008 Haven Kiers and I included it in the #1 category for our Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Design, “The Influence of LEED on Design Professionals = Pushing the Green Envelope,” and as a judge for the 2009 Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ Green Roof Design Awards of Excellence, I had the pleasure of reviewing it in detail  (unfortunately, it was beat out by the awesome Gary Comer Youth Center).

The Oregon Health & Science University  is dedicated to improving the health and quality of life for all Oregonians through excellence, innovation and leadership in health care, education and research.   One of the largest employers in a city and a state known worldwide for leadership and dedication to conservation and the environment, OHSU’s CHH building represents the state-of-the-art in integrative design, involving the hard work and input of many multi-disciplinary professionals.

Located in Portland’s South Waterfront neighborhood, the award-winning 16-story, 400,000 sf OHSU Center for Health & Healing is one of the first buildings to rise from this former shipyard site and the first building in their new River Campus.   The Center for Health & Healing is the most resource efficient large scale building in the region, and one of the greenest in the U.S.   A mixed-use facility for wellness, medical research, clinics, surgery, classrooms and ground floor retail, in 2007 it received Platinum LEED certification, making it the first medical and research facility in the world to have achieved this distinction.   The integrated design features this building boasts is amazing (see the profile), and as a result is 61% more energy efficient than required by Oregon code.

“This is a remarkable achievement given the complex array of uses and systems that were needed in the building.   We had to capture every opportunity to integrate together function, architecture and engineering.   This is really the result of a great collaborative team effort.   We have set a new standard for OHSU and for other projects in Portland.” ~ David Crawford, chief financial officer of the OHSU Medical Group (press release).

The Center is linked to Marquam Hill by the Portland Aerial Tram, which has proved to be a major success. According to OHSU, this highly efficient passenger conveyance between their facilities  is estimated to eliminate 2 million vehicle miles and 93,000 gallons of gasoline annually, and reduce yearly greenhouse emissions by more than 1,000 tons.

OHSU CHH has both extensive greenroofs (or ecoroofs) and intensive greenroofs (roof gardens), with a mixture of public and private accessibility.  

Non-accessible ecoroofs include those found on the 17th floor, and staff-only extensive gardens and office accessible balconies located off the 15th and 16th floors, above.

The accessible areas include the day patient area on the 4th floor (above) which opens out onto the restorative garden and the 5th floor (below) which opens out onto the courtyard, a common area and intensive green roof.

“Both programmed for passive recreation, these rooftop gardens allow patients, visitors, staff and faculty to enjoy scenic views of the region, informal social interactions as well as organized gatherings and events.   The roof gardens incorporate paths through lush plantings and benches for seating, offering fresh air and a green oasis as a seasonal topic for the soul amidst the stressful world.” ~ Walker Macy.

We had wanted to visit  the building, but were unable to due simply to time restraints.   But we did speak with Laura Herbon, Associate  at Walker Macy, the landscape architecture firm who designed the greenroofs (they were exhibiting at Ecoroof Portland).   Walker Macy has broad experience providing dynamic garden design for roof gardens, ecoroofs and courtyards over structures, and their work covers a broad range of sizes and purposes and includes places meant for people to gather and grow gardens as well as sites designed strictly for stormwater management.   The OHSU CHH certainly does both!  

Walker Macy has worked on many ecoroofs in the area, including The Louisa, Mercy Corps Headquarters, Bellevue Towers, and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital –  among about 18 others involving greenroofs of some sort.   Macy Walker shared the following info about OHSU’s CHH:

“The green roofs are reducing the peak run-off volumes to the storm sewer, designed to store a minimal amount of water to keep the soil saturated, since the region’s climatic pattern””extremely wet winter and extremely dry summer””generate the volume of stored water that cannot equal the demand and supplemental irrigation that is needed. The stormwater  network connects all rooftop gardens and the fertilizers used contain no phosphorous. The OHSU building incorporates both rainwater and groundwater collection systems on the roof and underground, which get mixed with the building’s own gray water and sent to the basement treatment system. Reclaimed water is stored in cisterns before being pumped upstairs or sent outside to irrigate the building’s grounds and rooftop gardens. Excess reclaimed water is piped into the nearby Willamette River.

“OHSU had to obtain a number of special permits to install its state-of-the-art water system, which includes a membrane bioreactor in the basement that basically is a small scale sewage plant. The result is that the building uses 60% less water than most buildings its size, and its outflow to the city sewage pipes is virtually nonexistent. Through the installation of a bioreactor on site, the building cleans 15,000 gallons of wastewater a day. Constructing the water system was expensive, despite a $50,000 grant from the Portland Office of Sustainable Development and more than $500,000 in system development charges the city waived because the building does not outflow into city sewage. OHSU estimates the system will not pay back its initial costs for at least 10 years. Meanwhile, the building’s $12,000 annual water bill is considerably less than the $80,000 to $100,000 bill OHSU estimates it would have paid without the water reclamation system. The CHH generates 2.1 million gallons annually in potable water savings.

OHSU, a Xero Flor Green Roof, in May 2008; Photo Courtesy BES

“After deducting tax credits and other financial incentives, the green premium for this building was a mere 1.13% of the total project cost. The facility’s return on investment will be just over one year, after which the energy savings are projected to be $600,000 annually.”

Wow!  The Oregon Health & Science University  Center for Health & Healing  embraces all that a green building should be: energy and resource efficient and good for the soul, all while providing beautiful and peaceful aesthetics.   For additional information on this LEED Platinum building and how the greenroofs tie into the whole system, review this thorough case study document produced by OHSU design team member Interface Engineering  (you can also see the LEED Scorecard) or contact Walker Macy.

~ Linda V.


GPW: CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre

March 6, 2010 at 11:57 pm


Despite the global economic slowdown, India is the second fastest growing major economy in the world,  and the projected market potential for green building material and technologies is estimated to be $40 billion by the year 2012.   India has pressing water needs – the Himalayan icepack is shrinking and is the main water source for more than a billion people in this part of the world.   Groundwater resources are greatly diminishing by several centimeters per year and are not being replaced, so sustainable design is extremely important!


Although vegetated roofs are relatively new in the building, construction, and landscaping industry here, many believe they have immense potential for growth in India.   One glowing example is the CII – Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre  (CIIGBC), a division of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).  Located in Hyderabad,  the CII is India’s premier developmental institution, offering advisory services to the industry on environmental aspects and working in the areas of Green Buildings, Energy Efficiency, Water Management, Environment Management, Renewable Energy, Green Business Incubation and Climate Change activities.   The LEED Platinum for New Construction (NC) v 2.0 certified CII – Godrej GBC building is also home to India’s first and largest built greenroof (2003), at about 11,000 sf.    Layed out  in a circular fan-like fashion, solar panels add to the uniqueness of the design, easily read from above as seen in this Google shot below.

The CIIGBC as seen in Google

Vegetated roofs cover 55-60% of the building’s roofs –  the remaining portion of the roof is covered by a solar photo voltaic installation with a 24 KW capacity.   The 100 to 120 units of power generated per day is fed into the grid meeting 20% of the total energy cost of the building.   CII maintains a “Score Card” of green statistics within India.   These are their current figures, as of March 6, 2010:

 68 certified green buildings
 352 million sq ft Green building footprint
 500 registered green building projects
 1050 energy audits carried out
 Rs.2000 Million annual recurring energy saving realized
 32 Water Audits conducted
 8.0 Million Cu.m annual water saving
 11 Green SMEs funded
 Rs.95 Crores green investment facilitated
 418 industrial units subscribe to the CII – Code


World traveller and our Student Editor, Christine Thüring visited the CIIGBC  last year and wrote about her experiences in the March 2009 Guest Feature  “Green Buildings in India.”   In 2000, the Indian Green Building Council(IGBC) – part of CII-Godrej Green Business Centre – and created its own LEED ® Green Building Standard by fine-tuning the ratings to reflect Indian conditions and priorities (e.g. more points for water conservation).   Point in fact: rain harvesting is mandated by Indian law.

CII, Photo Courtesy Christine Thuring

CII; Photo Courtesy Christine Thuring

The CIIGBC achieved 56 LEED points, and a key aspect of the CIIGBC is its zero discharge of water, aided by the greenroofs, among other features.   All wastewater and runoff generated by the building is recycled by “root zone treatment” where specially selected plants purify and filter the water that irrigates them (top photo above ).   Water leaving the “root zone treatment” is directed to one of three ponds, thereafter to be used for domestic purposes.   The building achieves a 35% reduction of municipally supplied potable water, in part through the use of low-flush toilets and waterless urinals (bottom photo above).

Chennai AirportAlthough roof gardens in various forms have been around for decades, I couldn’t find many examples of built or proposed greenroofs (if you know of others, please let us know!).   One important one is presently under construction –  the new International and Domestic Terminal at the Chennai International Airport has many environmentally friendly features. The New York team led by Frederic Schwartz Architects and Gensler with Hargreaves Associates and India-based Creative Group  was unanimously selected by the Indian Government to design the Kamraj Domestic Terminal Building.   Its dramatic sweeping roof lines collect rainwater and fold downward into two lush, one-acre gardens. The garden walls capture water during the wet season into a series cisterns and runnels where it is stored for reuse as irrigation during the dry season. Directly connected to the terminal is a new parking garage with a sculptural folding greenroof that welcomes travelers with a “green gateway” to the terminal.   India’s greenest airport is slated for completion sometime in late 2010.

 CII Courtyard, Photo By Christine Thuring

Several conferences this year will address sustainable design and the potential for living roofs in India.   ROOF INDIA 2010, now in its ninth year, is Asia’s largest roofing and allied technologies event.   This year, greenroofing will be included as a segment and in fact, it’s endorsed by the   NRCA and IGRA, among others. Visitors receive free entry with registration and Visitor Badge.    Companies providing technologies, products, services, consultancy & solutions for roof landscaping will be exhibiting at the event.     ROOF INDIA 2010 will be held April 23 – 25, 2010 at the Chennai Trade Centre, Chennai, India.

During  the 2010 Shanghai World Expo the company Earth Our Only Home, Inc. is organizing an International Green Roof Summit on May 8, 2010 in Shanghai  at the World Green Roofs Conference to address solutions to provide drinking water for India, Western China and neighboring countries.   For more info on this, make sure you read the February 2010 Guest Feature “International Summit in Shanghai: The Green Roof Solution to the Impending Drinking Water Crisis in India, Western China and Neighboring Countries” by Dr. Karen L. Weber.  

Karen writes “By coordinating expertise from North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia on green roofs, water, buildings and climate, we intend to bridge the East and West.   Our aim is to have all participants sign a letter of commitment to establish green roofs as a priority along with a timeline for implementing green roof technology on a wide scale as India and Western China plan their new cities and regional development. ”

The  Confederation of Indian Industry and the Indian Green Building Council  (IGBC) – part of CII-Godrej Green Business Centre –  will be presenting their eighth annual  Green Building Congress 2010, India’s flagship event  on green buildings.  Objectives include creating awareness of green building concepts, the latest global trends, new products and technologies, providing a platform for networking, facilitating new business opportunities and enabling market transformation of green products and equipment.   The Green Building Congress 2010 will be held on October  6 – 9, 2010 at the Chennai Trade Centre.


The CII – Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre  is located at Survey # 64, Kothaguda Post, R R District, Hyderabad – 500084, India; Tel: +91 40 2311 2971 – 73; Fax: +91 40 2311 2837.

~ Linda V.

GPW: Heinz 57 Center/Gimbels Building Restoration

February 27, 2010 at 12:51 am


Formerly the Gimbel’s Department store, the Heinz 57 Center  in Pittsburgh, PA, is a wonderful example of  urban renewal.  Closed and neglected for about 14 years starting  in the late eighties, the  now restored building has been put to reuse not only in a sustainable, but beautiful  way.   In 1998 architects Burt Hill Kozar Rittlemann Associates (now Burt Hill) were brought on board to redesign the historical but ailing structure.

heinz57-lamagAlong with McKnight Development Partners, the architects incorporated a dramatic 50′ diameter octagonal atrium which runs from the roof down through seven floors.   Suddenly flooded with natural light, the Heinz Corporation was  enticed to occupy the top seven floors for their North American headquarters.   Yet curiously, environmental concerns were not driving factors for  the greenroof then; aesthetics, however, definitely were.

Although the building itself was  surrounded by  a spectacular city panorama featuring  a soaring cathedral  amidst an eclectic mixture of towering skyscrapers,  the views from the lovely floor-to-ceiling windows of the fourteenth-floor  penthouse suite  were less than exciting or acceptable: a hot black rubber roof under an equally unappealing  nine-foot-high  brick parapet wall greeted Heinz occupants.   So the architects decided a pleasing landscape atop the roof would do the trick.

The Heinz 57 Center; Photo Source: The Post-GazetteCompleted in the fall of 2001, the Heinz 57 Center was the first vegetated roof in downtown Pittsburgh,  where executives  enjoy sweeping meadow vistas wrapping their offices and blanketing the thirty-foot-wide terrace.   Four informal seating areas constructed with high-density recycled plastic lumber decking and concrete paving blocks provide informal gathering spots;  by all accounts the colorful corporate roof garden is a hit!

Last year I was interviewed by Carmen J. Lee who was writing for h – The Magazine of the Heinz Endowments, reporting how “Pittsburgh roofs are the new fertile turf for environ-mentally sustainable construction projects that aim to dig in and blossom” in her article “Top Soil” (pages 24-31).   The Heinz 57 building was, of course, one of the sites featured and you’ll see I was quoted  with more  of an inspirational bent rather than specific to the project.   Carmen also profiled the local environmental group, 3 Rivers Wet Weather, which is responsible for utilizing $525,000 in federal funding plus a $125,000 Heinz Endowments  grant to sponsor a 2005 project to create more greenroofs here.

Heinz 57 Center; Photo Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.

Photo Courtesy Roofscapes, Inc.

In a city with an over-burdened sewer system with frequent overflows, Pittsburgh officials and researchers cite the greenroof project often as a fine example of sustainable redevelopment.   Situated within a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use business district with shops, restaurants and businesses, the Heinz 57 Center is worker friendly as well as eco-friendly, providing their 800+ employees with a variety of alternate forms of transportation.   Although Heinz executives may not have initially specified the extensive greenroof for ecological reasons, they certainly appreciate the many noticeable environmental benefits, such as  the cooling respite from the city canyon and the reduction of stormwater runoff; it’s estimated that the roof retains 55% of  yearly rainfall.

Heinz 57Center; Photo Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.

Charlie Miller, P.E., and his company Roofscapes, Inc.  have been responsible for a large number of award-winning greenroof projects, including this one.   His private and public portfolio runs the gamut from municipal to corporate, institutional to retail, and even includes some single-family residences.    Charlie won the 2005 Green Roof Award of Excellence  with the Heinz 57 Center/Gimbels Building Restoration in the Extensive Industrial/Commercial category, and we featured  it in the 2009 Greenroofs of the World Calendar™ by for the month of March:Heinz 57 Center in June of 2007, as illustrated in The 2008 Greenroofs of the World Calendar  

Over 18,000 plants were selected by Roofscapes, who used their Type III: Savannah Roofmeadow ® system.   Landscape architect Steven L. Cantor researched this project in depth, and you can read  his extensive case study including complete plant lists on pages 139-142 in the excellent book  Green Roofs in Sustainable Landscape Design,” 2008, available for purchase on

The Heinz 57 Center; Photo Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.Steven  relates how  the Heinz 57 Center plant selection encompassed “32 xeric species from nineteen plant genera, including six North American natives; approximately one-third of the plants are sedums, and the balance  is a range of herbs, meadow grasses, and meadow perennials that provide differences in plant height, texture, and bloom color.”

It’s hard to believe, but the roof is not irrigated and has flourished with minimal maintenance, which includes  twice yearly  weeding and an annual light application of fertilizer.

Pittsburgh has really come along way from its gritty  industrial Steel Town roots, emerging as a  leader in green building.   According to the Green Building Alliance, as of July, 2009 the City of Pittsburgh is home to 39 LEED-certified buildings, ranked eighth in the United States for overall number of projects.  meadowsheinz

About two dozen more eco-friendly  greenroofs are found within metro Pittsburgh; read the May 19, 2009 article  “More city buildings cultivate savings by covering roofs with plants” by Sally Kalson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to learn about additional living roofs in the area.

We only have  a handful  of those references listed, so remember to send us case studies of these other projects so we may share it with all of you in the greenroof community in The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Kudos to the designers, corporate leaders and all the stakeholders of this inspiring city-core  Heinz 57 Center  renovation  for their foresight –  environmental, aesthetic, or otherwise –  to successfully integrate a greenroof into the overall design for the benefit of the building’s occupants!

Heinz 57 Center, Courtesy of Roofscapes, Inc.

~ Linda V.