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.

 

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.