GPW: Ruthven Garage

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

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

Project Description & Details

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

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

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

Additional Info

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did we miss something?  We’d love to hear from you!  Click  here to see more information about this project in  The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See how you can submit yours  here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.


GPW: Unilever Corporate Headquarters

May 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm Project of the Week: 5/23/11
Unilever Corporate Headquarters
Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA
16,000  sf. Greenroof

Year: 2009
Owner: Unilever
Location: EJ, USA
Building Type: Corporate
Type: Extensive
System: Custom
Size: 16,000 sq.ft.  
Slope: 1%
Access: Inaccessible, Private

Google Map:

Project Description & Details

HDR was commissioned to assist Unilever in the relocation of approximately 400 employees to their campus at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  A major renovation of the facilities would be required to support the consolidation and maintain the Unilever Headquarters image. The green roof project was an outgrowth of updating the facility and promoted Unilever’s proactive stand on sustainability.

The Unilever Green Roof Project is a 16,000 SF membrane roof retrofit over a 4-story office building.  13,000 SF of the green roof resides over the 3rd floor and the remaining 3,000 SF resides between two open atriums over the 2nd floor.  Specific project challenges involved high visibility from adjacent conference and executive office space; existing railings that did not meet current building codes; existing roof leaks; minimal roof slope; concrete waffle slab structure; and existing load capacity.  A new Hydrotech monolithic membrane system with an extensive LiveRoof pre-vegetated tray system including 15 types of Sedum and one Delosperma was implemented.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Architect/Engineer: HDR, Inc.
Modular Greenroof System: LiveRoof
Waterproofing Manufacturer: American Hydrotech
Waterproofing Contractor: Grandview Waterproofing Inc.
Greenroof Contractor: Parker Urban Greenscapes
LiveRoof Grower/Nursery: Creek Hill Nursery
Rooftop Pavers: Hanover Architectural Products
Edge Resistant Systems: Permaloc


Additional Info

HDR, Inc.’s work included a full renovation of a 1970’s vintage office space, as well as 24,000 square feet of new construction for modern office areas.  They also created a central campus conference center and renovated the 16,000-square-foot 700 Campus cafeteria.

Special emphasis on the design was placed on developing interaction among the various business groups; “engagement areas” allow employees to come together and explore product innovations and marketing strategies; site planning also included  a “vitality trail” around the campus.

See the Unilever roof below before the greenroof, during the waterproofing phase, and after.  Read HDR, Inc.’s case study  here.

This is not the first commitment from Unilever to green architecture.  In fact, their European headquarters located in Hamburg, Germany’s HafenCity on the Elbe River, is considered much more than an office complex. Designed by Behnisch Architects, the vision is for it to act as an extension of a new burgeoning city core.  Envisioned like a vertical village, the huge inside atrium embraces tons of natural light, supplemented by super efficient LED interior lights.  Read more about this at Inhabitat: “Unilever’s Energy Efficient Office is One of the Greenest in Europe.”

Did we miss something?  We’d love to hear from you!  Click  here to see more information about this project in  The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See how you can submit yours  here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.’s “This Week in Review” on GreenroofsTV: April 29th, 2011

April 30, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Each week you can expect to learn What’s New here on through our “This Week in Review” video.   Here’s the transcript for April 29, 2011 from our daughter,  Anjuli –  click on the photo below to see the video, or  here.   Enjoy!

–   Hello, I’m Anjuli Velazquez and welcome to This Week in Review for April 29th, 2011,  on  GreenroofsTV.

–  Project of the Week

– Our project of the week is the  U.S. Tax Court greenroof built in 2008 in Washington, D.C.  The D.C. area is well known for having some of the worst storm water control problems in America and the Federal Government along with the District Government authorities have recognized that greening its rooftops is the most practical and economical means of addressing this issue.  The United States Tax Court, one of a number of notable General Services Administration’s greening projects, was recently re-roofed with a Barrett Company 4 inch extensive “Greenroof-Roofscapes ®” assembly, adding to the growing federal green roof inventory within the Capitol District.  The green roof initiative is reducing the storm water runoff volume while providing the many other environmental contributions that living roofs are known to provide.  Cole Roofing was brought in as Barrett Company’s Greenroof-Roofscape ® installer, who then hired Greg Long of Capitol Greenroofs to oversee installation and maintain the roof.

– To learn more about the U.S. Tax Court greenroof, click on our project of the week photo on our  homepage.

–   “What’s New“

–  Chris Wark, our Energy Editor, wraps up his final installment of his 7-part “Cooler Than Cool Roofs: How Heat Doesn’t Move Through a Green Roof” Energy series. Make sure to read “The Secret and How To Use It.

–  Did you know you can watch YouTube videos, like our latest Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World episode, the Cook+Fox Architects Office, on your DirecTV?  Just click on the link on our homepage or go to the greenroofsTV page and follow the directions.

–  Our April 2011 e-Newsletter is out, so catch up on all of the greenroof and wall news from this past month.

–  Don’t forget: our 2011″Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest has been extended until today, so go to our  Facebook page, submit your photos and vote for your favorite until midnight tonight and the winner will be announced tomorrow!

–  Read Linda’s latest Sky Gardens Blog posts: “GPW: U.S. Tax Court“ and “’s “˜This Week in Review’ on GreenroofsTV: 4.22.11,” and Christine Thuring‘s “See the UK Green Roof Student Conference Programme & Register by 6th May 2011.”

–   “Upcoming Events“

–  April 29th-May 8th: is the WMG Water Harvesting Certification in Tucson, AZ.

–  May 2nd: is the 2nd Annual Massachusetts Sustainable Economy Conference in Boston, MA.

–  and May 4th-6th: is Greenbuilding – International Exhibition & Conference on Energy Efficiency & Sustainable Architecture in Verona, Italy. For more Upcoming Events visit our homepage.

–   “In the News“

–  Tanya Snyder of Streetsblog Capitol Hill Blog talks about “Philadelphia’s Battle Against Impervious Asphalt.”  She says, “In Philadelphia, your water bill used to be based only on your water consumption…now, your bill is a more accurate reflection of your water footprint, including the amount it costs the city to manage stormwater runoff from your property.”  Philadelphia is now the number-two city in the country for green roofs.  And they’re also implementing a multitude of public space improvements that are popular and desirable in urban cities for many other reasons besides stormwater management.

–  Kim North Shine of Metromode Media reports on “Metro Detroit’s Institutes of Greener Learning.”  The students of Lawrence Technological University in Southfield use its green roofs, rainwater collection systems, solar panels and other eco-minded facilities, like the Alfred A. Taubman Student Services Center, as living laboratories.  The student center was built with recyclable materials and has 120 geothermal wells that heat and cool the building as well as a 10,000 square foot green roof that controls and reduces water runoff.

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

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

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

–   This has been This Week in Review for April 29th, 2011 on GreenroofsTV.  I’m Anjuli Velazquez and I’ll see you next week!

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

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

~ Linda V.



GPW: Longdrive

April 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm Project of the Week: 4/11/11
Long Eddy, NY, USA
4,000 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2008
Owner: Private
Location: Long Eddy, NY, USA
Building Type: Single-Family Residential
Type: Extensive
System: Custom
Size: 4,000 sq.ft.  
Slope: 5%
Access: Inaccessible, Private

Project Description & Details

Located at the top of a hill backed up to a forest and facing a meadow with a distant view, Longdrive, a 4,000 square foot house by Alveary Architecture, sits on a 63 acre property.  The house was designed to be an extension of existing trails and paths that wind through the beautiful landscape.  Abandoned quarries on the property provided the stone for the project’s extensive masonry elements.

A conversation pit with a large stone fireplace dominates and anchors the center of the house.  Radiant-heated stone floors were used throughout the main level while the master bedroom suite and upper stories were floored with reclaimed wood, also used for all interior walls.  A two-sided fireplace serves the master bedroom and its bathroom.  Adjacent is a green house separated by pivoting wood doors providing a tropical retreat during the long winters typical to this location.  The house is covered by a custom designed green roof complimenting the natural setting.  The planted roof on three levels blends into the natural landscape and encourages the wildlife to creep in close to the house.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Architect:  Steve Chrostowski, Alveary Architecture
Plant Provider:
Ed Snodgrass,  Emory Knoll Farms / Green Roof Plants
Growing Media: rooflite
Builder: Dave Unser
Base Roofing: Tower Roofing

Last year, the architect, Steve Chrostowski, entered Longdrive in the  2010 “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest. Although it came in fifth – in terms of voting, we selected it as the cover of our  2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World – 12 Month Wall Calendar.

Enter this year’s Photo Contest to see how your living roof can be featured for our 2012 Calendar!

Here are a couple of photos of the Longdrive roof during construction on September 24, 2007 and then almost a couple of years later on May 10, 2009:

Steve says the Longdrive living roof is just starting to wake up from its winter nap. Pretty soon it’ll be blooming like this once again, as seen from July 19, 2009:

Did we miss something?  We’d love to hear from you!  Click  here to see more information about this project in  The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See how you can submit yours  here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.