Greenroofed Sam Nunn Federal Center Dedicated in Atlanta!

June 18, 2012 at 10:56 am

Operated by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center serves as the home of several federal agencies and is one of Atlanta’s most environmentally friendly facilities.

As you may know, the mission of the GSA is:

“…to use expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions, and by so doing, foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people.”

And, the GSA vision:

“Positions the government to be ever adapting its work environments, tools, and processes so as to better serve the public. The GSA uses the notion of “the future workplace” to express and visualize this evolution for its customers.

Is fueled by two powerful sparks for change, namely sustainability and transparency. The former is a doctrine for managing resources with utmost care and an obsession with “no waste.” The latter is a doctrine for inviting our collective intelligence and wisdom to our work.”

Over the past two years, the GSA Region 4 has installed about 25 greenroofs.  And in 2010-2011 the GSA replaced the roofs of three Georgia federal buildings with vegetative roofs.  And we all know how these roofs will help the buildings mitigate their footprints by absorbing rainwater and minimizing runoff to the sewer system, and reducing heat absorption, thereby lowering air conditioning costs.  In addition, the materials used for these projects were environmentally friendly by minimizing or omitting petroleum in their manufacture.

Two of these formerly barren roofs are located on the very green Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, whose Green Roof Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was held on May 31, 2012 presented by the GSA, Michael E. Clark & Associates, the Design Build Team of National Building Contractors, and Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance.

Aramis and I had the pleasure of attending the presentation and dedication as well as spending the morning with Tremco Vegetated Roofing Program Development Manager and Horticulturalist (and friend) Mary Ann Uhlmann, who designed the vegetative portions of the roofs.

Built in 1924, these two newly greened roofs sit atop the 10-story Midrise and the restored 6-story Rich’s Department Store portion of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, respectively.

Utilizing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, the $2.6 million project renovation’s goals, consistent with the GSA’s roofing program, were to provide thermal and moisture protection; conserve energy and the environment; reduce utility costs; and help attain energy security by meeting Energy Independence and Security Act requirements.  The project meets Sustainability Executive Order 13514.

GSA’s Gail Gordon welcomed about 200 of us in attendance in the beautiful (and very secure), marble lobby of the Sam Nunn Federal Center in downtown Atlanta, and then GSA Regional Administrator Shyam Reddy addressed how the many benefits the greenroofs have added to the already green center, including deferred maintenance.

He spoke about responsible government and the benefits of working with a city like Atlanta in a collaborative way to reduce stormwater runoff, create local jobs, enable the GSA to out compete competitors, and leverage federal money.

Mr. Reddy continued and commented that in a era of trying to provide a clean energy economy as well as preserving national energy and climate security, this green building is symbolic to ensuring a brighter and cleaner future for everyone.  And overall, this can have a tremendous impact on development.  By the way, President Obama has asked the GSA to serve on his Green Team, leading the country to a zero real estate footprint policy.

GSA architect and technical representative Steve Moore followed with a quick presentation on some of the technical aspects of the roofing issues, and Tremco’s Senior Sales Consultant Jim  Lohmann, RRC, RRO, CDT, GRP rounded out the technical and sustainability explanations involved with the various roofing recycling and additions for which Tremco was responsible.

In testing the roofs’ structural integrity, it was determined that part of the Rich’s portion could not support a vegetated roof and a white 60 mil Tremco “Cool Roof” was installed adjacent to the large greenroof:

Tremco had an information booth here and after the presentation, many people visited to learn more about vegetated roofing options.

Steve and fellow GSA architect Roland Royster were our tour guides up on the former Rich’s Department Store greenroof, where the actual greenroof ribbon-cutting was held.

We did not go up to the Midrise greenroof because of logistics.  Here are some before and after shots of the Midrise from Jim Lohmann:

I also got a personal tour from Mary Ann Uhlmann, who showed me around the different planting areas of the large roof.  Here you can see her in a bed of native cacti:

Scott McGaughy of Greenrise Technologies (formerly Landscape Support Services), who installed and maintains the vegetated roofs, joined us and added lots of great information.  He said that although the GSA did not want irrigation initially, he recently added some to the project for extreme times.  Here we came across a very active grasshopper amidst the succulents:

In this area, Mary Ann has set aside one area of the greenroof that she uses for testing new plants as well as propagating them:

The Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center has been recognized in our industry already. In 2011 the project received the inaugural RoofPoint™ Award from the Center of Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR) for “Excellence in Life Cycle Management,” distinguished by its efficient re-use of original roofing materials.

Congratulations to the GSA and another successful renovation project!

Read more about the many people involved with the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center in the Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database, and for any vegetated roof-related questions, please contact Mary Ann Uhlmann at:

Happy Greening,

~ Linda V.

The Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm Project

May 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

What an awesome concept the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm project is!  I first heard about this late last year but then about a week ago colleagues Bill Foley and Wendy Wark alerted me again, and so now I finally took action this afternoon by donating $50 to the cause.  Not a lot of money, but enough to show‘s support for an extremely worthwhile undertaking.

As we all know in this green industry of ours, underutilized rooftop space is one of the greatest real estate potentials for greenroof implementation.  In this age of trying to come together as a community, organic farming, and healthy food plus security issues, what better way to help mitigate the developmental woes of a building’s footprint that planting crops at rooftop level?  And (hopefully) make a profit?

That’s exactly what Brooklyn Grange is doing for their own community – they’re in the process of starting a rooftop farm with a team of five partners and a whole bunch of friends, and the organizer, Ben Flanner, says it’s “A big project that requires a lot of hard work to say the least, and one that sets an example for using under-utilized rooftop space across this dense city to do something productive.  There are many benefits to the city and community from such an operation.”  Most certainly, and we can all help by donating even just $1 – by this Friday, May 28, 2010 – but $10 gets a bee named after you!  Actually, for all donations of $10 or more, they will list you as a donor on their website and name one of their honeybees after you.

They’ve setup a campaign on an interesting new website called kickstarter, which is designed to help raise funds for enterprising people to start new projects – such as this one.  Kickstarter has a unique platform where you set your goal at the onset of the campaign, and then you need to hit that goal from online pledges to receive funding, otherwise all of your pledges are simply returned to the pledgers.  People can click on your project and pledge any amount during the course of the campaign.

So what is the project really all about?  Their page on kickstarter  says:

“Brooklyn Grange will be a 1 acre rooftop farm situated in New York City. Such a commercially-viable rooftop farm has yet to be realized in this country. We will use simple greenroof infrastructure to install over 1 million pounds of soil on the roof of an industrial building on which we will grow vegetables nine months of the year. Being in the country’s largest city, the farm will create a new system of providing local communities with access to fresh, seasonal produce. We plan to expand quickly in the first few years, covering multiple acres of New York City’s unused rooftops with vegetables. The business has many environmental and community benefits, and allows our city dwelling customers to know their farmer, learn where their food comes from, and become involved.”

Ironically, as it turns out, Brooklyn Grange’s first project isn’t in Brooklyn but on a 40,000 square foot, 6-story industrial rooftop in Queens!  And the group is very happy to have the good fortune  of this company’s backing, too, and they’ll be selling their produce in both boroughs as well, including tomatoes, eggplants, chilies, and various leafy greens.  The farm will be run by Ben Flanner, who started and ran a proof of concept rooftop farm in the summer of 2009.  The beyond-organic produce will be sold directly to the community at an onsite stand, affording shoppers a direct relationship with the farm and farmers.  Additional produce will be sold to a small group of market-driven local restaurants.  He explains the business philosophy:

“We are a for-profit business. We believe in adding fiscal sustainability to the sustainability rubric so that urban rooftop farms can expand across the city, the Northeast and even the world! Any profits we make will go towards paying our farmer a living wage and whatever remains will be reinvested in the business so we can keep growing.” ~ Ben Flanner

In what stage is the project now?  In a newsletter today, May 25, 2010, Ben shares that “At this moment, we’ve installed about two-thirds of the rooftop soil, and we have about 110 sacks (~300,000 lbs) to lift yet with the crane, continuing tomorrow morning early.”

Brooklyn Grange needed to hit their goal of $20,000 by Friday, May 28, to get some important funds for the farm through kickstarter, and I’m pleased to report they have!  As of right now, supporters and fans have pledged $20,740.50, but please consider contributing more to their entrepreneurial greening efforts.  To pledge now, visit here, and they’d love it if you would also help spread the word!  Read “High Above Queens, the Dirt Is Deep, and Good” by Diane Cardwell  in the New York Times of May 13, 2010, see their profile on kickstarter.

For more info, visit  Brooklyn Grange’s own website or contact Ben at: or 608.215.0218.

Happy veggie rooftop greening! ~ Linda V.

Rooftop Hopping in Metro Atlanta

October 17, 2009 at 1:19 am

Rachel, Landon, Logan and Curt at Atlanta City Hall

Last Friday October 9, I spent the entire day greenroof hopping in Atlanta with Landon Donoho, a student film director from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and his crew (Rachel, Logan, and Curt).  A friend of our youngest son, Ari, as a senior Landon has to make a documentary for school and decided to do it on greenroofs in the Atlanta area – enter me for a little help!  I gladly obliged since I know so many people here and he is such a nice young man. Bill getting ready for his interview with Landon!We started bright and early (way earlier than I would normally get up) at Atlanta City Hall at 8:00 a.m., where Landon interviewed Bill Brigham who has been intricately involved from day one with the Atlanta City Hall Pilot Green Roof, the first municipal greenroof in the southeast U.S.  If you don’t know Bill yet, you should – he’s a transplant from Jersey and is really funny – in a good way!  He kept us laughing with his continual banter and commentary, with blatant teal blue socks in view.  When asked what his position with the City of Atlanta was, he explained that after 17 years his title was really much more of an epithet: Bill Brigham, ASLA, Principal Landscape Architect/Project Manager, Bureau of Watershed Protection, Department of Watershed Management, City of Atlanta.

Bill and I walking on the Atlanta City Hall Green Roof Pilot GreenroofGreg Harper, the local GreenGrid rep, was there and afterwards showed us a mirror image testing area also off the fifth floor where they’re monitoring plant survival on various GreenGrid modules.  We had quite an entourage as our oldest son, Joey (the screenwriter and director), and our daughter Anjuli (passionate about film herself and an aspiring producer) joined us for a while, too, along with Saul Nurseries’  Kathy Saul and Robin Andrews.

Interviewing Bourke at SouthfaceFrom City Hall we travelled a couple of minutes north to the Southface Energy Institute Eco Office and their Turner Foundation Green Roof, where Landon interviewed Bourke Reeve, a seemingly mild mannered MHP, LEED AP, Technical Associate Commercial Green Building Services kind of guy, but he turned out to be a real natural in front of the camera!  The views of downtown were spectacular.

A close-up at Southface and some maintenance work on the greenroofA view to the west from SouthfaceAfter a very quick lunch next we headed a few blocks north again, and with Greg as our tour leader and were able to see all three of the greenroofs located on the property of the Woodruff Arts Center, home of the High Museum, the Alliance Theatre, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, among other facilities.From the roof of the Atlanta Dormitories of SCAD, you can see the Bunzl Administration Building across the way, the Woodruff Arts Center below, as well as part of the SCAD greenroof itself on the upper left.Via the higher, normally non-publicly accessible roof of the #1 Woodruff Arts Center SCAD Dormitory, we could see across to #2 the Frances Bunzl Administration Center of the High Museum of Art, and down to the actual overstructure roof (over the huge parking garage) of the #3 Woodruff Arts Center itself with one of its sculptures in the garden below in view.

Atop the Atlanta Dormitories of SCAD

The view of midtown Atlanta was great, and from this vantage point we could even see the intensive greenroofs on 1010 Midtown, 1180 Peachtree, and Colony Square.  Greg spoke about the Woodruff Arts’ commitment to sustainability and their efforts to green a multitude of buildings on the campus, and how the SCAD Dormitory was the second GreenGrid roof here after the Bunzl roof.

Reflections at Northpark 500We then rode north up 400 and visited Northpark 400 and Northpark 500, the award-winning office towers and corporate campus.  We spent most of our time filming on 500, which has great vantage views of the some of the Atlanta skyline and the northern suburbs.  While they got great shots of the surroundings and some cool time lapse photography of the gorgeous, fast moving clouds, Landon tried to interview me amidst some very high winds, which didn’t prove too successful – so we returned on Sunday afternoon and re-shot some of that sequence under more peaceful skies.

Northpark 500 and Sky GardensOther greenroof sites were visited by Landon and crew over the weekend including the new Chattahoochee Nature Center and 901 Moreland Avenue, a single family residence, where they interviewed architect David Butler.  We got really lucky with a pretty spectacular, drizzle-only weekend as we were sandwiched by continuous thunderstorms on either end.  These storms accompanied by flash flooding have been wreaking havoc recently on a multitude of Georgia communities, and many are still feeling the effects of the “Flood of 2009.”  It really drives home some of the potentially dangerous effects of stormwater gone wild.

Logan, left, and director Landon, right

Landon hopes to have a finished documentary in about five weeks, and I know he’ll make a great director, he’s really kind and patient and passionate about his craft – all qualities that should guarantee success in life.

Can’t wait to see it! ~ Linda V.

From Llamas to Greenroofs: An Interview with Ed Snodgrass

March 13, 2009 at 2:52 am

Over the years here at we have been fortunate to accumulate eight (so far) very different but certainly unique Contributing Editors who are well known and respected throughout the greenroof community. If you follow us regularly, you know that they all write “occasional” columns, which means whenever they can take time out of their busy schedules (and paying careers, I should add)!  They’re all great people whom we’ve come to highly regard as colleagues and friends and today I’ll be inaugurating the “Meet the Editors” series, starting in order of coming on board, so our readers can get to know them a bit more, too – first up is Ed Snodgrass.

Ed Snodgrass is co-owner of Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants  (along with John Shepley), and co-author of the appropriately titled “Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide,” 2006 from Timber Press, Portland, OR (along with his wife, Lucie L. Snodgrass).  As the first nursery owner in North America to devote 100% of production to growing greenroof plants and having presented on the subject across the world, Ed is considered a leader in our field and definitely the expert on extensive greenroof plant materials.

Basically, Emory Knoll Farms jump started a new business market; they currently stock over 100 varieties of greenroof plants and are always acquiring and testing new plants.  So Ed’s become quite famous – practically a week doesn’t go by where he’s not quoted or interviewed somewhere…but I’m happy to say that none of it has gone to his head – he’s just a regular, laid back kind of guy who’s passionate about what he does for a living.

And Ed is also our very first Contributing Editor here on and has been writing the occasional column “Ask Ed” as our Plant Editor since August, 2004.  He answers reader mail, features greenroof plants, and provides highlights of the plant trials and research performed regularly at Emory Knolls Farms (EKF).

I had the pleasure of visiting Emory Knoll Farms last May, 2008 – Lucie prepared a lovely and healthy locally grown lunch for us in their beautiful 1881 farmhouse.  Lucie Snodgrass has been a journalist for years and is very active in D.C. area public policy and lobbying efforts, more recently in promoting local farms, food production and distribution. Together they live on this wonderful farm, tending to the beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, enhancing the local ecosystem, and taking care of Huckleberry Hound, a few cats, and each other.

After lunch Ed and Lucie showed our group (my husband, Aramis, our intern, Caroline Menetre, Trish Luckett, Tom Liptan, Brad Rowe, Kristin Getter and me) around the sensitively managed large farmlands starting with the two test greenroofs on site – a smaller one over a barn shed, above, and the larger covering the business office, below.  There are other greenroofed surfaces, too, including houses for the kitties, small sheds, and some very unorthodox yet creative applications (more later).

The test greenroofs hold many varieties of succulents and herbaceous plants including various herbs, bulbs and some grasses, and some modular systems are also monitored on the main test roof alongside the built-in-place living roof – which also sports solar panels.  Along with plant material, EKF tests growing media and several methods of planting including plugs, seeds, and vegetated mats.  Read some of EKF’s trial results here.

Ed offered me the opportunity to see the growing facility from a really cool vantage point, and so I didn’t hesitate and hopped on board this Deere scooper thing (whatever you call this type of farm equipment!).

I may not know its name, but it went up pretty high and I did take some interesting overhead photos – notice the solar panels above on some of the growing facility offices, and some of our lovely group, below.

Along the fields and nature trails on the property we also visited the testing area for green walls, the old barn, bee hives, and the nearly 10,000 sf of greenhouse space and acres of stock plants.

Ed’s pretty private, so it’s an honor for me to have had him answer some of my questions after our tour:

Linda:  Ed, you’re a fifth generation farmer, but you also had another completely different career before returning to the land – can you talk about that and why you felt it was important to return to your roots?

Ed:  When I was farming I did so because it was what I knew and what I had grown up doing.  I never thought about it as a career choice, but after it become impossible economically to farm and I had to go and work “in the world” I realized what a touchstone the land was for me and it was always in my mind to try to make something work on the farm again.

Linda:  When were you first introduced to living roofs and how did you arrive at the huge conclusion to dedicate EKF operations exclusively to greenroof plants?  In other words, you really went out on a limb back back then – what year was that?  This was when we were just a fledgling community, let alone a new industry. What made you and your partner decide to make greenroofs the “green” part of the basis for your “black?”

Ed:  I don’t remember the exact date, but somewhere around 1998-1999 I became really committed to the idea of starting a nursery.  I was working as a management consultant at the time and doing a lot of traveling. Lucie was also working full time and we both talked about the notion of being self employed.  Right around then, the company I was working for was bought by a bigger company and moved to Tampa.  I wasn’t about to commute to Tampa, so the time seemed right to start something.

Lucie continued to work and I started to build the nursery.  I started by going to farmers’ markets, doing some free lance consulting, some landscaping and anything that would generate a little cash.  I had the first green roof sale in 2000 and John Shepley came as a partner in 2004.  Lucie eased off her full time work and became a freelance writer and did project work in public policy.


Linda:  You carry social responsibility and equitable practices throughout all facets of your life, including running the farm with partner John Shepley.  Would you share your philosophy of EKF’s sustainable operations with us and give us some examples of what you are doing to tread lighter on the land?

Ed:  The redesign of the farm is based around the design protocols of the Natural Step.  It is important to me to tread lightly because I am on a piece of land and have this opportunity because people that came before me didn’t exhaust it as a resource.  One of the first decisions was to not print a paper catalog and subsequently we have heated all our greenhouses and offices with spent fry oil, we pump all our water for the nursery with solar power, we have a small photovoltaic array, we allow employees to job share, and on the land front, Lucie and I have planted 9 acres of native trees and are turning over 75 acres into ground bird habitat.  It feels like we are just beginning to get a handle on our stewardship responsibilities.

  How did you go from llamas to greenroofs?  And what’s the deal – are you really a hippie?  I remember one of your “fans” sent this in a while back:

Dear Ask Ed,

The picture of you in a lab coat suggests you are an MD or have a Doctorate in something.  Are you?  The sign on the wall presents some confusion as Hippies are an untrustworthy, unclean lot.  So how do I know you are a legitimate specialist and not some wacko aging hippie grinning outside his meth lab?

Wanting to trust

Ed:  Check out the song from the group The Bobs: First I Was a Hippie, Then I was a Stockbroker, Now I am a Hippie Again.  I think that song about sums it up.

Linda:  You’ve been central to the greenroof movement from the beginning through plant research, development, public speaking, and most recently writing your first book along with Lucie.  What do you enjoy most about your work, and do you see any more book endeavors in the future?

Ed:   I don’t think I have been central to the green roof movement, there are lots of folks that are moving this thing forward.  It takes a village to make a green roof?  I enjoy learning most of all, and I enjoy the people I work with at the farm.  They are bright enthusiastic folks I learn from them every day.  I love watching things grow and looking at the systems that support things that grow.  The people that are in the green roof movement worldwide are great people to converse with and learn from.

I have two more books on the way, one with Nigel Dunnett, Dusty Gedge and John Little on small do-it-yourself green roofs.  That one is due out in May of 2009.  I am also working on another book, it’s going to be on green roof design, install and maintain, mostly from the plant perspective.  I have a new co-author, Linda McIntyre who was a staff writer and editor for Landscape Architecture Magazine and did all their green roof articles over the last few years.  We hope to help fill the knowledge gap that exists in the market today.  That book is due out in early 2010, both are from Timber Press.

Linda:  Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants has supplied over 2,489,238 sf or 221,251 M2 of greenroofs so far across North America – is there one particular project which is your favorite, or maybe particularly important in your eyes?

Ed:  I do like the one in Fells Point in Baltimore.  It is on the Mikulski Workforce Development Center at Living Classrooms.  Lucie and I are big fans of Senator Mikulski and Living Classrooms and their work, and it is a green roof that you can see from the ground, which is kind of rare.

And I do like the ones I have at the farm because I get to see them everyday, especially my barn roof which I see every morning from the bedroom window.  Gardens change every day and I love watching the change.

Linda:  What issues do you feel are important within our industry, and where do you see us heading in the next few years?  What would you like to see changed or addressed?

Ed:  I think the public policy side of the industry has to come into focus and be more uniform and that will require more quantifiable benefits derived from the research community.  I see that coming in the next few years.  I think design intent will become sharper as that happens and green roof terminology may become more precise.  I would like to see green roofs become more integrated with other green technologies like vegetated swales, rain gardens, and water harvesting.

Linda:  I think you’re a consummate professional, a trailblazer, and all around nice guy.  But if there was one thing that you’d like people to know about you or how you see the world, what would that be?

Ed:  That is nice of you to say, but we are only as strong as the people around us.  I think the world is getting smaller and faster; we need to think of all the people, plants and animals as part of ourselves if we are going to make truly lasting gardens.

You may have realized that Ed and company have quite a sense of humor.  Not all is hard work on Emory Knoll Farms – check out some of the lighter research going on here…greenroofs?  I don’t know – maybe green topped.  For example, remember the previous incarnation as a llama farm?  Well, they put some bones to rest in an unlikely spot – talk about recycle, reuse!

And although the EKF office has a composting toilet, the photo below shows Tom Liptan (who works, appropriately, for a Bureau of Environmental Services) displaying one of  Emory Knoll Farms’ even greener environmental options: the Sedum Toilet – “storm” water management at its best!

In case you’re interested in seeing Ed in public, here are some of his upcoming speaking engagements:

Sunday, March 15, 2009 – Alexandria VA: Harry Allen Winter Lecture Series, Green Spring Gardens

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 – Bel Air MD: Leadership Group, Harford Leadership Academy

Thursday, June 18, 2009 – Denver CO: Green Roofs for the West Symposium, Denver Botanic Gardens

Sunday, July 12, 2009 – Portland OR: APLD Conference, APLD

So thanks, Ed, for sharing some personal thoughts with us.  Among all the other things that you do, we know you’re a writer – but how about a blogger?  We haven’t read anything from you yet here, but  this could be a new horizon for you…  Should our readers expect to hear from you on Sky Gardens sometime in the future?

We’ll see…  Until then, send him your Plant and Horticulture questions to:

ed (at) or

Next up in “Meet the Editors” is Christine Thuring, ecologist, researcher, world trekker, and currently our Student Editor (among other personas).

Happy Greening,

~ Linda V.