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Own a Piece of D.C. Environmental Art: Project H

April 8, 2010 at 3:50 pm

If you’re a commercial business,  you  could call it  street art, if you’re a private homeowner perhaps it could be backyard art, but in any case if  you’re an environmentalist at heart then here’s your opportunity to own a piece of very unique greenroofed pop art  and support a  Washington, D.C.  non-profit champion, D.C. Greenworks.

DC Greenworks, a 501 c3 non-profit, is the U.S. national capital region’s preeminent greenroof advocate and educator, as well as a one-stop-shop for greenroof consultation, design, and installation.    They serve the Washington, D.C. community by providing training, tools, and techniques that utilize, protect and advance the environment.   More:

“DC Greenworks sees a vital connection between economy and ecology, employment potential and environmental sustainability.   We actively seek to discover, promote, and deliver cutting edge solutions that are cost effective, eco-friendly, and socially beneficial.  Our mission is to create livable communities using living materials.”

D.C. Greenworks is wrapping up one of their most successful public projects – Project H, a temporary environmental art installation in partnership with Washington, D.C.  Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Green Summer Job Corps.   For decades, little attention had been given to streetscaping along H Street, NE and after years of anticipation, two dozen DC youth built and painted 40 Project H Street planters last summer.

The result was a new, colorful streetscape that blossomed along the bustling H Street, NE corridor.   But this spring, new trees will begin to be planted along H Street, NE and that means DC Greenworks has these 40 vividly beautiful H-shaped planter boxes ready to become eye-catching environmental sculptures for your yard, home, or business.   The Project H planters come in blue, orange, yellow, pink, and purple and are available on a first come, first served basis, starting April 7.

“For each Project H planter box, we are asking for a minimum donation of $200 to be made payable to DC Greenworks.   We encourage you to give more to help us advance our work revitalizing urban communities and growing a sustainable economy by integrating natural systems into the built environment.   Every dollar is tax deductible.” ~ DC Greenworks

We’re long admirers here at Greenroofs.com of  D.C. Greenworks’ work and commitment.   In fact, we included a couple of their projects in our Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Design  for both 2008 in the #10 category, “Client Specific ‘Boutique Greenroofs: Greenroofs as Community Green Collar Job Opportunities”  and in 2009 we created a new category for such organizations offering education in the  #6 position, “Sustainable Stimulus: Green Buildings Creating Green Collar Jobs.”   They are committed to green mandates and achieving the highest possible LEED standards while offering job training for District youth.   For example, the 4,000 sf Franklin D. Reeves Center  roof was designed in 2007  to help reduce stormwater runoff into the Anacostia River and global warming while creating job training opportunities.   As a result of this project, twelve young adults received training in horticulture and greenroof installation through DC Greenworks.

Another current awesome D.C. Greenworks project offers free shade trees through this April for their neighbors in the D.C. neighborhoods of Atlas District and Trinidad – planting included!   For either program, contact Ashley Hanna  of D.C. Greenworks at: 202.518.6195,  ashley@dcgreenworks.org,  or visit their website.    By the way, volunteers are always welcome at D.C. Greenworks.   If you’d like to sign up to learn about greenroofing, hands on, in a day of volunteerism, please email them at: volunteer@dcgreenworks.org.

Help D.C. Greenworks  find green-loving homes for their 40 unique hand-made, freshly-planted, pop-art inspired planter boxes.   Along with corporate and social giants, you too, could have your very own piece of Project H at a reasonable cost!   For those of you with a philanthropic bent, celebrate spring with  these funky, living creations  from a group of caring and creative individuals  who  provide  hands-on green-centered apprenticeships for disadvantaged District youth.

Happy Greening ~ Linda V.

Today is World Health Day – April 7, 2010

April 7, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Today is World Health Day – 7 April 2010!   With the campaign 1000 cities, 1000 lives, events have been organized worldwide by the World Health Organization during the week of April 7 – 11, 2010.

“The theme of urbanization and health was selected for World Health Day in recognition of the effect urbanization has on our collective health globally and for us all individually. Urban areas provide great opportunities for individuals and families to prosper and can provide a healthy living environment. However, urbanization can also bring many challenges including: overcrowding; air pollution; rising levels of risk factors like tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol; road traffic injuries; inadequate infrastructure, transport facilities, solid waste management systems; and insufficient access to health facilities
in slum areas.” ~ WHO

WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. Inaugurated on April 7, 1948, WHO provides leadership on global health matters, shapes the health research agenda, sets norms and standards, articulates evidence-based policy options, provides technical support to countries, and monitors and assesses health trends.

Organizers of World Health Day see April 7 as a call to action day and hope its observance “can trigger the long-term commitment to approach health from a social determinants point of view – addressing the factors and conditions that can determine our health outcomes – across multiple sectors engaging a wide array of partners including civil society and residents.”

The global goals of the 1000 cities, 1000 lives campaign are:

“¢1000 cities: to open up public spaces to health, whether it be activities in parks, town hall meetings, clean-up campaigns, or closing off portions of streets to motorized vehicles – over 1,300 cities   joined the campaign!
“¢1000 lives: to collect 1000 stories of urban health champions who have taken action and had a significant impact on health in their cities – you can nominate someone.

Of course, we all know  green infrastructure and eco-friendly architecture can improve the environment and support urban well-being.   As reported by the BBC,  a  recent study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health states evidence that living near a green space has health benefits, especially if you live less than a kilometer (0.62 miles) away.

According to the study, diseases that benefit most from green spaces are:

Coronary heart disease
Neck, shoulder, back, wrist and hand complaints
Depression and anxiety
Respiratory infections and asthma
Migraine and vertigo
Stomach bugs and urinary tract infections
Unexplained physical symptoms

In addition to connecting people back to nature, greenroofs and walls help filter and cleanse both airborne and stormwater  toxins and pollutants. So doesn’t it make sense that increasing green spaces at all planes –  ground, rooftop, and wall  – and at all scales,  from pocket parks to mega developments, can reduce many of our physical and emotional health problems?

You can sign up on Who’s social media website for  1000 cities, 1000 lives, where you can become a part of the movement by creating a profile and inviting your friends to join you.   You’ll find an interactive map showing which cities have joined the movement, you can join a forum, and there’s even a WHO YouTube site for the 1000 cites, 1000 lives campaign where you can upload your own videos – see it here.

World Health Day 2010 posters available for download:

Promote urban planning for healthy behaviours and safety [pdf 513kb]

Improve urban living conditions [pdf 536kb]

Build inclusive cities that are accessible and age-friendly [pdf 456kb]

Ensure participatory urban governance [pdf 439kb]

Make urban areas resilient to emergencies and disasters [pdf 670kb]

World Health Day encompasses a much wider scope than just green buildings, but by investing now in greening the world’s cities we’ll all benefit –  at environmental, economic, and health levels – for our future as well as our grand children’s and beyond!

~ Linda V.

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.