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The (Award-Winning) Green Wall Editor in the News

November 28, 2009 at 10:22 pm

In all the hustle and bustle of editing feature articles,  posting news stories, upcoming events, industry news and project profiles, amid other publisher duties, I sometimes forget to acknowledge the outside accomplishments (from Greenroofs.com) of our contributing editors…   This oversight will be addressed as one of my upcoming New Year’s resolutions, but for now let’s start with George Irwin, our Green Wall Editor:

George and the GLT A-Frame Assembly; Photo by James Rajottefor the New York Times

George Irwin, C.E.O. of Green Living Technologies, discusses the design of an A-frame planter his company makes.

George was recently interviewed for  the “Business of Green” article by Ken Belson titled “The Rooftop Garden Climbs Down a Wall” that appeared in the Energy & Environment section on nytimes.com of November 18 and the New York Times print version on November 19, 2009.   One of his Green Living Technologies‘ living wall products was featured when NYC  architect Brad Zizmor had an edible wall installed on the backyard deck  of his first-floor Manhattan apartment.  

The article really delves into the “Business of Green” – costs are included and Barthelmes Manufacturing Company, the sheet metal fabricator, was also  highlighted as well as Kari Elwell Katzander,  a landscape designer who designed the  3-panel green wall.    Although the author points out that these small greening solutions can be costly, he refers to another of George’s collaborations, the Urban Farming Food Chain green wall project in Los Angeles, and  says:

“Mr. Irwin has shown that edible walls can work on a larger scale. At four locations in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, there are walls with more than 4,000 plants growing: tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, spinach, leeks, even baby watermelon. At one location, a homeless shelter, residents tend to a six-foot-high, 30-foot-long wall, eating some food they harvest and selling the rest.

The project, urban farming advocates say, is just the start of something larger.”

Make sure to also click on the slide show “Edible Walls of Green” – there are 12 awesome photos of the Zizmor wall, a living wall at the College of Applied Sciences and Technology at Rochester Institute of Technology, and cool manufacturing shots, with just a few below:


Owner Bradley Zizmor and designer Kari Elweell Katzander working on the installation of the

A close-up of the Zizmor Green Wall by James Rajotte of NYTimes.com

Oh yeah, while I’m am it, I should tell you that George Irwin won the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Award of Excellence in the Green Walls category this year.   Presented on June 5, 2009 at the 7th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards, and Trade Show at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, he won for his involvement  and contribution to the Urban Farming Food Chain green walls, truly a dedicated community affair of residents, manufacturers, students, professors, activists, and designers.   We were very proud of him, of course, and I should have blogged about this very prestigious accomplishment after the conference, but somehow didn’t.

The Green Roofs for Healthy Cities Award of Excellence for Green Walls

You can read more about this  award from the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities website, and see each of the initial four  green wall sites of the Urban Farming Food Chain in The Greenroof Projects Database:   Skid Row Housing Trust’s ‘The Rainbow’; The Weingart Center Association; Miguel Contreras Learning Complex and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank Green Wall.

Volunteers at the Urban Farming Food Chain Skid Row project in 2008; Photo Courtesy George Irwin

I should also probably mention that because of his work with this project, George has also been on Good Morning America and invited to the White House, too.   I am a forgetful editor, indeed!   George writes about this exciting, worthy,  and humbling experience in his upcoming Green Walls column, which should be up very soon.   Kudos, George!

 George Irwin accepting his GRHC award at the 2009 ceremony; Photo GLT.

~ Linda V.

Roland Appl’s CitiesAlive! Photo Tour

November 22, 2009 at 12:29 am

Last month’s Cities Alive!  Congress  offered many  opportunities to tour many examples of Toronto’s various  green infrastructure  practices, including greenroofs, green walls, and green streets.   Christine and I both shared our experiences on two different “sustainable tours,” and now we  invite you on a visual photo tour of six  locales visited  from a German colleague of ours.   Roland Appl, International Green Roof Association  (IGRA) President   & ZinCo‘s Technical Director,   joined the guided walking Tour A: “Spectacular Green Roofs in Downtown Toronto” and shares these photos with us from October 21, 2009:

University of Toronto – Trinity College – St. Hilda’s College Residence:

St. Hilda's College Residence Greenroof; Photo by Roland Appl

St. Hilda's Greenroof Garden; Photo of 10.21.09 by Roland Appl

The Metro Toronto YMCA:

The Metro Toronto YMCA Greenroof, newly planted on October 21, 2009; Photo by Roland Appl

A View of the runningtrack at the Metro Toronto YMCA

The Drs. Paul and John Rekai Centre; Photo by Roland Appl on 10.21.09

The Drs. Paul and John Rekai Centre:

The Drs. Paul and John Rekai Centre; Photo by Roland Appl on 10.21.09

The Drs. Paul and John Rekai Centre; Photo by Roland Appl on 10.21.09

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC):

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) on October 21, 2009 by Roland Appl

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) on October 21, 2009 by Roland Appl

Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) on October 21, 2009 by Roland Appl

401 Richmond:

401 Richmond by Roland Appl

401 Richmond on a beautiful fall day in 2009

Photo by Roland Appl of Zinco and IGRA

The Robertson Building, 215 Spadina:

The Robertson Building, 215 Spadina Green Wall

The Robertson Building at 215 Spadina Greenroof; Photo by Roland Appl

Thanks, Roland!   I’ve created some initial profiles of each of these projects for The Greenroof Projects Database, and we’d appreciate if you have additional information and you’d like to share with us and the international greenroof community!   Please send additional text, designers/manufacturers of record, greenroof area, and photos to: projects@greenroofs.com.

~ Linda V.

Christine’s Reflections on CitiesAlive!

November 13, 2009 at 4:17 am

After Linda’s great coverage of the CitiesAlive! Congress, I’m hard pressed to find anything more to say! However, since I was living in Toronto around the time that green roofs were first launched there, and went on a different Congress tour, I’m glad for the chance to reflect.

The opening ceremony on Monday evening was classy, with a unique green roof touch to it. Once you’d had enough drinks and hors d’oevres in the City Hall foyer, you could go to the roof to see the project. It was fun to stroll through the disorderly chaos of a modular installation, frozen in time until the workers would return next morning.

Photo courtesy Roland Appl (ZinCo GmbH)

In fact, the original green roof on Toronto City Hall was my very first introduction to green roofs, as I happened to be there the day of its official launch (Nov. 20, 2000). Funny story, that… I’d just moved to Toronto, fresh out of University and looking for work in the environmental field. On my 2nd day in town, I rang up all the companies I’d (blindly) submitted my resume to, and soon had Steven Peck on the phone. I imagine the City Hall event was a perfect diversion for him to get this young keener off his case. Nine years later…hah!

In any case, it’s impressive to consider that this huge renovation replaces the original modular demonstration boxes. If anything, this suggests that the demonstration was successful and convincing! It certainly also helps that Toronto’s mayor since 2003, David Miller, has introduced an impressive range of environmental policies in his time, including the Toronto green roof strategy of 2008. A lot can happen when open-minded and forward-thinking people step into positions of authority!

The Congress

Tuesday was the only day of talks, which I found a bit hectic. With 4 concurrent tracks going on, and no papers to take home, it was hard to decide which track to go to. Even at the trade show over lunch and coffee, I found this limited  time frame  really challenged the fine balance between catching up with good colleagues/ friends and meeting new ones.

Happily, the congress provided social/ networking opportunities on all three evenings. On Tuesday the Steamwhistle Brewery hosted a BBQ with delicious local brews, as a backdrop to the results of the  CitiesAlive! International Student Design Challenge (Transforming the Face of Buildings). Congratulations to all the faculty-led student teams for their leafy designs! The images below show the first- and second-place winners. First place went to  Cliffside Village, and second place to Compods, both designed by  students from  Ryerson University Architectural Science.  To see the full results of the competition, click  here.

First Place: Cliffside Village

Second Place: Compods

The Tours: GTAA Partners in Project Green

Wednesday was tour day, and I chose to learn more about GTAA Partners in Project Green. The Greater Toronto Airport Authority covers 12,000 ha of industrial and commercial land, including more than 12,500 businesses, and falls under the jurisdiction of 3 municipalities (Mississauga, Toronto and Brampton). Partners in Project Green was founded by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and GTAA.

I was particularly keen on this tour because the Toronto airport, with its recent mega-redevelopment of Terminal 1, seemed the antithesis of anything “green.” How could such a major development resulting in more air travel be described as a solution for “reducing carbon emissions?” Let’s return to this point later on. The image below shows Toronto Pearson International Airport in the centre, with some features marked to provide some orientation (i.e. Terminal 1, Highway 427 and Etobicoke Creek Stormwater Management Facility). The lands surrounding the airport are part of the GTAA, and therefore also of Partners in Project Green.

Toronto Aerial

The tour started in FESTI (Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute), a LEED silver-certified building which came into operation in 2007. A state-of-the-art facility, FESTI features many technologies to minimize its environmental footprint, such as a solar wall, green roof, recycled building materials and water-saving systems.  This building has a small Sedum mat green roof, around 1,000 sf in size. At the time of planning, the authority lacked references for green roofs and airports, and was therefore conservative due to its uncertainties about animal and bird use. Pity they missed Linda’s paper about Green Roofs and Airports.

FESTI Green Roof

After an extensive tour of FESTI, we went to check out the Etobicoke Creek stormwater management facility. Located under the apron adjacent to Terminal 1, this subterranean facility receives stormwater from an expansive catchment area. It is located underground because surface land is a premium. In order to remain structurally sound underneath taxiing planes, millions of tonnes of concrete were used. Our tour guide, the Head of Environment for GTAA, told us that this project won an award for “the most concrete used in an environmental project.” He wryly added that you can win an award for almost anything these days.

Model of the Etobicoke Creek stormwater management facility

The image  above shows  a model of the Etobicoke Creek stormwater management facility. Note the walkway in the top-right of the image. To give you a sense of how deep and huge this facility is, our guide was monitoring oxygen (and other gases) while we were underground, informing us that “evacuation could not be ruled out.” The model shows how the system works. Stormwater enters the first cell (top of image), then overflows consecutively until the last cell. From the last cell, stormwater passes through two oil separators (the white shapes), which are filled with coalescing plates to trap oil particles, and then released into Etobicoke Creek.

One of four stormwater cells

Welcome to what I affectionately recall to as “the caverns.” The image above shows one cell; and the sub-cells within each cell direct water flow. The image below shows the  walkway, along with a  series of tipping buckets (to the left). When the cells need to be flushed of physical debris, these buckets are rotated to release a deluge of water into each cell.  In this image, note also the trough (almost central in the image) which serves to transfer overflow water from one cell to the next. Many thanks to our tour guides from GTAA for this tour!

Walkway with tipping buckets visible on left

From the airport, our tour continued to the Bayer Headquarters in another corner of the GTAA area. The two Bayer representatives who toured us around the facility showed us everything that made corporate Bayer a great place to work, including an “Outback” walking trail, deluxe fitness facilities, and an 8,500 sf green roof.

The Bayer Green Roof

Installed in October 2007, this Sedum-Allium roof serves purely for “˜green’ image. Inasmuch, the company is not interested in the benefits that green roofs provide and is not doing any performance monitoring. Concurrent with our visit, a 6,500 sf cool roof was being installed on a neighbouring roof.  I was actually a bit taken aback at how confidently our tour guides revealed their limited understanding about green roofs, especially considering our group comprised experts in this field. Where my tireless advocate/ educator side would’ve normally been happy to step up and clarify certain details, the corporate confidence encouraged me rather to let it slide. Let the plants “hibernate.”

Concluding thoughts

As far as the overall congress goes, Toronto certainly deserves applause for hosting Canada’s biggest ever green roof gathering. I was very happy to be there! For me personally, it was a wonderful excuse to travel home from Europe.  However, if I were an international delegate without the added perk of catching up with family and friends on either side of the congress dates, I would not have been pleased with the structure of the congress. Considering that delegates came from as far away as Japan, Australia, and Ecuador, I imagine that many of the congress participants were jet lagged. And  all for one single day of information sharing (for which no materials were provided to take home), one day of tours and a couple social events..?

Regarding the tour that I went on, I was unequivocally glad for the opportunity YYZ_Christine with Pipesto learn more about how the international airport functions; visiting the stormwater “˜caverns’ was a highlight of my life. Seriously.

Overall, and whether or not this was intentional, for me the tour provided a straightforward understanding of how corporate North America uses the word “green.” I learned that “corporate responsibility” looks as good as its intent, which is a bit weak and not fully informed. In both cases the green roofs may as well have been ordered out of a catalogue. They were so small and plain that it was hard to find anything interesting to discuss (which was perfect since nobody knew much about them anyway, neither performance nor function). These green roofs were simply novel additions to the corporate environmental portfolio, in which appearance has more value over performance.

Recalling my original curiosity, this may also explain how the new Terminal 1 is attributed to reducing emissions and stormwater runoff. Our guide from GTAA explained that the larger apron at Terminal 1 means that planes now queue and taxi less, thereby reducing the projected emissions compared to when it was smaller.

This logic is reminiscent of the typical emissions reduction reasonings associated with Kyoto, isn’t it, namely comparative extrapolation rather than baseline reduction strategies. With regards to stormwater, while we were impressed to see how this issue is managed I didn’t really get a clear answer of stormwater is reduced (and “reduced” is the term used, several times). Further to emissions, stormwater and  the LEED-certified building, additional green initiatives include the Airport’s cogeneration facility, xeriscaping, and reuse of 99% recycled material from the old terminal (by weight).  Considering the scale of the Airport lands, such commitments play a big role to its ecological impacts (however misleading the corporate statements are).

TBG_green shed

The Mexican Fiesta which closed the Congress at the Toronto Botanical Gardens was fun, with a live mariachi band and free Coronas for all. Terry McGlade did a great job of showing people the green roofs, and it was a great way to close off the Congress. Linda did a great job of summarizing the Fiesta, with wonderful photos, so if you haven’t read her blog post please do check it out!

~ Christine

Watch the Premiere of Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World!

November 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm

After a long 16 months,  the first episode of our WebTV series Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World will be up and ready to see on Sunday, November 8, 2009.   You can watch Episode 1: Rock Mill Park on the Greenroofs.TV Channel on Greenroofs.com and YouTube.     Download our Press Release here.

Episode 1 Screenshot

The Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World video series grew naturally out of my previous column “Sky Gardens ~Travels in Landscape Architecture” which ran from June, 2003 through April, 2006 here on Greenroofs.com.   With that column I was combining my various fields of expertise, and the  description read:

“What do you get when you cross a landscape in the sky with an ecological designer, greenroof website publisher, and an international flight attendant?   Why, a column entitled “Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture” of course!   Welcome to the ramblings of my unique bird’s eye perspective of the world, as I continue to visit new cities and noteworthy landscape architecture projects ~ both at ground and greenroof level.”

My hectic schedule proved too much for such an indepth column, and it evolved into  this Sky Gardens ~ where cool green meets lofty blue Blog.   But I still wanted to pursue the thought of examining greenroof projects in-depth: the who, where, what, why and how’s of the entire planning and design process.   Our oldest son, Joey, is a screenwriter with film experience and so with  the help of his film production company,  Red Hand Productions, last year I decided to channel this vision into a more visual medium – video.

We selected one of my own designs here in Alpharetta for the first episode, and it’s been a true labor of love.   I’ve been involved with the Rock Mill Park project since 1999 when I interned as a student of landscape architecture with the City of Alpharetta.   I was thrilled when my design for “Celebrating Ecological Design in a Native Landscape” became a reality with construction of The Greenroof Pavilion and Trial Gardens of Rock Mill Park in 2007.   So many talented and generous people contributed to this endeavor, and being able to film and share this project built on such an environmentally sensitive and culturally important former Cherokee-owned site was an honor for me.   See 2008’s Love the Earth: Plant a Roof! and What I Did on My Summer Vacation”¦ for a little more background info.

 Rock Mill Park in the 1830's

Rock Mill Park in the 2000's

I think you’ll enjoy our first episode, where we interviewed many people involved in the project and filmed on site at Rock Mill Park; Alpharetta City Hall at Mayor Arthur Lechtas’ office; the City of Alpharetta Engineering/Public Works Department; the historic Log Cabin  at the former site of Milton High School; Saul Nurseries “Swamp” location; and the former Cherokee capital, New Echota in Calhoun, GA, now a Historic Site.

Overhead view of Rock Mill Park; Photo by Harris Hatcher

We’ve had some trials and tribulations along the way, but that just makes it more special now that it’s done!   On November 8 you can see Episode 1: Rock Mill Park in four 10-minute installments on our home page and the Greenroofs.TV page on our website, where they will be added to the Greenroofs.com playlist on the greenroofstv channel on YouTube, found at http://www.youtube.com/greenroofstv.   All four videos will be lined up in order for easy viewing.

Look for our second Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World episode which highlights the gorgeous Cook+Fox Architects LLP  corporate headquarters in Manhattan, NY, and details some of the greening initiatives that New York City is spearheading, coming soon to GreenroofsTV!

~ Linda V.