Popular Tags:

The Swiss-Canadian Green Roof Gal: An Interview with Christine Thüring

May 24, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Butterfly  

Christine Thuring, really Christine Thüring, has a background in field botany and restoration ecology, and a MSc. Horticulture from  Pennsylvania State University’s “Centre for Green Roof Research“ (2005).   Christine enjoys addressing the complexes of ecological design within the urban/ architectural interface, and has worked with green roofs in various capacities, including research, design, education, and communication.   Christine is an active volunteer with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, and helped develop the GRHC 401 course on plant and substrate selection for green roofs.   She is quite the globetrotter, visiting friends and family in Europe and North America on a regular basis.
 
Christine is also our second Contributing Editor here on Greenroofs.com, and the focus of this  interview in our “Meet the Editors” series.   As our Student Editor since July 2004, she has been writing a biannual ramble in her column ‘Green Roofs on the Curve’ and her newsletter “Students on Green Roofs.”    Her goal is to get students at all levels involved in the green roof movement by sharing research, projects and ideas through Guest Student Articles, the Student Forum, and by getting listed in the free Student Directory.

Linda:   Christine, you have a Master’s in Horticulture, so you must have had an early love affair with plants and the green side of things.   Please talk about early influences, and when did you encounter your first greenroof and did the concept immediately strike you as important, or did it develop over time?
 
Christine:   Prior to specializing in green roofs, I worked for many seasons as a field botanist in aspects of restoration ecology and botanical inventory.   Frequent engagements with species-at-risk (most often due to habitat loss) and habitat fragmentation by residential and commercial development became so frustrating that the close of my contracts always ended in tears.   I’ve always had an ‘environmentalist’ streak in me, but it’s been my connection with the natural world that has consistently undercut my activist tendencies.    To watch a natural community – places where frogs live and birds sing – get ploughed over for cookie-cutter housing is so painfully sad.

Photo Source: www.liladelman.com

In 2001, I stumbled upon the green roof demonstration launch at Toronto City Hall.   Since I was looking for work at the time, I was able to stay to the close of the event and ended up going for pints with Steven Peck, Brad Bass, Kaaren Pearce and a few others.   I saw these folks quite frequently over the next year.   I suppose the major turning point occurred when I joined Brad Bass on his annual “alma mater mecca” to Penn State, where I met my future advisors, Drs. Beattie and Berghage.

Penn State green roof family, 2007: Dr. Beattie, Dr. Ayako Nagase, Dr. Shazia Husein, Sarah Murphy, Ed Snodgrass, Christine Thüring, Dr. Rob Berghage, Jörg Breuning

I was really excited by green roofs, although in retrospect I think I just needed to get into something more optimistic.   It was good to take a breather from species at risk and talk about Sedums for stormwater management.   After interning with Optigrün, one of Germany’s largest green roof franchises, I went to Penn State to do my MSc. Horticulture at the “Centre for Green Roof Research” (2005).  

IKEA Sedum roof, Freiburg, Germany on a Green Roof Safari

My Master’s research focused on extensive green roofs (with the question of “how low can you go?”), and it was only upon meeting Stephan Brenneisen at the first GRHC conference in Chicago (2003), that my background in plant ecology was given new inspiration and meaning.   Looking back to these early influences, my identity as a plant person has developed in such a way that I’ve returned to my roots in plant ecology but from a platform that is better for my spirits.
 
Linda:   You’re very much a “people person,” yet you’ve also devoted a lot of time to research and study.   You’ve lived in the U.S, Canada, and Switzerland, and you’re fluent in German and I know have a good grasp of a few other languages.   I know the German comes in very handy in our greenroof industry!   Can you tell us a little about growing up Swiss-Canadian and how perhaps the experience helped set you up on your greenroof journey?   And how do you believe your world travels have influenced your world views, at least on the design side of greenroofs?

Christine:   My parents are both Swiss and although I grew up in Elmira, Canada, our family spent 3-4 months every 2nd summer in Switzerland, from infancy onwards.   We thereby maintain close ties with our relatives, friends, dialects and culture.   For some reason, I’ve never kicked the two year cultural cycle: I can’t be in North America for longer than two years before I need another European residency (usually Swiss, German or Austrian).  

At some point, I really crave ubiquitous public timepieces (I never liked wearing a watch), delectable ice cream creations (“Coupes” in Switzerland, “Eis Becher” in Germany), and the cross-generational status quo of fitness.   Of course the level of environmental awareness is always refreshing, and to see Best Management Practices as commonplace.   I’m always impressed by the size of the population that truly honours, respects and knows nature.   I love European cities, and the proximity an ease of travelling around, and have a soft spot for living in villages (especially in the Alps).
Left: Skiing with a friend in the Tyrolean Alps, 2009; Right: Ice cream creations, these are just some of my favourite things!
When I discovered extensive green roofs, the German rooting of the technology definitely made it feel like a good match for me.   I grew up with several first languages (Swiss-German at home, English and French at school, German school on the weekend, ech), and have always enjoyed communicating across cultures.   When I met Stephan Brenneisen  for the first time in Chicago, it was glorious to find someone to talk Swiss German with over espressos (not to mention talking about his work and coming full circle in my own little world)!

In the last year, I’ve been offering translation and copy-editing support for colleagues in the German green roof market, which has been a very positive experience.   The copy-editing relationship is a neat one, because it’s basically the native-speaker refinement of English papers written by German authors.   Ultimately, this can determine whether a paper is accepted or rejected.

 Medieval architecture has an element of green we can learn from.

With regards to world travel, especially to developing countries, I’ve always felt strongly about helping the developing world side-step the blunders that industrial society has already accomplished.   Backpacking around Central America and South India opened my eyes to the fact that development in these places is occurring, whether we help steer its direction or not.   My experience from accessing the first green roof in India is summarized in an article from March 2009.   With regards to design, these general observations make one thing clear: if living architecture is to achieve its full potential in today’s civilization, we need varied options and flexible alternatives that make the technology accessible.

Of course governing bodies need to be informed and motivated to do their part on behalf of the public they represent.   But if at least part of the market could be steered towards supporting intuitive do-it-yourselfers, the benefits would be far more widespread (and interesting).   For example, if a building owner in Mumbai wishes to clad the façade with climbers, ideally they could find a minimum of good information with relative ease, and have the intuitive confidence to make it happen rather than waiting for someone from far away to come and do it for them.   Of course this “good information” must be based on current standards and enforceable regulations.

Linda:   Your professor and mentor while at PSU, Dr. David Beattie, passed away in March, 2008.   Can you share with us the experience of studying and working with him?   And what did you learn most from Dr. Beattie as an advisor and colleague?
 
Christine:   David Beattie was a classic horticulturalist with varied interests and a good scientific ethic.   He was already dealing with cancer when I first met him in the summer of 2001, but always had a good energy to him.   Must be the Irish!   Fellow students in the Dept. of Horticulture perceived that he must be super fun to work with; he had an easy laugh that would echo down the hallways of Tyson Building.   He definitely was good to work with, although it was far from fun and games.   He was a good mentor by being available and by bringing big-picture wisdom to foggy moments.

Linda:   You have a ton of zeal and everyone who meets you loves your energy!   Aside from your obvious youth, to what would you attribute your passion and zest for life?
 
Christine:   When I’m fully engaged in something I believe in, this tremendous energy radiates outwards from the depths of my soul.   I am not really aware of it myself, although I’m now wise enough to recognize it when it reflects off those around me.   Green roofs definitely inspire this energy, but the same can be said for bog restoration, self-propelled transportation, glaciers, surfing, and ice cream creations.
Left: A uniquely Swiss creation, Couple Schoggistängeli includes two Schoggistängelis (chocolate sticks with nougat and hazelnuts inside); Right: For wannabe meat-eaters, the Beefsteak has been the highlight of my vegetarian life.  Notice the two fried egg replicas, adding to the mock-cholesterol fun. Thank you, GelatOK in Reutte, Tyrol!
Aside from my youth (you realize I’m 33 now, yes?), I try to abide by some simple rules to be fundamentally happy.   Among these: don’t take anything personally, always do your best, never make assumptions, simplify your problems, and say what you mean (mean what you say).  I find putting fundamental philosophies into practice very rewarding, both personally and professionally.

Ravi Enjoying the Coupe Hot Berry Confection

Linda:    As Student Editor, what would you like to see students more engaged in?   Overall, 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?

Christine:   I’m glad you ask this question!   I’m inspired by students who are empowered and asking “˜real’ questions.   In my early newsletters, I used to write about topics that weren’t being addressed by the green roof community, hoping that a student on the hunt for a meaningful thesis topic would bite.   By “˜real’ questions, I mean those based by the fundamental principles of sustainability.   Removing petroleum-based products completely from the roster, for example, or using water more creatively.

This interview is timely, actually, as I think the time has come for me to rescind the Student Editor role and pass it along.   Being in the academic setting is a definite plus to this role, and since my graduation I feel my editorial focus has evolved somewhat. If any of our readers are interested in taking on the role of Student Editor, feel free to contact me: StudentEditor@greenroofs.com

Linda:   Overall, 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?

Christine:   I’m concerned about the risks that green-washing poses to the green roof industries that are emerging around the world.   Like any industry with “green” in its name, we believe we’re doing good for the earth because we’re “green” by definition!    However, if we think for a moment how a subject’s over-arching mission can be diluted, whittled and/ or adapted, then green-washing within the green roof industry can sacrifice not only the vision, but more importantly the integrity of the technology – and community – “˜s potential.

Taking this a step further, consider that many of our materials have high embodied energies, whether engineered media, modules, drain boards or even plants.   When that energy depends on access to a fuel that is getting more and more expensive, the cost of green roofs will also rise.   If we think green roofs are being value engineered out of projects now already, where will they stand when oil is at $250/ barrel?   And where is the logic of installing green roofs if they support even just a small percentage of tar sands  activity?

New regions still require regulated materials for green roofs, performance evaluations and design optimization, no argument there.   But I think it is essential that we expand our focus and creativity to support the use of local materials as much as possible, beyond the enticingly cheap products subsidized from afar.

Further to this, I think we must challenge the limitations presented by human aesethetics with the practical advantages of function.   For example, given that we recognize how much knowledge we lack on the ecology front, doesn’t it seem rueful to invest so much energy/ time/ money into removing plants that freely colonize green roofs?   Those same plants may bring tremendous benefits, not only to the green roof but to a greater ecosystem but on a level of intricacy that we will never comprehend.   Indeed, this very aspect of green roof presentation (and maintenance) is so striking in Europe, where weeds are treated with greater respect than in North America.   One thing is true:   human regard for what is “attractive” is very easy to manipulate.   Just look at fashion: we’re back in the 80s for crying out loud!

Other themes for green roofs that I find important/ bearing great potential for a sustainable future include (very broadly): urban agriculture, mineral nutrient cycles, the magical rhizosphere, cost-benefit assessment, progressive policy-making, closed loop resource management, rainwater harvesting, low maintenance ecological design, passivhaus, do-it-yourself support, invasive exotics, etc.

Linda:   You’ve collaborated on the design  of a few greenroofs.   People are constructing living roofs and green walls for so many reasons nowadays, but your interest has always been more on sustainable habitat and the reintroduction of flora and fauna – how important do you believe it is to design for biodiversity, and what should we as designers take into consideration?  

Christine:   On the one hand it is desirable to simply vegetate as many roofs as we can, regardless of system, plants or design.   We know that extensive Sedum roofs do a great job of stormwater mitigation, so why not simply focus on getting the costs down, expand a skilled workforce and cover as much surface area as possible.   Green roofs designed especially for biodiversity, by contrast, require more attention, consultation and planning.   Fortunately, this is not an either-or scenario and there is room for all types of designs.  

Fundamentally, I tend to refer to one consistent motto for this topic: diversity equals stability.   The more diverse a system, the more resilient it is to collapse.   This can apply to individual green roof design, and extend all the way up to market constituents (i.e. the constituent services available within an industry).

Genevieve with one of her residential projects in Vancouver.  All plants are native to the Pacific Northwest.Still, recalling the resemblance that pure Sedum roofs bear to deserts, adding small elements to enhance the site’s diversity doesn’t take much and can make a big difference to the ecological value of the site.   Pieces of wood, topographic variation, and so on.   Using locally available materials and seed would seal the deal.   The key is to have the knowledge and support on-hand for site-specific inputs.

One of the most exciting designers I’ve been blessed to collaborate with is Genevieve Noel, of MUBI Regenerative Consulting in Vancouver.  A true ecological designer, with a degree in industrial design and a background in silviculture, Genevieve has developed a number of impressive living wall systems and is determined to use native plants wherever possible.   One of her many brilliant projects, on Quadra Island, recreates the habitat on the roof space that permits the loading.  The overall roof supports native sedum and mosses while deeper areas feature bulbs, ferns and perennials that were inventoried on site.

Linda:   You’ve had a few jobs within the plant research/ecological horticulture/greenroof marketplace since graduating from Penn State.   In a perfect world, what do you think the perfect job or career would be for you?   And tell us about your new venture, Green Roof Safari – it sounds fascinating, and seems a perfect fit for your talents!

NATS colourful green roof plant trial gazebo.

Christine:
  I really enjoyed working for NATS Nursery in Langley, B.C., where I had one of the longest (but perfect) titles ever: Resident Ecologist and Green Roof Specialist.   Being new to the Pacific Northwest, working for a native plant nursery was a fantastic way to become familiar with the flora!   I got to experiment with plants on the green roof trial facility, monitored the plant experiments for the 6 acre Vancouver Convention Centre green roof, and assembled plant lists for everything including exterior living walls, green roofs, biofiltration, all types of wetlands, and roadside restoration.   I was very happy at BCIT, too, which offered a nice mix of education and research, not to mention inter-disciplinary goodness.   At BCIT’s Centre for Architectural Ecology, directed by the fabulous Maureen Connelly, I did everything from project coordination (UN World Urban Festival, see below) to research (Elevated Research Platform), and also discovered my capacity for marketing and communications.   I’m not sure what my perfect job or career would be; I think I’m finding out as I go along.

ct-earthworldurbanfestival1

In early 2008, I decided to explore a new path and established a small business, Chlorophyllocity.   Just as the name combines various words- chlorophyll, city, velocity – Chlorophyllocity’s scope is intentionally diverse, which permits a great range for collaborations and other relationships.   In my first year, for example, Green Roof Safari  ran its first study tour, several projects slowly advanced closer to reality, I supported three green roof colleagues with translation and copy-editing of exciting new research papers, contributed my own research interests as a panelist for “Future Directions for Green Roof Research” at the GRHC conference in Baltimore, did some field work, and got some secret experiments up and running on my balcony. I’ve never considered myself a business woman, so we’ll see what happens.

Chlorophyllocity to Green Roof Safari

At the moment I’m very excited about Green Roof Safari, which is a collaborative project with Jörg Breuning.   Green Roof Safari’s goal is to provide participants with the scope, information, and contacts to bring broadened horizons back to their hometowns and effect positive change. The unique service that Green Roof Safari supplies is access to a diversity of (otherwise inaccessible) green roofs in a condensed time frame. We also arrange meetings with local experts to learn about success stories in policy, research and design from direct experience.

These study tours are designed to equip participants with knowledge, scope and contacts, but also reinforce the spirit for sharing and community that is key to sustainability.   Our next tour runs from September 14 – 19, 2009.

Linda:   Is there one particular project which is your favorite, or maybe particularly important in your eyes?

Christine:   I’m deeply impressed by the innovative development going into wet roofs, such as projects by Gaia Institute in New York.

Linda:   I think you are a passionate advocate for respecting nature and the built environment, and have a bright future ahead of you.   You’re just beginning to conquer the world of greenroofs and sustainable design!   If there was one thing that you’d like people to know about you that hasn’t been mentioned or how you see the world, what would that be?
 
Christine:   I love bogs and believe their protection and restoration represents a key to our global environmental plight.   Carbon sequestration aside, bogs (and other wetlands) are amazingly rich biologically, and do so much for our air and water.   Over the summer of 2007 I volunteered my earlier experiences in bog restoration to the Burns Bog Conservation Society, supporting and guiding a summer student in developing a long-term experimental design in the lee of the largest domed peat bog in western North America.   Botanical inventories from permanent vegetation plots permit the correlation between natural succession and the changing water table.

Left: Doing vegetation surveys in Burns Bog (B.C.), June 2007; Right: Representing bogs alongside Raging Grannies at

When in Vancouver, I try to join the “˜Crazy Boggers’ work parties at Camosun bog on Saturday mornings.   I’ve been experimenting with the propagation of peat moss, with the dream of establishing bogs on rooftops.   Stay tuned!

Christine Thuring on the Vancouver Public Library (Library Square Building) Greenroof

Linda:   Thanks, Christine, for sharing, and good luck in all your pursuits.   If you’d like to contact Christine Thüring, otherwise sometimes known as The Green Roof Gal, email her at:  StudentEditor@greenroofs.com.  

Christine is currently in Stuttgart-Nürtingen, Germany attending the International Green Roof Congress 2009 through May 28, 2009, representing her varied interests along with Greenroofs.com.   Unfortunately, at the last moment we had to cancel our trip but Christine will do a fine job of reporting with an article after the Congress, so look for one coming soon!

Next up in “Meet the Editors” series is  Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, formerly “The Roving Exhibitor,” president of Green Roof Blocks and St. Louis Metalworks Company, and now simply known as “The Green Roof Guy.”

Happy Greening Everyone,

~ Linda V.

The 7th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference

May 22, 2009 at 12:31 am

I hope many of you are traveling to southern Germany to particpate in the 2nd International Green Roof Congress in Stuttgart-Nürtingen on May 25-27 – it’s sure to be amazing.   Please send us your thoughts, comments and photos for posting afterwards!  

Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference 2009

First Time in the South

Next up in our Spring line-up of major greenroof conferences is the 7th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show on June 3-5, held for the first time in the southern U.S., here in Atlanta at the lovely Hyatt Regency – Atlanta.

It’s hard to believe Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) has put on this event yearly since 2003, debuting in Chicago – a great city with a great visionary mayor in Richard Daley, Jr.   We’ve participated every year by  exhibiting, I’ve sometimes presented papers or a poster session, attended a class (or facilitated one in the case of Portland, OR with the inaugural Green Roof 101 in 2004).   This year we’re really proud to be a Sponsor of the Conference along with The Home Depot Foundation, American Hydrotech, Tremco, Green Roof Blocks  and Sweetwater Brewing Company.   I think the industry has come a long way through the hard, dedicated work of many, and although there is still much to do, I’m confident the greenroof community will continue to  thrive within the eco-friendly world of planning, design, and construction.

The Hyatt Regency - Atlanta

It’s been fun (and time consuming, although I have had to miss some of the meetings) to have  participated on the Local Atlanta Host Committee, specifically the Tours Sub-Committee, but it’s been time well spent at Southface Energy Institute.   In fact, I’m attending the last meeting before the conference this afternoon to go over last minute items, including the tours, which I’ll be talking about in detail in a few days – but you should sign up for one of five guided tours, four on Tuesday, June 2 and one on Saturday, June 6 (another option  is a Walking Tour at your leisure) – and I should point out that I’ll be your host on Tour #2: Goodbye City, Hello “˜Burbs, on Tuesday, June 2, 2009, from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm.

Tours, Golf and the Launch of the GRP

The varied tours are a great highlight, as is the first annual GRHC Golf Tournament  at the Bobby Jones Golf Course, the many education courses and workshops, not to mention the awesome speaker line-up, and the opportunity to become one of the first to receive your GRP – Green Roof Professional – designation!   The launch of this long-awaited accreditation program will be on June 5, and  I plan to take it, too.

Bobby Jones Golf Course

In fact, I just interviewed Jeff Bruce, FASLA, LEED, ASIC of Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company, who is the Chair of the GRP.   Look for his insightful interview early next week, where I asked him about his company, his involvement with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, and specifically the lengthy process he and the team experienced – the vision and initial plan; reasons why we need an accreditation program; overall considerations and requirements; how things evolved”¦all leading up to the Atlanta Conference and the inaugural testing.

Internationally Renowned Speakers, Networking, & Classes

Have you looked at the Agenda yet?   It  really is a full line up of experts from across North America and the world.    The three-day conference will consist of plenary and specialized sessions focused on four main topic areas:

1. Policies and Programs to Support Green Roofs
2. Green Roof Design and Implementation
3. Research and Technical Papers on Green Roof Performance
4. “On the Roof With “¦” Networking & Information Forums on Current Green Roof Topics with Industry Experts

Ten Arquitectos Clinton Park

Note:   Make sure to  see the 2009 installment of Haven Kiers, our Design Editor and my Top 10 List of Hot Trends  in Greenroof Design, held on  the morning of  June 5  in Track 1 – Case Studies and Design, SESSION 4, from  8:00 am – 9:30 am in Room: Hanover C – E.  

The 2009 full-delegate pass includes:

“¢   Access to over 50 presentations by green roof industry leaders
“¢   Free pass to the Industry Trade Show featuring more than 75 exhibitors showcasing Green Roof Products and Services
“¢   Access to more than 15 Poster Sessions
“¢   One Copy of the Official Conference Proceedings CD-ROM featuring the peer-reviewed Speaker Papers (retail value $75)
“¢   Browse and Lunch (June 4) and Awards of Excellence Luncheon (June 5)

Missing some classes?   Take your pick here (additional charge):

Wednesday, June 3:   GRHC Training Courses (8:30 am — 5:-00 pm)
Green Roof Design 101: Introductory Course
Green Roof Infrastructure: Design and Installation 201
Green Roof Infrastructure: Waterproofing and Drainage 301
Green Roof Infrastructure: Plants and Growing Medium 401

Friday, June 5: Green Roof Profession (GRP) Accreditation Exam — 4:00 — 6:00 pm

A  Trade Show  not to be Missed!

Also, don’t miss out on the largest industry Trade Show in North America.   Talk to the experts about their products, projects, benefits and solutions for common greenroof and wall challenges.   And please come by and visit us on the Trade Show Floor at Booth #310.

For a complete overview of the Conference program, and to register for any of the events, please visit the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities website at www.greenroofs.org.   For sponsorship and trade show opportunities please contact Jennifer Sprout jsprout@greenroofs.org or (416) 971-4494 Ext 229.   Come join the learning and celebrations of excellence at GRHC’s 7th International gathering!

Pushing the Envelope in Atlanta

More later, Linda V.

Mother Earth, Every Day

May 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm

A Spring Garden

Spring is the Birthday of the World

“‘Tis like the birthday of the world,
When earth was born in bloom;
The light is made of many dyes,
The air is all perfume:
There’s crimson buds, and white and blue,
The very rainbow showers
Have turned to blossoms where they fell,
And sown the earth with flowers.”
– Thomas Hood

Spring is way sprung and we’re in full gear, knee deep in the season of birth and renewal, of laying the foundation  for the future, of nurturing and sowing our seeds within the season of perpetual  hope and new beginnings!  

I guess it’s no wonder, then, that events honoring the sacred feminine – the ying opposing the yang in the universe within  our spiritual and physical worlds –  are  observed during this time.     Holidays such as Easter and Earth Day occur during Spring in the Northern Hemisphere which runs from March into June.   According to Wikipedia, ying yang  describes “seemingly disjunct or opposing forces…interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn.”     The decidedly earthy, motherly Yin and masculine Yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole, each dependent of each other – sounds like  the  basis for a really good  relationship, right?

Yes, and wouldn’t you say that the greatest environmental maternal relationship of all has to be with Mother Earth?     I believe it’s no coincidence that late March was chosen to host Earth Hour,  at the beginning of Spring.     Earth Hour 2008 was held internationally on March 29 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time, marking the first anniversary of the event.   This year it was celebrated on March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time and as a  company and as a family, this was our second  year  participating in  Earth Hour.

Although we  observe Earth Day on    April 22, Earth Day was initially celebrated on March 21, 1970, the equinox day.   Earth Day, now Earth Week, marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement.    Wikipedia says, “The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical mid-spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical mid-autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.”   Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:

“EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.

EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth as seen from space appropriate.”

View of the Earth from NASA

Landscape Architecture Month  is also set in Spring, in April.   I chose  the field of landscape architecture for many reasons, but most definitely for the blending of creativity and ecology, stewardship of the land, and my simple passion for plants – I’ve always had a green thumb (my nurturing side also gave way to my three children) and love to draw.   Still dominated by men, the last  20-25 years or so has seen an incredible rise in female practitioners.   When I was at the SED at UGA from 1996-2000, enrollment was extremely  male-dominated – easily 4, if not 5, to 1.

As a planet, as a culture on a mega-grand scale, we are bound together as minuscule parts of a mutual whole…One of my favorite quotes is sometimes labeled as an Ancient Indian Proverb, or attributed to Antoine de St. Exupery, Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Bower or Andre Gide, but whoever wrote it obviously felt respect for our natural environment, promoting spiritual sustainability, too:

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

In any case, I hope you’re enjoying Spring by having celebrated Earth Hour, Earth Day and Week, Landscape Architecture Month, and especially  Mother’s Day, a smaller scale but equally important celebration to honor the feminine.    

Mother's Day 2009
Happy Mother’s Day, from our Pahl/Velazquez family of four generations:
Top: My sister Alicia Pahl-Arritola; Bottom, left to right: my Mom Ellie Pahl; me; my daughter Anjuli and my grandson, Nicholas Joseph.

Let’s continue to  honor our mothers, ourselves, and Mother Earth, every day.

~ Linda V.

Spring Conferences: Stuttgart-Nürtingen and Atlanta Greenroofs, Here We Come!

May 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

After a flurry of showers, tornadoes, and even a sprinkling of late snow here in the Atlanta area, leaves are boldly unfurling, flowers are sprouting, and the pollen is flowing.   If you’re also in the northern hemisphere, you’re probably experiencing much of the same.   Spring is in full bloom and Spring greenroof conferences are gearing up across the U.S. and the world!   What better time than the season of rebirth to enjoy visiting new or favorite cities and, of course, taking in the greenroof scenery?

Stuttgart has over 3.2 million sf of greenroofs!

We’ve been busy planning for and helping to promote our two favorite conferences devoted exclusively to the organic architecture of greenroof technology: the 2nd International Green Roof Congress in Stuttgart-Nürtingen, Germany on May 25-27 and the 7th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show  here in Atlanta, GA on June 3-5.    Each is  an awesome opportunity to meet and greet with industry experts and greenroof colleagues, old and new.     I’ll be talking about both, starting with the German event.

International Green Roof Congress 2009

But first,  some quick  thoughts on traveling during our trying economic times – people ask me how fiscally responsible is it to spend money now  on an international conference – or any conference for that matter, factoring in the expenses plus the cost of missed billing of clients or other income producing work…   Great points, but I see it  also as a working vacation, continuing education, an investment in our future.   Referring to traveling, a recent professional acquaintance of mine commented, “Our interest lies in seeing what else is out there, what experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) other professionals have had, and provide an opportunity to exchange ideas.”   But, she added, it has to make economic sense, and be perceived as a “good value for our money.”   Meaning, I believe, the educational component must be strong and varied.   And I know that both of these conferences offer incredible opportunities through the lectures, workshops, tours, and just plain networking.   The experiential benefits of participating  in these interactive events  present invaluable hands-on learning through  engagement with the actual designers and planners.      If you can swing it, you simply cannot replicate the knowledge obtained and lessons  learned in-situ.

The venue, K3N, and a niew of the lovely city of Nuertingen

This will be our second participation in the  International Green Roof Congress, after  attending in September, 2004.     Along with many international colleagues we heard from a wide variety of green roof experts, including the late Dr. Dave Beattie,   Prof. Dr. Manfred Köhler, Dr. Nigel Dunnett, Susan K. Weiler, Dr. Franz Alt, and Ho Wan Weng, just to mention a few.

After the success of the first one four years ago,  the second Congress  is once again organized  by the International Green Roof Association  (IGRA) under the patronage of the German Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, Wolfgang Tiefensee, and co-hosted by the German Roof Gardener Association (DDV).   They have numerous national and international supporters, including the Title Sponsor, ZinCo, Premium Sponsor Dow Hyperlast, and Greenroofs.com as the Media Sponsor.   International supporters include ciria, the construction industry research and information association/UK; European Landscape Contractors Association; International Federation of Landscape Architects; and the Internationale Föderation des Dachdeckerhandwerks e.V.   German national supporters include the FLL, among others (see all).

Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen and the Zaragoza World Expo 2008

Wolfgang Ansel, the Coordinator, met up with us at last September’s World Green Roof Congress in London, and brought us up to speed with the upcoming Congress and their  amazing line-up of world renown experts and practitioners – see his January Guest Feature INTERNATIONAL GREEN ROOF CONGRESS 2009: “Bringing Nature Back to Town.”  They are concentrating on case studies of truly extraordinary global projects, from  Copenhagen to London, Zaragoza, Nijmegen, Warsaw, Singapore and Fukuoka, Japan where the ACROS – Asian Cross Roads Over the Sea  – designed by Emilio Ambasz, will be  highlighted as an example of his philosophy  and presentation  “The Green over the Grey” – Landscape-cum-Building Designs.

ACROS designed by Emilio Ambasz & Associates

Learning that famed Argentine-born, New York-based  Ambasz himself would be presenting on this amazing 100,000 sf green oasis in the middle of the city sealed the deal for me – I’ve been a fan of his since I went back to school at UGA in the late 1990’s, and even selected him once to study as our architect of choice for a group project on green architecture.   And in 2008 when we inaugurated our Greenroofs of the World Calendar series, we selected the ACROS Fukuoka  Prefectural International Hall for the month of December – the very project I reported on!

Other  not-to-be missed speakers include Bernd W. Krupka, famed German landscape architect, “certified expert” and author of technical books on greenroofs – I’m not sure how you get that designation, but I’ll find out!   He’ll talk about “Basic Green Roof Planning – Vegetation Technology;”  with his many years of experience in the field, Bernd was very helpful to me a few years ago when I was writing my paper “European Airport Greenroofs – A Potential Model for North America,”  (2005).  The always popular British plant expert, Dr. Nigel Dunnett-  soft-spoken but with a bite,  will present “Plant Selection Criteria for Green Roofs – The Question of Biodiversity,” American restoration ecologist Paul Kephart of Rana Creek fame will lecture on “Ecological Designs with Green Roofs,”  and  our knowledgeable and charming Brit colleague Dusty Gedge of Livingroofs.org will discuss “Promoting Green Roofs in the UK – The Greater London Authority Campaign.”

K3N Lecture Hall

And we’ll hear from  these distinguished German professionals as well: our colleague Roland Appl, green roof engineer, President of the International Green Roof Association: “Green Roof Technology – Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow;” Rolf Disch, architect known for  integrating solar into green building design: “Sustainable Architecture in the 21st century,” another esteemed colleague of ours, Prof. Dr. Manfred Köhler, landscape architect, professor at the University of Applied Science Neubrandenburg, and President of WGRIN: “Energy Savings with Green Roofs,” and Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Gilbert Lösken  of Leibniz University of Hanover and  Head of the FLL Green Roof Workgroup: “Key Criteria for Creating Green Roof Guidelines.”   Click here to see the complete list of speakers.

View of Lake Constance

The excursions  will be the real highlight for Aramis and me – last time we went on  the all day ZinCo Green Roof Tour which took us to the Stuttgart region including “Hundertwasserhaus Plochingen” – the Hundertwasser Multi-Family Development, “MAG-Galerien” in Geislingen, Schule Unterensingen, ZinCo International’s Headquarters, and “Römerpark-Museum” in Köngen.     So this time I think we’ll try something different – I think a jaunt  to the German solar capital, Freiburg, would be highly informative, or maybe you’ll catch us cruising on the Zeppelin NT over beautiful Lake Constance in Southern Germany on the lookout for greenroofs…

Zeppelin Overview

So, will you be going?   Finalize  your plans now and hopefully we’ll see you there!

~ Linda V.