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Green Roof Safari – we’re rolling!

September 7, 2008 at 3:12 pm

After months’ worth of planning and organization, this Sunday night I find myself in a green roofed hotel in Darmstadt, Germany. Tomorrow Green Roof Safari will run its first day, and I’m hoping everything unfolds as it ought. As does our small group of jet lagged participants, I’m sure!

Tomorrow, we’ll launch the itinerary with a colourful bang – Hundertwasser ‘Waldspirale’.


The Waldspirale (“Forest Spiral”) in Darmstadt is a remarkable achievement of an original Hundertwasser concept, truly representing the Austrian artist-architect-ecologist’s goal of “harmony with nature”.

A flowering meadow, interspersed with trees and shrubs, carries the visitor from ground-level slowly upwards in a horseshoe shape, eventually reaching a tower 40 m above ground.

From Darmstadt, we’ll proceed south to Pforzheim, where we’ll visit the FBB-green roof of the year (2006). The Schloessle Galerie Pforzheim is an intensive green roof atop a shopping centre, and is an island of green surrounded by densely packed houses. At 7,000 m2, the green roof includes lawn, a bamboo ring, plant caverns, a playground, an Amelanchier grove, and walkways.

From Pforzheim we’ll continue to Stuttgart – the first city in the world to   promote green roofs with financial incentives (since 1986).   We’ll spend 2 nights here.

My Green Roof Safari partner, Joerg Breuning, is originally from Stuttgart.   Joerg has been working with green roofs from apprenticeship through his own business for over 25 years. And I lived in Stuttgart for a year, on a year abroad at Uni Hohenheim. At the time (1997), I didn’t even know what green roofs were, quite happy with a summer job working in the botanical garden.

On Tuesday morning we’ll meet John Doeveling, Garden Architect for Stuttgart’s Office of Gardens, Cemetaries and Forests.   One of Doeveling’s jobs in Stuttgart is to coordinate, care and control Stuttgart’s incentive program for privately-owned green roofs.   We’ll spend the rest of the day packing in as many green roofs and views as possible!

From Stuttgart we’ll head to Freiburg and visit with Christian Lang, who was my internship supervisor back in 2002. It will be great to meet with Christian again, and check out some of the projects in the area.

I’ll try to write more when we get to Basel.. some reflections on Germany before the Swiss goodness kicks in!

Stay tuned,


What I Did on My Summer Vacation…

August 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Gorgeous bridges, buildings, and people in Copenhagen!First of all, I have to say that  the title is  just quite not right  because 1):   Although most students are back in school, summer is not over yet; and 2):   I haven’t had a real vacation in a long time, let alone this particularly hectic summer!   Of course, recently I have been traveling  in my “other career” to some wonderful cities – Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Madrid,  and Copenhagen –  but with only 24 -36 hour layovers, these visits  can hardly be considered holidays.

But I liked the classic tone of  “What I did on My Summer Vacation” because it sounds like I actually did something productive,  and I felt like I needed an excuse to explain why I haven’t posted anything in three months…  Well, I’m back and now Sky Gardens ~ where cool green meets lofty blue will be populated not only by me but all of our contributing editors on a more regular basis.   So what have  we been doing on Greenroofs.com?

For one thing, we’ve been keeping our Student Intern, Caroline Menetre, very busy with hands on visits to The Greenroof Pavilion & Trial Gardens of Rock Mill Park documenting our plant trials and with The Greenroof Projects Database, where she has been entering case studies like crazy.   Her internship will be over soon, and we’ll need some extra hands for research and data entry, so if you’re interested, please let me know: linda@greenroofs.com.

Caroline with camera and field notebook in hand, August 2008

After the whirlwind filming of our little “Love the Earth: Plant A Roof!” video in May, we embarked on a much larger project, our brand new “Sky Gardens” WebTV series, at the beginning of June.   We begin our internet journey to explore the organic architecture of greenroofs and visit all kinds of different, exciting projects around the world, and I’ll be your host on Greenroofs.TV.   We’re initiating our series highlighting greenroofs in the U.S., starting with one of my own designs – you guessed it – the beautiful and award-winning Rock Mill Park.   The City of Alpharetta  received the 2008 Water Resources Project of Excellence award and Breedlove Land Planning, who  designed the park,  just won a Merit Award from the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects – congratulations!

Each time I’ll take  you on a tour of one unique, stunning vegetative roof.   From planning through the design process, installation through completion,  we’ll share intimate stories from the stakeholders – government officials, designers, owners, product manufacturers and service providers.   Why was it built – what was the client’s intent or market driver?   Was it stormwater management, mitigation of the urban heat island, biodiversity, sexy aesthetics, or a combination?   What was the design philosophy and who was involved?   What were the site challenges, techniques used, and what were the lessons learned?   Bottom to top, we’ll show the materials used, culminating in the beautiful, living, breathing plant layer.   Each program will highlight the greenroof’s site specific benefits to the building’s ecology, the local environment, and the watershed at large.

Joey filming Bobby Saul at the Swamp, June, 2008

The Alpharetta project is unique for many reasons, especially because the entire property was originally owned by a full blood Cherokee and the site is located within the 100-year flood plain of Big Creek Watershed.   The Greenroof Pavilion is just one of the many low impact development techniques used to tread lighter on the environment and provide educational opportunties for visitors.   When is the air date?   We’ll keep you posted, but we’re planning on the end of September.

Visiting New Echota, GA, the former Cherokee Nation capital.

Speaking of September, are you going to the World Green Roof Congress in London?   The two day conference will discuss the challenges and opportunities faced when implementing green roofs, and will focus on the contributions that they can make to sustainable urban regeneration, climate change adaptation, sustainable storm water management as well as improvements to local biodiversity and quality of life within cities.   The conference will highlight latest innovations and research to support the effective promotion and delivery of green roof solutions as well as demonstrating examples of good practice from the UK and overseas.   We’re planning on going, but there may be a scheduling conflict with our second “Sky Gardens” WebTV episode – we’ll be filming in Manhattan atop a corporate headquarters, and the date hasn’t been confirmed yet!

Hopefully we can go and see Dusty Gedge of Livingroofs.org and all of our other friends from across the pond.   And it would be grand to go on one of the 6-day study tours from Green Roof Safari in Germany and Switzerland – we’ll see.   Green Roof Safari is a collaboration between Christine Thuring, our Student Editor, and Jörg Breuning of Green Roof Service, so I’m sure a lot of great vegetated roofs and fun will be involved.

I also  spent some  intense design time for a major greenroofing company on a potential  local commercial project – I delivered four conceptual illustrative designs and it would be just awesome if they decide to implement any of them!   Can’t tell you who it is, but it’s very exciting – let’s see what develops.

You know how last year we published our first Greenroofs of the World Calendar™?   Well, we’re currently gathering more stunning living roof projects for the 2009 Greenroofs of the World Calendar™, and this year  it will be available for purchase much earlier – in time for the holiday season!

So designing, writing, editing, and filming in 97 degree weather here in Georgia has taken up most of my summer, but don’t feel too badly for me.   Confession:   24 hours may not be enough to qualify as a vacation, but I have to admit that I always manage to have some fun on my (very) mini work-related holidays.   Sightseeing in a new city is always a must, as seen in these photos from Copenhagen earlier this month,  but I’m always looking for examples of green architecture, too.  

And to be honest,  it wasn’t really my first time in Denmark – my husband Aramis and I spent one day there in 2002 awaiting our return to the U.S., after I gave a greenroof presentation across the way in  Malmö, Sweden where we spent four wonderful days with our very gracious hosts, Peter and Violetta Lindhqvist, former directors of the Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden and the International Green Roof Institute, now the Scandinavian Green Roof Association.

But on this trip I was able to go on a  canal tour and it was beautiful!   The overcast skies opened up to a gorgeous day on the water.   And I even found a sustainable design  exhibition going on offered by the Danish Architects Center.

So there you have it!   My next blogging endeavors will include interviewing all of our contributing editors, starting with Ed Snodgrass, our Plant Editor.   And look for a new editor coming on board soon, too.

Happy Greening & Safe Travels!

~ Linda

Love the Earth: Plant a Roof!

May 30, 2008 at 12:07 pm

About a month ago my husband, Aramis, alerted me to a competition from The Green  on the Sundance Channel called “What’s the Big Idea?” Contest.   The Sundance Channel and Lexus Hybrid Living were encouraging either a video or photo essay no longer than 60 seconds which illustrated how you work green, play green, eat green and live green, making our planet a cleaner, greener place.   And what’s the grand prize?   A private green consultation with BIG IDEAS FOR A SMALL PLANET experts, CURRENT ENERGY and $10,000 to help you live a greener life!

So you can imagine what my Big Idea was – greenroofs, of course!   I’m lucky that our oldest son Joey offered to help and that I have access to one of my own designs here in Alpharetta, GA,  The Greenroof Pavilion of Rock Mill Park.   The deadline for submissions was midnight on May 20, 2008, but Joey and his wife were out of the country in April, returning just after the Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference in Baltimore.   So we had to wait.   I had some editorial catching up to do and trips planned for work and play the first half of May, but since I’m no stranger to tight deadlines anyway, and even though I always underestimate each project by at least half of the time I really need, we hurriedly decided to give it a go and off we went to film the day before it was due.

We had just planted this roof on October 25 of last year, and about 5 weeks ago went up to check on its progress, weed, and since it is a test greenroof, take notes on which species were faring well and those which were not.   It looked great; the grasses in the “Forest” and “Upland Meadow” zones were swaying in the wind, the blue phlox in “Big Creek” and the white phlox in the “Meadow” were in flower, and the chives were blooming in the “Wetlands.”

Korinne going up on May 19, 2008I figured that if I was going to be up on the greenroof again, I would bring up some additional plants and more river rock used as design accents, too.   The City of Alpharetta graciously provided usage of their bucket truck once again, and up we went individually, buckled up tightly in our safety harness to plant and film:   Caroline Menetre, our intern, Joey, his wife Korinne – at left – and me.   I have to give special thanks, of course, to the City of Alpharetta and particularly Terry Porter, the Environmental Education Coordinator, who has always gone up with me before and has been a champion of this project for years – but this time she just watched on the sidelines with a broken wrist!

Now with a borrowed camera and  our rushed filming and editing schedule, I did not realistically believe we had much of a shot to win this thing, but it was a fun learning process, at least for me.   We went back the next day to take video on the ground, in front of the Greenroof Pavilion and next to the Greenroof Demonstration Model.   Lessons learned?   It’s amazing how much film you need to compile a minute’s worth of work, and it’s not so funny to be fumbling your lines over and over again!   Wind is awesome for movement but not so good for sound.   Lighting is essential, and some cue cards would have been a thing of beauty!

Of all of the submissions, 25 semi-finalists  were just  chosen the week of May 26, and now the videos/photo essays  are open for voting from the general public to determine the five finalists; then the Grand Prize Winner will be selected by a panel of judges from the Sundance Channel’s GREEN Advisory Board.   The winner will be announced on or about July 7, 2008.

Well, I’m thrilled to say we were chosen as a semi-finalist!   So here’s my entry entitled: Love the Earth: Plant a Roof!   Is it worthy of an Academy Award?   No way!   Is it worthy of promoting greenroofs as The Big Idea for the Next Big Thing?   You bet!   Please vote for us by June 24, 2008 – what great exposure for our greenroof community, don’t you agree?

You must be a Sundance Channel member to vote!   Please login or register here.

~ Linda

Welcome to the Sky Gardens Blog!

May 25, 2008 at 11:12 pm

In celebration of greening the Earth through organic architecture, Greenroofs.com founder and publisher/editor Linda Velazquez enters the blogosphere and kicks off Sky Gardens ~ where cool green meets lofty blue, a blog about greenroofs, the living roofs community, and awesome sustainable design in general.

Cool green?”  Cool green architecture, cool green people, cool green environments, etc.
Lofty blue?”  As in sky high spaces, places, ideals, and ideas ~ you get the picture.

Credit: iStock                                                     Credit: WebShots: wonderland

Hello Greenroof World,

Part informal commentary, discovery, reflection, imagination, and – if we’re lucky – sometimes even inspiration, with the Sky Gardens Blog we’ll be talking about the experiential nature of space, eco-aesthetics, eco-style and eco-responsibility, or maybe just share a rant or two about something going on in the greenroof world.   And how about eco-responsibility in terms of spiritual sustainability?   True spirituality is about respect.   Here’s a new favorite quote of mine:

“If we unbalance Nature, human kind will suffer. Furthermore, we must consider future generations: a clean environment is a human right like any other. It is therefore part of our responsibility towards others to ensure that the world we pass on is as healthy as, if not healthier than we found it.” -His Holiness the Dalai Lama (Beliefnet Buddhist Wisdom, 2008, From “The Pocket Dalai Lama,” edited by Mary Craig, 2002)

It’s our individual social responsibility to pursue an environmentally friendly and energy-conscious ecology, and healthy environmental design is one way for all of us to collectively tread lighter on the shared resources that is our Earth.   And greenroofs, sky gardens, and green walls are fast becoming green staples of chic sustainability in mainstream architecture and high performance building.

A little background history: The first incarnation of Greenroofs.com  inaugurated in 1999, the current format in May 2003, and my Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture column promptly followed a month later in June 2003.   The rigor and research of first a monthly column, then a bi-monthly quickly turned into the “occassional” column for me!   We welcomed our first contributing editor, Ed Snodgrass (AKA “Ask Ed”) in August 2004 and over the years have added seven more contributing editors, all of whom now write their own occassional columns as time permits.   And so the lure of the Sky Gardens Blog was conceived.

Sky Gardens ~ where cool green meets lofty blue comes on the heels of the enormous interest in greenroofs and our contributors, who are some of the industry’s leading professionals in their respective fields – and who can now blog away without the grind of a full  article (but still look for their in-depth columns, too)!   Not to mention it allows us a quicker and  more interactive opportunity for sharing fascinating roofscapes, thought provoking dialogue, and just engaging in good old social networking.

We’ll explore vibrant old & new projects through our real and virtual travels across the globe – and we are a globetrotting bunch!     We’ll also throw in all the cool new innovative stuff we stumble upon everyday from news media, our own practices & businesses, and readers like you.     Look for posts about and interviews with people near and far – those who design inviting spaces with living architecture, contribute important research, develop new technologies, and influence the marketplace – plus those green thinkers or trendsetters who open new doors in one way or another.

Learn more about all of us on the Blog Team here.   To wrap up my inaugural Sky Gardens Blog post, our ultimate goal is just like Greenroofs.com’s overall mission, but with a personal twist: to share news, project info, and experiences that are relevant and fun, while continuing to promote the earth friendly technology of organic greenroof architecture!

You can always visit Forums to talk amongst yourselves, and you’re now invited to celebrate Earth with us here for regular, and sometimes irregular, commentary and musings on the poetry that is our world of green and blue.   As always, we welcome your ideas and comments and the infinite  promise of stoking two-way dialogue.   Enjoy!

Happy Greening & Safe Travels ~

Linda S. Velazquez
Greenroofs.com Publisher & Editor
Sky Gardens Design Principal