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Leaning Green: Sustainability in the New Year

January 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Happy New Year  everyone!

Now that we’re settling into a brand new 2009, welcoming a new U.S. leader and fresh perceptions, we can appreciate the hard work ahead for all of us in this global economy, but you can also sense the excitement and hope for a brighter future.   It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen.   President Obama’s inaugural message calls us to action:

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility,” President Barack Obama said. “A recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

While everyone’s dealing with the credit crunch,  wavering markets, layoffs, and overall tightening of our collective belts, I strongly believe that one area of the economy is not only stagnant or diminishing in value but growing – the green sector.

Big Views and Big Ideas Equal  Green Innovation

It used to be that “green” anything was simply a buzz word to describe individual topics – green living, green architecture, and yes, green roofs.   Sustainability was perceived as a compartmentalized ideal relating to a specific area of practice.   Of course we know that all things are connected, and sustainability itself is simply a way of life, a philosophy, a big world view, and it’s come a long way.   Now, sustainability is much more than a trend in any one field –  driving sustainability mainstream  is a manifesto of our times.

Leading the way is the need to continue investing in alternative fuels and renewable energies, and for the U.S. at least, to become more independent from foreign sources.   We need to create greener infrastructure which will lead to green jobs.   A greener economy will naturally follow, and with the proliferation of green innovations in all shapes and forms, green building will not only flourish but become the expected standard in construction.      Numerous reports and articles are discussing these outlooks for 2009, and I’ve found these particularly interesting – please feel free to share other articles, too:

Green makes good business sense
Richmond Times Dispatch, by Rex Springston, January 25, 2009

Sustainability in ’09 Reflects Robust ’08: Even in a Bad Economy, an Enormous Pipeline of Green Building Projects is Positioned to Flood the Market
CoStar Group, by Andrew C. Burr, January 24, 2009

National Studies Show Green Building as Key Part of America’s Economic Future Green Building Creates Green Jobs that Save Energy and Money
GLASS ON WEB, by USGBC, January 19, 2009 – this one’s particulary useful as it contains quotes from Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council along with figures from Turner Construction Company’s “Green Building Barometer;” McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2008 SmartMarket Report, “The Green Home Consumer;” “2008 Green Survey: Existing Buildings,” a survey jointly funded by Incisive Media’s Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com, the Building Owners and Managers Association International and the U.S. Green Building Council; a Greener World Media study on green building; and a September 2008 study from The Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

2008 Autodesk/AIA Green Index: Architects Report Increased Adoption of Green Building; Survey Shows Growing Use of Green Roofs, Renewable Energy Sources and Design Software to Improve Building Performance, November 2008

Helping the Environment Helps the Bottom Line

Going green is not only responsible, it makes good business sense, too.   And it appears this concept is also  establishing a firm trench hold in  the mainstream consciousness.   In fact, according to the AIA Green Index (see above), architects continue to cite client demand (66%) as the primary influence on their likelihood to design green buildings.   Consumers are buying green products, governments are requiring energy-efficient green buildings, and corporations are discovering the green goodwill and marketing advantages that  green operations can bring.    All this brings me to my feelings for a rosy outlook in our own Greenroof Industry.

We continue to enter case studies in The Greenroof Projects Database on a weekly basis and report on new and planned projects daily in NewsLinks, and in our view  there’s no easing up of living roof projects on the boards.  Green Roofs for Healthy Cities continues polling its corporate membership on built projects, and figures continue to rise yearly.   On a national and international level, our advertising partners as well as associates in university and business continue their research, development, and introduction  of new products and  systems.   And the increase of greenroof organizations, green building conferences and individual workshops on vegetative roofs wordwide is staggering – but all good!   Surely we all have different viewpoints but we do all have the same common interest in promoting green architecture.

I’ve voted Democrat, I’ve voted Republican, but either way in these times I feel we all need to lean a little green to advance a sustainable way of life.     Let’s all work together and create a sustainable greenroof community of collaboration.

We look forward to a momentous and robust 2009, and hope you are doing the same!

Happy Greening,
~ Linda V.

Before You Party, Vote for Green Roofs!

December 31, 2008 at 4:35 pm

 Looking to do one more important thing in 2008 to make it memorable?   I know it’s a little 11th Hour, but… Our colleague Karen Weber, Executive Director, Foundation for a Green Future, Inc. and Coordinator, Boston GreenFest 2009 (August 21-21, 2009), is urging us to vote for greenroofs to be on the Obama Administration’s agenda, but it has to be done by midnight, tonight, December 31, 2008!

There’s a movement of citizens inspired by the presidential campaign who have submitted ideas for how they think the Obama Administration should change America, called “Ideas for Change in America.”   And  Karen’s is called:

Green Roofs (Vegetated Roofs) ASAP

To vote for this idea, click above now and please ask your friends and family to do the same!   The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by Change.org, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration.   So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

We know that the President-Elect has his sights set on many programs to bring our country into balance, in political, economic and environmental terms.   And if you’re reading this, you don’t have to be convinced of the many advantages of living roofs, and I’m sure you realize that green architecture crosses political and geographical boundaries, benefiting the entire community that is our Earth.

So if you are an American citizen, whether or not you voted for Obama, he’s our next leader and you have to admit it’s an exciting time in the U.S.   Help us continue to promote greenroofs here in the United States of America as one part of a healthy, prosperous and ecologically sound New Year and beyond.
Karen writes, “Let’s make it a truly green new year!”   Speaking of which, after you do Vote for Greenroofs, we also want you to have a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve, and many good wishes for a 2009 full of health, happiness and love, in a world full of green.

~ Happy Greening, everyone!

Linda S. Velazquez

Holiday Ideas: Top 10 List of Greenroof Gifts

December 19, 2008 at 8:06 pm

With the holidays right around the corner, are you like me, a world renown procrastinator, still looking for last minute gift ideas for your loved ones?   If so, here are my favorites for all you greenroof aficionados out there.   The best part is that they can all be ordered online  with a quick click of  your mouse,  they’re all in stock – and  without any  traffic or long lines!   You might be familiar with Haven Kiers‘ and my annual Top 10 List of Hot Greenroof Design Trends, where we compile the not to be missed, new, noteworthy and exciting  projects from around the world, so in that spirit…

Some are new offerings, and some are “old” favorites – in our relatively young industry it’s pretty funny to refer to something as old, but so be it  – and each is all about vegetated roof projects.   Without further ado, here we go:

My Top Ten List of Greenroof Gifts

1) The 2009 Greenroofs of the World Calendar!   At just $12.95 each, including shipping & handling, (less if you buy more), it’s also the least expensive item on our list, via Greenroofs.com.

An exclusive of Greenroofs.com, we’re now in our second year of publishing the “Greenroofs of the World” 12-Month Wall Calendar series which combines two of our most popular destinations:   The Greenroof Projects Database and Upcoming Events.   2009 is filled with beautiful living roof projects  from municipal applications  to recreational areas to private homes  and beyond, and there’s even more green building events from around the world than last year’s.      This year we have greenroofs from Spain, Germany and Canada alongside the U.S.  cities of Portland, Chicago, Birmingham, Northbrook, Steamboat Springs, Newport, Pittsburgh, Port Townsend, and Washington, D.C., ranging from 350 to 765,000 sf.

The Calendar  will make a great inexpensive last minute gift or stocking stuffer (well, if you have a really wide stocking) for friends, family, colleagues, and even you!

2)  Green Roofs in Sustainable Landscape Design, 2008, by Steven L. Cantor.   $44.07, via Amazon.com.   Wow – after years of hard work from this talented landscape architect and former university professor, what an amazing compilation and final product!   I’m currently reading and writing a Recommending Reading for this absolutely invaluable must-have.  

It’s truly spectacular in scope and breadth with approximately 70 detailed case studies alongside terms and definitions; issues; the design process; plant materials, irrigation and specifications; trends; and numerous appendices –  I (obviously!) highly recommend this for everyone.   I beleive this is the true reference manual for living roofs that we have all been waiting for since Ted Osmundson’s initial offering – see  below at #6.

3)   Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide, 2006, by Edmund C. Snodgrass  and Lucie L. Snodgrass.   $19.77,  via Amazon.com.   Although plants are the obvious focus, it’s comprehensive in scope and a considerable amount of effort has been placed on examining greenroof fundamentals.   The book serves as an insightful and practical design resource as well as greenroof planting guide for beginners and experts alike.

Their research and compilation of a North American climatic-wide palette of proven greenroof plants encompassing USDA hardiness zones 2 – 9 is a testament to their expertise and years of species trial and error on Emory Knoll Farms.   Read my Recommended Readings  Review.

4)   Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls, 2004, revised and updated 2008, by Nigel Dunnett and Noël Kingsbury.   $23.07, via Amazon.com.   The book’s forte and major value is as an essential resource – especially in terms of plant description, characteristics and specification.

It’s also a great bargain in that the book is filled with color photos, drawings, charts and reference material.   Here is another indispensable   reference guide containing a truly massive collection of extensive plant directories for both greenroofs and façade greening.   Read my Review.

5)   The DIY Guide to Green & Living Roofs, 2008, by John Little and Dusty Gedge.   £11.65, via livingroofs.org.   John Little of The Grassroof Company and Dusty Gedge of Livingroofs of the UK have joined forces to provide a practical guide to creating small scale greenroofs.  

On my to-do list for upcoming Recommended Readings, it’s really a highly informative, hands-on design and construction reference for Do-It-Yourselfers.   Full of photos, details and diagrams, the guide includes terms and considerations for both the UK and North American markets. Available in various eBook formats.

6)   Roof Gardens: History, Design, and Construction, 1999, by Theodore H. Osmundson.   $47.25, via Amazon.com.   Ted Osmundson has enjoyed a long and productive career in landscape architecture, and has been a true pioneer in the field of roof gardens.    This reference standard is appropriate for roof garden  fans and design professionals alike and has been considered THE bible of traditional rooftop design, and really, the title says it all.

Roof Gardens is a classic even if it’s just (almost) ten years old and certainly a must have in your  library of design books.   Read my Review.

7)   Green Roof: A Case Study: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates’ Design For the Headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects, 2007, by   Christian Werthmann.   $45.00, via Amazon.com.   The ASLA Headquarters greenroof is a living  representation of the Society’s ideals regarding sustainable design – in other words, they’ve put their money where their mouth is with their own living roof!  

And it’s not only highly educational and functional, it’s  beautiful, too, so much so that we featured it in the August spot in our 2009 Greenroofs of the World Calendar.

8)   BUILDING GREENer – Guidance on the use of green roofs, green walls and complementary features on buildings (C644), 2007, by Paul Early, Dusty Gedge, John Newton, and Steve Wilson.   £90.00  via CIRIA.   Although intended for UK readership, this book is expertly written by well known and respected environmental design leaders whose message is clear that this guidance can be applied universally.

A comprehensive assessment of published research and information on living roofs and walls, BUILDING GREENer shows us  ecological designers how such low tech features as nesting boxes can easily be incorporated to encourage greater biodiversity in our building construction practices.   Read my Review.

9)  Green Roofs: Ecological Design and Construction, 2004, by Earth Pledge Foundation; contributing authors include Leslie Hoffman, William McDonough, Katrin Scholz-Barth, Tom Liptan, Ed Snodgrass, Dusty Gedge, Steven Peck, Manfred Koehler, Takehiko Mikami, Colin Cheney, Mathew Frith, Melissa Keeley and Joel Towers.   $26.37, via Amazon.com.

Forty-seven spectacular international case studies are highlighted, organized based on three major factors in sustainable design: economy, social value and ecology.   Appendices and  endnotes are particularly detailed and extremely useful.

10)   Last, but certainly not least, is Award-winning Green Roof Designs, 2008, by Steven W. Peck, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.  $39.99, via Schifferbooks.com.   The first five years of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ Awards of Excellence North American-winning projects and designers  have been  chronicled in the categories of: Residential, Institutional, and  Institutional/Commercial, totalling 30 in-depth case studies.  

Outstanding individuals are also featured, highlighting the first  five recipients of the Civic Awards of Excellence and the first Research Award of Excellence, going to the late Dr. David Beattie.

I  trust  you’ll enjoy these selections and  hopefully you can carve out  some down time in the next couple of weeks after the hustle and bustle of the festivities, to slow down, enjoy your family,  and perhaps even catch up on some  reading in the New Year.  

Warm wishes throughout your holiday season, and Season’s Greetings to all!

~ Linda V.

Green Caution Flag

December 11, 2008 at 10:43 am

Season’s greetings to all,

It’s time to reflect on the industry as we find ways to combat the decline of the economy. The green industry has taken center stage and has also become a profitable market for most. Looking back at 2008, personally I have seen more backyard manufacturing of products being labeled green, new DBA’s sprouting green buds of lackluster products, performance  and knowledge, making waves in the industry and establishing flags of caution for the experienced and legitimate green business and products.

My point is a word of caution to consumers and designers. It used to be when there were layoffs and an adjustment in the economy, a new lawn cutting or landscaping business would show up, and everyone was a landscaper. These same small landscape companies did not have the experience and overhead  that resulted in low ball bids making the Lawn & Garden  industry a tough place to make a living  –  I know, I did it for 23 years.    The good thing is these start-ups are not around long.

Today it’s not the person with a new truck  or trailer and a lawn mower; it’s a new “Green Business, Green Business Consultant or a green product”. It’s understandable that we all want to make a living and at this point retain our existing lifestyles or in some cases simply survive. Anyone with a lump of cash or a credit line can manufacture anything. Things to consider when hiring a consultant or thinking about using a new green product:

1. Ask for credentials, experience and portfolio;

2. Request references;

3. Ask to talk to other employees, they can be brutally honest;

4. Request research and long term data;

5. Look for public media, not just press releases;

In our business we have seen consultants and designers that simply do not have practical experience. As forward thinking and positive our industry (green roofs and green walls) is, do your homework when a green project is in your reach. Just because they attended Green Roofs 101, it doesn’t make them a green roof consultant or installer.

 George Irwin