Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences: Mexico City, Part 1

December 31, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Late Fall 2010 was quite a whirlwind of international conferences for us, and I’m just a little late blogging about our wonderful experiences!   With the Winter Solstice and Christmas just behind us, and the New Year looming ever near, it’s still better late than never!

During the past three months I’ve presented the Greenroofs.com  “2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” in Mexico City, Singapore, and most recently Vancouver, B.C.   To get the ball rolling, I’ll  start with our October outing with detailed coverage of the awesome tours coming in February:

Mexico City

We had the pleasure of attending the WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress  – El Congreso Mundial de Azoteas Verdes México 2010 – in Mexico’s hustling and busting capital  on October 7-9.   Mexico City is the longest continuously-inhabited city in the Western Hemisphere and sits atop the lake basin where the Mexica Indians founded their empire in 1325 and were defeated by the Spanish under Hernan Cortes two centuries later.   The city lies in an immense, volcano-dotted valley, encompassing a population approaching 23 million.

According to our taxi diver, the road we  travelled in and out from the Mexico City International Airport is the 700-year old “La Calzada de Guadalupe”  which was a means to cross the river underneath.   It was then called  Typac which meant sanctuary  in Aztec.

The first time this event (and any other major living architecture event for that matter) was held in a Latin American city, the WGIN Mexico City Congress was hosted by the Mexican Association for Green Roofing –  AMENA  by its acronym in Spanish – together with the Government of Mexico City.   And as  you may know, Tanya Müller Garcia is the president of AMENA (and Vice President of the World Green Infrastructure Network – WGIN), and the main person responsible for this highly successful conference!   Aramis and I were extremely impressed at many facets.

First of all, I believe many people have a wrong impression of Mexico City – in fact we had a few people early on commenting that  they thought it would be unsafe (of course, you have be situationally aware of your surroundings everywhere, regardless).   We found quite the opposite to be true, plus we were pleasantly surprised that although it’s the largest city in the Americas and the world’s third largest metropolitan area by population, after Seoul and Tokyo, the  areas of Mexico City we visited were very clean with lots of greenery, including many public parks, large and small.

 

In fact, we had the beautiful public municipal Alameda Park, a green garden with paved paths and decorative fountains and statues,  just across the street from our hotel.   And everywhere we went, people were extremely  friendly and accommodating, too.

 

As far as the Congress went, Tanya Müller and company is to be commended on the high quality of planning and execution – the location and layout  was spectacular – all it took was one elevator ride in our five-star Hilton Hotel Mexico City Reforma  (with its own rooftop gardens) to get to  the  Session Halls and the Exhibitor Trade Show area.

And they had a huge turnout, young and old  alike with many students  – there were over 750 people in attendance – not bad for the first of its kind in a “new” market!   Of course, greenroofs and greenwalls aren’t new to Latin America, they’ve been developing along with the rest of North America.   In fact, our Top 10 List of Hot Trends for 2010 has “The Greening of Latin America” in the #5 position!  

The Conference had an incredibly lovely Opening Cocktail  Reception  on  the intensive greenroof rooftop garden at the Antiguo Palacio de Ayuntamiento in the Plaza de la Constitución, a beautiful colonial-era Town Hall in the zocalo, or main plaza, located in the historic center where we were greeted by  the  “Grupo Huehuel Tlahtolli Centro de tradición antigua Teotihuacán” – the native group  Huehuel Tlahtolli  of the  Teotihuacán, dressed in full regalia.

Their eloquent spokesperson addressed the ubiquitous developmental practices so common in large urban centers and how we as community members of our planet must come together to further develop sustainable building practices.   He commended the government of Mexico City and AMENA for promoting green infrastructure such as greenroofs and walls, and we then enjoyed a variety of traditional ceremonial  dances and music under a cool, breezy, and starry night.   Mexico City officials spoke about their commitment to greening the city and their “Plan Verde” or Green Plan for its citizens, and then everyone relaxed and mingled in  the party atmosphere.   It was also very nice seeing Tanya’s mom again (we met her last year in Toronto) and meeting her lovely sister, too, seen  below with Manfred Köhler,  President of WGIN, and friend.

The next morning’s Opening Plenary was packed beyond measure as the Mexico City Mayor, Lic. Marcelo Ebrard, welcomed us all to his city.   He is quite a visionary leader speaking to  his commitment of improving our communities, and how we need a healthy relationship with the environment to guarantee sustainability for the next decades.   How do we do this?   By reducing our CO2 emissions and oil dependency, increasing  recycling and related activities and by greening our cities.   Other dignitaries along with WGIN delegates from around the world spoke as well and there were tons of television and newspaper reporters and cameras flashing – very high profile coverage!  

We had a very large selection of wonderful speakers with a decidedly Latin focus – although  our non-Spanish speaking colleagues  had no problem with the language since the sessions were held in both English and Spanish, with simultaneous translations (the glossy programs were in both languages as well).

 

The Congress  had two tracks (Aramis went to one, I the other), which made it easier to choose, yet it was still hard as it was fascinating to hear about all these buildings being integrated with greenery throughout the Caribbean and  Central and South America.  And there were so many awesome presentations!    There were tons of people to assist your every need, and it was very easy to be a speaker and moderator:

The main Latin America themes focused on the need for continued research and monitoring, information sharing, and overall collaborative efforts to further informing the public and increasing awareness of greenroofs and greenwalls.   It was great that there were speakers from the majority of all the Latin American countries –  and each shared their successes and struggles with stories of design, trial and error, and in some cases, community involvement.

Just a  few of  our favorite presentations included:  “A Green Habitat for the City of Mexicali” by Javier Sonsosian Aguilar (architect) which showed a variety of stunning colorful and sinuous  greenroofed structures, many resembling the earth sheltered organic designs of Swiss architect Peter Vetch and undulating forms of Catalonia architect Antoní Gaudí, with a variety of cool features like periscopes, earth tubes and wind turbines; “Roof Gardens Over Steel” by Claudia Harari (founder and director of Harari Landscape Architecture) which was a fascinating case study of collaboration and the  trials and tribulations of greening over the irregular geometric shape of the  sharp steel roof of the Museo de Acero Horno 3 (Steel Museum Oven 3) in Monterrey, Mexico; “New Green Strategies – From Outdoor to Indoor” by Andreas Schmidt (founder of indoorlandscaping) – see photo above – which talked about the need, and continued popularity, of interior greenwalls (also being done a lot in Chile by Ignacio Espoz of Latin Green) and other interior plantscapes; and “Sustainable Buildings, LEED Certification and Green Roofs: A Natural Venture” by Cesar Ulises Treviño, President of  the Green Building Council Mexico  which informed us of the current situation here.

Here’s a couple of other slides:

 

Not all the presentations were connected to Latin America, however.   We also had informative international  updates about research, greening policies, and technical experiences from: Joaquín Sicilia from Sicilia y Asociados Arquitectura and Julián Briz from the Universidád Politécnica de Madrid and Isabel de Felipe from the Ciudad Universitaria in Madrid of Spain; Andrew Clements from Green Roofs Greece of Greece; Matthew Dillon from Green Roofs Australia of Australia;  Suresh Kumar Billore from Vikram University of India; Josh Wells (who was a last minute stand in for Clayton Rugh, who couldn’t make the trip) of Xero Flor America of the U.S.; Sachiko Kikuchi from Meiji University of Japan, François Lassalle from ADIVET “Association des Toitures Vegetales of France”; Steven Peck of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities of Canada; and a very large contingency from Germany including the aforementioned  Andreas Schmidt, Manfred Köhler, President of  WGIN and Vice Dean of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Applied Sciences Neubrandedburg,  Olga Gorbachevskaya, Hendrikje Schreiter, and Susanne Herfort, all from the Institute for Agricultural and Urban Ecological Projects associated with Humboldt University, Eckart Kramer from the School of Sustainable Development Eberswalde (FH), and Angelika Kurz, architect.

One extremely cool thing was that AMENA had set up live streaming of one of the presentation tracks with a company called COMUNICASION, for all the world to see!   And COMUNICASION produced several videos of the event (in Spanish), which you can see below.   Tanya is interviewed and you can see the Opening Plenary and dignitaries, including the Mayor of Mexico City, here:

Adjacent to the session rooms, the Exhibit Hall had numerous new and interesting companies showcasing their products – plants, complete greenroof systems,  individual components, professional services, and there were quite a few modular offerings as well.

 

 …  along with North American favorites like Xero Flor America (Josh Wells in the center) and rooflite  (Peter Philippi was in there somewhere!), too:

The Congress offered well appointed snacks, beverages and generous (and delicious) lunches, too – just one of the ways to network among our peers.   We were very pleased to reconnect with several people from last year’s CitiesAlive Conference in Toronto, including the wonderful Spanish couple Julián Briz and Isabel de Felipe, seen below,  and Ignacio Espoz of Santiago, Chile.  

We made several new friends as well, including the fantastic Spanish architect Joaquín Sicilia, bubbly Chilean architect and Vice-President of the Botanic Society of Chile, Vicky Rojas, Colombian architect Andrés Ibáñez Gutiérrez (below with Aramis)  and super-friendly Mexican greenroofers Roberto Huber Romo and Oswaldo Zurita (they do greenwalls, too!).

Remember I said people were friendly?   The consierge recommend a fantastic new restaurant a couple of blocks away on the second day – Spuntino, Alameda, owned by a wonderful Argentine-born U.S. citizen named  Moises Drijanski.   The food, wine selection, and atmosphere was utterly fantastic!   This is their third restaurant, and they’re known for an ecclectic mix of offerings, but in particular for their mixed grill and a variety of steaks from Argentina and the U.S., and pizzas!   If you’re in the area, you must visit them at Desarollo Puerta Alameda, Independencia esq. (corner of) Luis Moya, Mexico City (5518-1107).

The closing cocktail had an Indian flair with a variety of local cuisine and music to inspire us to attend the 2011 WGIN World Green Roof Congress  in Indore City, India on October 31 – November 2, where the focus will be on “Green Technology for Green Roof, Green Home and Rain Harvesting to Combat for a Sustainable Future.”   Professor Suresh Billore from WGIN India, below right, invites all of us to join in the education, networking and fun next year!

From a social standpoint, we saw lots of old friends and colleagues and mingled at several opportunities, and the tours were very well planned with a huge  comfortable bus  – the large selection of greenroofs and walls were very varied and extremely fascinating!   And each site  tour guide had intimate,  in-depth knowledge about each project, which made  each experience even more exceptional.   It’s great to see first hand examples of Mexico City’s greening efforts from municipal, corporate, and grass-roots  leaders.

The WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress was a resounding success and important for many reasons.   Our industry continues to grow, even flourish, in this economy and we must continue to push for more government and private support.   Mexico City is a leader with both, and it’s clear that many other Latin American nations are following suit.   Brazil and Mexico have the highest greenroof and greenwall numbers, but Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, and Colombia are quickly following suit, with most other Latin American countries involved as well.   AMENA and WGIN made great headway  by offering continuing support to these national members and I think we can expect to see great continued work and success coming from many of these members!

One of the world’s great cosmopolitan capitals, Mexico City offers visitors so many wonderful opportunities for sightseeing, shopping, dining, business, and now, greening!   Unfortunately, we didn’t stay long enough to travel much except for the fun, day long  bus tour, which I’ll talk about later.

I have to say that the two  WGIN  (World Green Infrastructure Network) World Green Roof Congresses that we’ve attended, both last year’s CitiesAlive! in Toronto (read my CitiesAlive! “˜09 Day Tour & Evening Fiesta and  The Inaugural CitiesAlive! – Seeds of Success  posts for more info, as well as Christine’s Reflections on CitiesAlive!  from Christine Thuring) and this one, are an extremely good deal in terms of conference pricing – only $250 which includes two days of excellent speakers, lunch, snacks, the inaugural cocktail, closing cocktail, and the guided greenroof and greenwall  tour.

In conclusion, we enjoyed our visit to Mexico City immensely and wish to thank Tanya and AMENA for their wonderful the hospitality!   Make sure to visit AMENA  where you can learn all about what’s going on in Mexico, as well as see some beautiful photos of the WGIN Mexico City World Green Roof Congress – click on both Galería banners.

On a side note, on our way back home we were also impressed with the final departure lounge in Terminal 2 at the Mexico City International Airport, designed with many sustainable elements by SPACE.   Look at these cool openings in the ceiling which welcome natural daylight inside the lounge, seen above.

That’s it for now, the next post is about  The International Skyrise Greenery Conference  in gorgeous Singapore!  

I hope everyone has a fun time ringing in  in the New Year tonight  safely!   Here’s to a Happy & Green 2011!

~ Linda V.

Come to the World Green Roof Congress 2010 in Mexico City on October 7-9!

September 29, 2010 at 6:06 pm

The Mexican Association for Green Roofing (AMENA by its acronym in Spanish), the Government of Mexico City’s Environment Secretary and the World Green Infrastructure Network  (WGIN) are presenting the World Green Roof Congress 2010 in Mexico City, Mexico on October 7-9, and we’ll be there.   I’ll be presenting our “2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” here and hope to connect with colleagues I’ve only known via email and make new connections with professionals from across the globe, and specifically Latin America.

Did you know this is the first time a major greenroof conference is being held in Latin America?   Green architecture is not new here, and greenroofs and greenwalls are sprouting up throughout the  Spanish speaking (and Portuguese – we can’t forget Brazil!) populations of Mexico, Chile, Brazil,  Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Peru, and more.   In fact, in terms of greenroof development, Mexico is one of the leading Latin American countries in square meters greened,  and Mexico City is the first city in Latin America to adopt a technical standard for the installation of greenroofs: the environmental standard NADF-013- RNAT.   Created by the Government of Mexico City’s Environment Secretary, this standard provides technical specifications for the installation of greenroofs in the city.

I don’t want to let all of the cats out of my bag yet, but Haven Kiers and my  “2010 Top 10 List” includes “The Greening of Latin America” in the #5 position – look for a press release soon on the rest!   This  Congress  represents an excellent business opportunity – anyone doing business or looking to do business in any of these countries should not miss out on this premier event!

“The Congress is a forum to promote green infrastructure for sustainable urban development. This exciting event will provide a better understanding of the benefits of different facets of green infrastructure. Furthermore, it will encourage the implementation and innovation of both green roofs and walls as well as other aspects of sustainable urban development.” ~ 2010 World Green Roof Congress Mexico City website

Experts from across the globe will be on hand to share experience and insights including Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Canada, the United States, Colombia, Cuba, Greece, Germany, Spain, India, Japan  and Australia,  and will provide a platform for the presentation of case studies, research results and policy initiatives with a particular focus on Latin American experiences.   The Congress will be simultaneously translated in English and Spanish.

Congress organizer Tanya Müller Garcia, President of founding WGIN  member AMENA  (Asociación Mexicana para la Naturación de Azoteas), says the Congress “will promote the implementation of green roofs and walls, offering innovative opportunities for the exchange of experiences and knowledge.”   Topics will include successful urban green infrastructure practices, environmental policy and the implementation of green technologies in large cities, scientific research, and the aesthetics and design of urban green infrastructure.

 

The Congress will be held at the beautiful five-star  Hilton Hotel Mexico City Reforma.   The hotel is ideally located on the Paseo de la Reforma, just steps away from Mexico City’s historical center, and there are four other area hotels that are offering us discounted rates.   On the third day of the Congress, participants can choose to either take a Course on  “Construction systems and guidelines for green roofs” – available only in Spanish – or take  one of two  Tours.   Each tour will visit six sites, providing the opportunity to visit  cutting-edge greenroof and wall projects in both public and private spaces.   Some of the greenroofs include these projects:

Being half-Latin myself (I’m half-Chilean), I’m very proud of the continuing proliferation of ecologically aware designs in Latin America and am looking forward to spending some time here in the vibrant metropolis of Mexico City.   (By the way, my Velazquez last name comes from my Cuban husband, Aramis!)

The cost for the Congress is a very affordable $250, which includes access to all conference presentations, coffee breaks, trade show, inaugural cocktail, closing cocktail and the guided greenroof and greenwall  tour.   If you are interested in Sponsorship opportunity information, download the brochure here, and for Exhibitor information, click here.   Below is one of the greenwall projects on the tour, the Restaurante Salotto in Mexico City:

 

Read all about the Congress in English or Spanish, and to register, click here.   For additional information about the World Green Roof Congress 2010 in Mexico City, please contact Luis Feijóo (lfeijoo.amenamex@gmail.com) or Ulrike Grau (ugrau.amenamex@gmail.com) or call AMENA: + 52-55-5676-2619.

Hope to see you there!   Espero verlos en el Congreso! ~ Linda V.

CitiesAlive! ’09 Day Tour & Evening Fiesta

November 1, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Thursday, October 21 dawned grey and overcast for the various Sustainable Toronto Green Roof Tours offered by the CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress, with a promise of sprinkles in the air.   Aramis and  I headed over to the Tremco  Luxury Bus Tour line and since it was the most popular, there were two buses.   We got the smaller of the two “Luxury Coaches” and indeed they were luxurious, with some distinct design accents!

Dancing on the Ceiling? The Party Bus.

Plush interiors with overhead strip lighting on the mirrored ceiling and four Captain’s chairs set the mood and so we dubbed ours the “Party Bus.”   Since we were the first in line, Aramis and I claimed the super  comfortable seats, along with friends Lauren Gould  from Miami and Manfred Köhler from Berlin.   Everyone got a choice of a selection of boxed lunches, which by the way was very good, and Tremco had provided umbrellas which was thoughtful since we did need to use them later.

Biowall Lobby Signage

Paul Sheehy of Tremco  and Rick Buist of Bioroof were our bus hosts and after about a 40-minute delay – there was some confusion about the departure time – we were on our way to our first stop, The JAS Robertson Building, also known as 215 Spadina.   Erin MacKeen from Urban Space Property Group, the client/developer, ushered us into the main lobby and we were pleasantly  greeted with a lush, beautiful 8m wide x 3.6m high (24 m ² or about 258 sf) Nedlaw living wall, with design by Beth Anne Currie.  

The Biowall

The Robertson Biowall‘s soil-less system recycles the nutrient rich irrigation continuously and has two one thousand watt light system grow lights that provide some seasonal UV light, which are on about four hours/day.   Several varieties of native and exotic indoor flowering plants are set in pockets of  a special fabric and the effect is stunning –  the wall looks like  a scene  taken from a tropical jungle.

We then  went up atop the 5th floor to see the lovely 4,000 sf extensive greenroof, which is enjoyed by the 40 tenants and visitors to the Robertson Building.   Since this is a Bioroof system above the membrane, Rick led this portion of the tour.   We emerged from an enclosed 400 sf glass atrium onto the wood deck viewing platform, which offered great views of the cityscape.

The Robertson Meadow

The Robertson Roof

Designed and installed by Gardens in the Sky  in 2004, half of the roof is vegetated and this is Toronto’s earliest urban example of a meadowlike roof, left to naturalize.   Planted with over 10 species of Ontario native perennials, including Green-Headed Coneflowers, New England Asters, Goldenrod, and Black-Eyed Susans, the 6″ deep growing medium is highly organic at about 40%, which actually has the same proportions as when initially installed.   Left to their own measures the plants have really flourished – what a  lovely wild looking  roof!   And at the time, no previous greenroof had been designed specifically with biodiversity as its motivating factor, and as a result, the roof has become a “poster greenroof” for the City of Toronto and its greening efforts.   Aside from biodiversity of plants, the living roof also has a variety of other animals including bees, butterflies, and birds.   Energy retrofits of the Robertson Building include a solar thermal system, and the tenants are so happy with the many environmental features of the building that there is a waiting list for new ones.

The Solar Thermal System on the Robertson Roof

Next up we visited the gorgeous Covenant House Toronto  greenroof, also using a Bioroof system, this time over a Tremco waterproofing membrane.   John, the Physical Facilities Manager, and Shawn from Tremco escorted us through this welcoming, beautiful, and secure building.   Covenant House Toronto is an emergency shelter for runaways and homeless youth for ages 16-24.   Although some stay for months, the average stay here is five days,  and many of the young people return often for continuing educational support or sometimes just a hot meal and a warm, safe  bed to sleep at night.   The director showed us an informative and heartwarming video in the words of former residents about their experiences and how the caring and nurturing of the dedicated staff helped them transform  into successful adults  today.

The Covenant House Greenroof

Guitarist and Rick

Bioroof  added a  unique touch and set  a mellow  mood on the roof  by providing  a jazz guitarist as we toured the 7,200 sf roof.   Approximately 5,000 perennials, raised vegetable planters, a wetland area, a fish pond with a fountain, and an overhead trellis are just some of the features of this outdoor classroom.   Designed to comply with the City of Toronto’s Green Roof Incentive Pilot (now Eco-Roof Incentive Program), Rick explained the numerous sustainable features of the 6″ deep extensive greenroof  which incorporates  12″ intensive planters with built in seating.   Each of the intensive planted areas are used for a particular educational program, and the vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, various herbs, etc.) are used in the kitchen.

Photodegradable Netting

Photodegradable netting is used as erosion control throughout.   The focal area concentrates on the area of the curving steel and wood arbor, with a variety of plantings, hanging baskets and a unique feature – a dry river bed.   More than simply decorative, it collects water here and directs it to the single roof drain.

Arbor and Dry River Bed

Covenant House Goldfish Pond

And the kids love the goldfish in the elevated pond!   Filled with water plants, it also introduces sound with  an umbrella spray, and you can sit on the ledge and touch the water – it’s an overall  great design!

Afterwards we headed to the Toronto Water Treatment Plant where John Campbell of Tremco was our guide.   Exploring the varied ideas of roof sustainability, we saw two types of cool white roofing  installations side by side, a Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) system and a white calcite aggregate roof on an inverted, protected assembly by Tremco.

The BIPV roof facing the water

The Aggregate White Roof

Although the BIPV roof was installed after the  aggregate roof, the white aggregate roof looked much cleaner, and in fact we were told required minimal maintenance.

The final stop on our  tour brought us to the large Tremco complex where  Paul Sheehy, Ontario Manager at Tremco, was our host.  Tremco treated us to lovely wine and cheese refreshments after our long day (very well received by all!).   Paul also introduced his 19-year old daughter, Lynn Sheehy, a freshman in college who needed to interview three people for her journalism and communications class.   She needed feedback on the CitiesAlive! Congress, and asked for volunteers after the program had finished.

Tremco's Paul Sheely

Tremco has many years of experience in the roofing industry and now has over 1 million sf of greenroofs installed within Canada alone, with many more in the pipeline.   So after Paul gave us some more history on Tremco  and their company philosophy, we cautiously climbed up the steel rung ladder onto the roof in the light rain to see their highly efficient solar array installation with tracking system.   Ashleigh Uiska of Fishburn Building Sciences Group very knowledgeably fielded some technical questions about the PV system – the Tremco engineer was just a bit late but answered more questions for us later.

The Tremco Solar Installation

Rick then spoke about his company and range of products and demonstrated step-by-step how to install a Bioroof System,  above the membrane.   It’s always interesting to see exactly how systems are built, and Rick went into great detail about each layer and noted important installation aspects of each, especially around parapets, flashings, and edging.   Everyone was given a parting gift of a pre-seeded jar with  Bioroof Eco Mix growing media,  but those of us crossing the border had to decline due to Customs regulations!

The Bioroof Installation with Insulation - next up come the Drainage Boards...

Prior to closing, Aramis felt the need to volunteer me to speak with Lynn since no one had volunteered themselves.   She was really cute and I felt my interview was just rolling along when she ran out of tape…We suggested she also interview Lauren Gould, greenroof enthusiast, who attends many greenroof conferences as well as those from other green industries, to get her take on the Congress.   After Lauren, Lynn spoke with Melanie Mullen, an environmental blogger from Canada who also covers  the vegetated roof field.

Aramis speaking with Lynn

We all loaded back into the Party Bus for one last voyage to the CitiesAlive! Closing Gala at the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG), where Terry McGlade of Gardens in the Sky was our host.    He took us on a tour of TBG’s main greenroof designed by  his company  in 2005,  planted with a colorful Sedum mix.   Highly visible  due to its slope, the 646 sf extensive greenroof ranges from 20 ° to 30 °.   Soprema was the system used, and a geo-textile was included to ensure growing media retention. Terry McGlade and company

We also visited the smaller one located on the property, too.   The Annie Shed is the first registered straw bale building in Toronto, constructed through two weekends of hands-on workshops.   The vegetation on this roof was planted as part of a research effort by Ryerson University.

The Anne Shed, named after Anne Callahan

The Toronto Botanical Garden grounds are lovely and the abundunce of nicely tended flowering perennials, vine-clad walls, and beautiful trees in the gardens was  appreciated by all  on this autumn day.

Creeping vines

Photographers Everywhere!

The Gala itself was a Mexican Fiesta celebration, honoring the host city for the second World Green Roof Infrastructure Network Congress: A Sustainable Alternative for Big Cities  in Mexico City, to be held on October 7-9, 2010.    Reception co-host Tanya Müller Garcia, President of WGRIN Mexico member AMENA (Asociación Mexicana para la Naturación de Azoteas), and Director of ‘Reforestacion Urbana, Parques y Ciclovia’ (Urban Forestry, Parks and Bikeways) in Mexico City, welcomed us and  presented “Outstanding Public and Private Green Roofs Across Mexico.”   Flowing margaritas and Corona beer, tasty food, and a lively Mariachi band gave us a preview for things to come at next year’s Congress.   Prof. Dr. Manfred Köhler of Hochschule Neubrandenburg (University of Applied Sciences) and World Green Roof Infrastructure Network (WGRIN) Chair thanked everyone for attending and showed slides of unique greenroofs from around the world.

Marco, Christine, Roland, Linda & Aramis at the Toronto Botanical Gardens; Photo by Dusty Gedge

All in all we had a great time seeing old friends, although there wasn’t enough time to catch up with everyone!   We were very impressed with the feel of the Congress, and felt like we really received a lot for our money.   The receptions, coffee breaks, Tuesday lunch and barbecue dinner, and tours were all included in the Congress fee, which in comparison to other conferences was quite low at only $149 for members of GRHC, or $249 for non-members.   Since my individual membership had expired, we finally bit the bullet and Greenroofs.com became a Corporate Member of GRHC for the first time.  

My suggestions for future CitiesAlive! Congresses is to make the presentation sessions a 2-day event, not just one, and if possible, not have four concurrent tracks, but two.    It was simply too much information in too little time.   It works alright for the  Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communties Conferences, but they differ in that it is feasible for more than one person in a company to attend  since you’re dealing with domestic travel (for most of us).   People can swap notes, and in any case you get a CD with all the papers for later review.   We also should have received a CD or booklet on the actual papers for this first Congress, which would have helped also since there were quite a few presentations that were hard to understand due to the breadth of international participants.   I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I feel  WGRIN could charge more in the future to help cover a 2-day event (keeping the tours included) which would be more beneficial to all.

Toronto at Night

Toronto is a beautiful city with much to be proud – the last time we were here was in June of 2000, when  I attended a green roof workshop by Steven Peck,  when  Green Roofs for Healthy Cities was a consortium of five companies.   Attended by about 20 people including Steven, architect Monica Kuhn, Dr. Brad Bass (who showed Aramis and me his wonderful research of rooftop hydroponic plantings at the University of Toronto), greenroof designer/contractor Kaaren Pearson, John Beaudry, formerly with the Chicago Department of Environment, City of Chicago engineer Kevin LaBerge, and Marie-Anne Boivin of Soprema, among others, it was my first  introduction to the fledgling greenroof community.

Covenant House Toronto's Hope: Our Future Healing Garden

The kids at Covenant House Toronto have a spot reserved in their rooftop garden for future seeds of success.   Our industry has come along way in the past 10 years and working together we can continue to promote healthy living architecture and make greenroofs and green walls standards within the architecture world, not just the green architecture world.

Happy Greening!

~ Linda V.