Watch “Upping the Urban Green. What is the Actual and Potential Role of Ecology in our Cities?” by Dr. Mark Simmons and Christine Thuring from Our Virtual Summit 2013

February 13, 2015 at 12:23 pm

In anticipation of Greenroofs.com‘s spectacular 2015 Virtual Summit on April 6 through May 31 – and in order to familiarize you with the event – we are now making the Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2013 videos publicly available on our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube to all free of charge.

Today we have the pleasure to air “Upping the Urban Green.  What is the Actual and Potential Role of Ecology in our Cities?” by Mark Simmons, PhD from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas and Christine Thuring (Chlorophyllocity) from the University of Sheffield.

Christine, as you know, has been a long time contributor to Greenroofs.com – review my recent post Watch “Vegetation Development on Extensive Green Roofs Over Time” by Christine Thuring from Our Virtual Summit 2013.  And, Christine and Mark also participated in our inaugural “Inspiration Nook” with this short video.

Photo Source: FriendBurst by Barbara_K

Even if you were not presenting, as an attendee you could submit your under 3 minute (non-overtly commercial) videos of research, ideas, projects, poster boards, thought leadership, etc., which were followed by your own live Discussion Chat.

This series is focused around sparking conversation, ideas, dialogue and connections around a specific greenroof/wall-related topic – a mosaic of bright ideas for a greener world.

VS2013-SimmonsThuringInspirationNook

Mark and Christine proposed, “Now that we are an urban species, we are ever more compelled to create and regenerate urban ecological function to maintain global sustainability, human health and our relationship to the natural world.  But is ecological function really being prioritized and implemented in our cities?  Are methods and technologies like green roofs, living walls, water sensitive designs and natural green space being as widely used as they could be?  If not, what’s holding it up?

“This short video gives a brief introduction to urban ecology and presents a case for collaborative ecological urban design towards an optimistic future for our cities and planet.” In order to gauge how opinions vary by culture and discipline, participants were invited to participate in a short 10 question, global online survey which sought to answer how can we do better as professionals.

Here’s more:

VS2013-SimmonsThuring-InspirationNook

Austin, TX, USA. Dr. Mark Simmons is Director of Research and Consulting at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas. His research and consulting projects focus on sustainable and regenerative landscapes, including green roofs, native turfgrass, urban prairies, prescribed fire, and urban green space restoration. He consults with local and national clients including the US Army Corps of Engineers, George Bush Presidential Center, NASA, and the National Park Service. He teaches university and professional courses in and sustainable landscape design and sits on several technical committees including the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES™).

Sheffield, UK. Christine Thuring has been working with green roofs since 2001 in various capacities, and is currently doing her PhD in Landscape Ecology (University of Sheffield). See her complete bio here. ~ VS2013   

Watch “Upping the Urban Green.  What is the Actual and Potential Role of Ecology in our Cities?” by Dr. Mark Simmons and Christine Thuring below or see it specifically on its own channel, the Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2013:

Our second foray in the world of virtual conferences, the Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2013: Connecting the Planet + Living Architecture, was very successful at bringing together people from around the world to learn, discuss, and network in our field of living architecture.  This time partnering with the World Green Infrastructure Network (WGIN), between Greenroofs.com and WGIN we produced 36 videos involving 59 esteemed international speakers, specifically: 22 Individual Presenters, including 5 Keynotes; 5 Panel Sessions; and 9 Collaborative Presentations.

Watch these other VS2013 videos released so far:

Natural System for Recycling Wastewater and its Nutrients Inspiration Nook Video by João Manuel Linck Feijó.

How Green Roofs in Copenhagen Create New Opportunities, Climate Adapt Our City and Transform Our Living Video by Dorthe Rømø.

A Tale of Two Hydroponic Living Wall Systems from Canada and Spain Collaborative Video by Dr. Alan Darlington and Ignacio (Nacho) Solano.

12 Reasons to Invest in Green Roofs Keynote Video by Steven Peck.

Coastal Green Roof Design and Native Plants Video by Kevin Songer.

La Agricultura Urbana en Iberoamérica y España – Urban Agriculture in Ibero-America and Spain Panel Session with Dr. Julian Briz, Dr. José María Durán- Altisent, Dr. Isabel de Felipe, Tanya Müller García, Dr. Gilberto Navas, and Joaquin Sicilia Carnicer.

Development of Different Types of Green Roofs & Green Walls for Improved Urban Biodiversity and Green Clime Adaptation in Cold Climates Video by Dr. Tobias Emilsson.

Naturación Urbana en España – Urban Greening in Spain Collaborative Video by Dr. Julian Briz, Dr. José María Durán-Altisent, Dr. Isabel de Felipe, and Joaquin Sicilia Carnicer.

Relaunch – Hamburg’s New Green Roof Strategy Video by Wolfgang Ansel.

Introduction to Integrated Water Management Video by Jeff Bruce.

Award Winning Designers Sharing Projects & Lessons Learned Collaborative Video with Michael Franco, Brendan Shea, Emily Shelton, and Keith Tufts.

Green Infrastructure Design and the Biophilic Effect Keynote Video by Mary Ann Uhlmann.

Vegetation Development on Extensive Green Roofs Over Time Video by Christine Thuring.

Investigación de Azoteas Verdes de la Universidad Autónoma Chapingo – Green Roof Research at the Chapingo Autonomous University Video by Dr. Gilberto Navas.

Sky Parks in the Public Realm – Elevating Green Ways and Urban Connectivity Panel Session with Dr. Maureen Connelly, Sadhu Aufochs Johnston, Randy Sharp, and Dr. Tan Puay Yok.

Skyrise Ag: 5 Ways to Local Food Production Collaborative Video with Helen Cameron, Mohamed Hage, George Irwin, Ben Flanner and Alan Joaquin.

Building-Integrated Vegetation: Redefining the Landscape or Chasing a Mirage? Opening Keynote Video by Aditya Ranade.

Mexico City’s Green Plan & Green Roofs – Areas Verdes de la Ciudad de Mexico & Azoteas Naturadas Video by Tanya Müller García.

The Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort Video by Jaron Lubin.

Phyto Kinetic: Gardens in Movement Video by Marc Grañén.

Profiles of Women Business Leaders Greening the Way Collaborative Video with Barbara Deutsch; Lexie Hain and Marguerite Wells; Vanessa Keitges; and Joy Schmidt.

Green Walls and Maintenance – Needs, Opportunities and Best Practices Panel Session Video with Melissa Daniels, Christopher Lyon, Steven Peck, and James Sable.

Reflections of a Green Roof Campaigner and Visions of the Future Keynote Video by Dusty Gedge.

Urban Green in Australia Video by Matt Dillon.

2012 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design + A Look into 2013 Collaborative Video with Linda S. Velazquez and Haven Kiers.

We hope you will join us in watching all of these as we present them!

Happy watching,

~ Linda V.

Also see these videos below in various languages on our exclusive Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2013 greenroofs.TV playlist:

Virtual Summit 2013 Highlights Video

Virtual Summit 2013 Trailer

VS2013 Linda Velazquez Promo

VS2013 Steven Peck Promo

VS2013 Julian Briz Promo – Spanish

VS2013 Matt Dillon Promo

VS2013 Manfred Koehler Promo – German

VS2013 Francois Lassalle Promo – French

VS2013 Eun-Heui Lee Promo – Korean

VS2013 Dorthe Romo Promo

VS2013 Wang Xianmin Promo – Mandarin Chinese

VS2013 Tanya Mueller Promo – Spanish

Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2011 Episode 25: Biodiversity and Greenroofs Panel Presentation

May 30, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Today we have the pleasure to air the panel presentation “Biodiversity and Greenroofs” with Christine Thuring, Nathalie Baumann, Gary Grant, and Dusty Gedge from our inaugural  2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit on  greenroofs.tv and our  GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube.

This is truly a panel of experts (and an exceptionally great bunch of people) on the subject of greenroofing and biodiversity issues!  We’ve known Dusty the longest, first corresponding with him in 2002 when he was the lead for the Black Redstart Action Plan with the London Biodiversity Partnership – read about it in his December 2003 Guest Feature Article “Wild Roofs:  Current research into green roofs and biodiversity in London.”

We finally met this outspoken, friendly, fast-talking Brit in 2003 in Chicago, for the first Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference & Trade Show (now CitiesAlive), and became fast friends.  I visited this former clown/punk rocker, now  ornithologist, eco-activist, living roof consultant/promoter and “tweeter extraordinaire” in London in 2003, and he took me out for a fast-paced day of greenroof hopping that I’ll never forget – read my January 2004 “Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture” (the previous incarnation of this blog).

Since then, we’ve seen him at numerous conferences, and Dusty has also contributed “Green Roofs for a Changing Climate – The 2nd London World Green Roof Congress” from August 2010 and “Livingroofs.org ~ A New Independent Green Roof Organisation for the UK” from November 2004.

He was also our very gracious host when Aramis and I attended the first World Green Roof Congress in London, presented by CIRIA in partnership with Livingroofs.org,  which  I blogged about in my  November 10, 2008 “An Awesome World Green Roof Congress in London! Day 1” (unfortunately, I never got around to blogging about the second day nor the awesome greenroof tour that followed!).  Dusty Gedge is simply a wonderful human being.

The always lovely Christine, above left with me, has been a long standing  editorial contributor to Greenroofs.com as The Student Editor (2004-present) where she writes a biannual newsletter “Green roofs on the curve” and answers student inquiries.  She is also a collaborator on many exclusives here on Greenroof.com over the years, collectively known as “Christine’s Ramblings.”

She is very sharp, yet is a sweetheart of a person and also  a great friend of ours. We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing her growth and contributions to the greenroof world from a MSc. Horticulture student at the “Centre for Green Roof Research“ at Penn State (2005) to her current role as a PhD candidate at the University of Sheffield and various endeavors in between.  She is quite the world  traveler  and has reported for us about her visits to Paris, Germany, and India, and  London, among others.  Read my “The Swiss-Canadian Green Roof Gal: An Interview with Christine Thüring” of May 24, 2009 to learn a little more about her earlier years.

The Swiss  Nathalie Baumann, below right, is also very bright and  passionate  about her long time work with biodiversity, especially ground nesting birds on greenroofs, around the Basel area.  An research student and associate of Dr. Stephan Brenneisen from the  Zurich Applied University,  we first met her in September 2005 when we attended  The World Green Roof Congress (where I presented my paper “An International Call for The Greenroof Projects Database“) in Basel.  It was a great conference with lots of wonderful speakers, and afterwords we went on a greenroof tour guided by the soft-spoken and very knowledgeable Nathalie.

Over the years, Nathalie has always been very helpful about sharing her thoughts and experience with us, and so we knew she’d make a great addition to this panel.

Although we knew him the least, we were also thrilled to have another Brit, Gary Grant, on our panel.  We’ve known him as a great environmentalist and ecologist in the UK and Asia for years, and met him in London in 2008 at the  first World Green Roof Congress where he spoke about his work when he was with EDAW, UK.

Currently a director with the Green Roof Consultancy along with Dusty, Gary is also very personable and friendly, and loves to share his ideas and wealth of expertise with others.

Read more:

Christine Thuring has been working with green roofs since 2001 in various capacities, including installation, advocacy, research, consulting, design, and education.  Prior to green roofs, she worked as a field botanist and restoration ecologist.  With a BSc in Environmental Resource Science & Biology (Trent University) and MSc Horticulture (The Pennsylvania State University), Christine is currently doing her PhD in Landscape Ecology (University of Sheffield).  She co-founded Green Roof Safari, and offers consulting and technical translation through Chlorophyllocity.  She is a contributing editor on Greenroofs.com; she is the Student Editor and also writes Christine’s Ramblings.

Christine moderated the panel on “Biodiversity and Green Roofs” where she also spoke about her research on plant community development and ecological processes on extensive green roofs with time.

Nathalie Baumann (BioGeograph/Social Anthropologist) accomplished her Master’s of Sciences degree at the University of Basel, Switzerland.  Afterwards she worked on different projects of NGO’s like WWF Switzerland in the context of River Ecology, Biodiversity Assessment, Urban Ecology and Ecology of ground nesting birds.  Since 2005 she has been the Research Associate of Dr. Stephan Brenneisen at the Competence Centre of the Institute Environment and Natural Resources of the Zurich Applied University in Wädenswil, Switzerland.  One of her main topics is the research project: Ecological Compensation of Roofs: Vegetation and Ground Nesting Birds (e.g. investigating on the success of broods, improving therefore green roof design, etc.).

Nathalie spoke about “Green Roofs / Natural Roofs = Biodiverse Habitats and Ecological Compensation in Urban Space: 15 Years of Experience in Switzerland.”

Dusty Gedge is a green roof campaigner and designer, who has actively promoted green roofs in the UK since 1997.  He has designed a number of seminal roofs and help develop the London Green Roof Policy.  He is also the current President of the established three PhD studies on green roof research and has a particular interest in biodiversity on green roofs.  He is also a writer, blogger and sometimes TV presenter.  Dusty is co-author of Small Green Roofs: Low-Tech Options for Greener Living, 2011 and DIY Guide to Green & Living Roofs, among other publications.  In 2004 Dusty co-founded Livingroofs.org, a non-profit organisation established to promote, advise upon and seek research into green roofs and similar structures within the context of urban and rural regeneration.

Dusty spoke about “Designing and Working for Biodiversity on Green Roofs for Over 10 Years.”

Gary Grant is an independent ecologist with 30 years of experience of ecological survey and assessment, habitat creation and restoration, green infrastructure planning and site design and management.  He works closely with built-environment professionals encouraging them to use the ecosystem services approach.  Gary began work with the London Wildlife Trust in the 1980s and moved into consultancy in 1989, designing his first green roof in 1992.  He wrote Green roofs and façades, 2006.  Until 2009, he was a Director at AECOM Design + Planning working on large scale planning projects like the London 2012 Olympic Park, amongst others.  Gary’s current emphasis is on green infrastructure planning and climate change adaptation projects, as well as the design of building-integrated vegetation (green roofs and living walls).

Gary spoke about “My First Biodiverse Green Roof in 1992, Considerations for Planning and Design and Some Thoughts on the Future.”

In the  “Biodiversity and Greenroofs”  Panel Presentation,  original research and unique experiences were discussed, from field work upwards to bigger picture perspectives, as well as corresponding experiences with legislation on urban nature conservation.

Nathalie Baumann speaks to her six years working on ground-nesting birds in Switzerland and the ecological compensation value that green roofs offer in this regard.  Christine Thuring speaks to her current work on plant community development and soil formation on old extensive green roofs in Germany.  Gary Grant speaks about lessons learned from his first green roof in 1992, which happened to be designed for biodiversity, and offers insight into planning and designing green roofs, thoughts on the future and commentary on potentials and limitations.  Dusty Gedge speaks to his 10 years’ work towards conservation of invertebrate and avifauna in London, and of transferring the scientific results into legislation.

As with all the other panel presentations, a concurrent live Q & A accompanied the panel session during the actual  2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit presentation with Christine Thuring, Nathalie Baumann, Gary Grant, and Dusty Gedge.  The commentary is no longer available for you to see – one reason to attend the upcoming Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit – so you can participate and put your two cents worth in!

Note: Due to technical and other difficulties from the second party vendor who filmed our illustrious panel of four, this video does not have our standard  2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit branding, including the shots from Google Earth.  We are, however, planning on adding it soon to the four affected presentations so that they may be effectively identified for posterity.  Also, in this particular video the  second party vendor used the incorrect banner with the wrong date – our event was held on September 27 and 28, 2011, not in August.

Enjoy!  Visit  greenroofs.tv to see the “Biodiversity and Greenroofs” Panel Presentation or click below:

Watch earlier videos on our exclusive Virtual Summit  greenroofs.tv play list, or see the following Virtual Summit videos now available on our  GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube:

If you’re looking for an overview, make sure to see our  2011 Virtual Summit Highlights video (6:18) and our  2011 Virtual Summit Trailer (2:59).

Check back next week on GreenroofsTV for our 26th installment from the Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2011!

~ Linda V.

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.