The Inaugural CitiesAlive! – Seeds of Success

October 26, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Toronto City Hall

Aramis and I had a great time in Toronto last week for the inaugural 2009 CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress ~ what a  wonderful city!  It’s clean, green, and at the moment has the most progressive greenroof policy in North America.  From the airport we rode along the waterfront and were impressed on how green the city really is – we  enjoyed the many beautifully landscaped  parks with an abundance of trees in full autumn color, swaying grasses, and flowering perennials.  Tons of people were out enjoying the cool, crisp fall day with strollers, jogging, or just relaxing and taking in the views of Lake Ontario.  The  prominent Toronto Hydro/WindShare wind turbine, “North America’s first urban wind turbine,” was truly an impressive sight to see at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, a showcase for sustainability.  And the many architectural styles and hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto were a pleasure.

Friends

At the Congress we encountered many of the “usual greenroof suspects” we know from Canada, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.  We also met some very interesting new people, too, from South Korea and Spain (to name a couple) in the various speaker sessions, on the Toronto Sustainable Bus Tour sponsored by Tremco and Bioroof, and at the CitiesAlive! Closing Gala at the Toronto Botanical Garden where we all enjoyed a lively and tasty Mexican Fiesta celebration.

Spanish and Chilean Friends

The theme of the Congress  was “Green Roof Infrastructure: A Global Solution to Climate Change” and began on Monday, October 19 with a selection of tours and training sessions and the Canadian launch of the GRP exam, followed by the CitiesAlive! Opening Reception at Toronto City Hall, which we unfortunately missed due to a late flight.  Sponsored by The City of Toronto, attendees gathered on the City Hall Rotunda and were  treated to a ‘sneak peek preview tour’ of the new Toronto City Hall Green Roof, and heard from Mayor of Toronto David Miller, Manfred Köhler, President of the co-host World Green Roof Infrastructure Network (WGRIN), and Steven Peck, Executive Director of the co-host, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC).  The new greenroof is more expansive than the previous incarnation of  the 3,200 sf Toronto City Hall Green Roof Demonstration Project, which was dismantled and replaced with this larger living roof.   I’ll update the profile on The Greenroof Projects Database as soon as I get more info.

Tuesday morning, October 20 started bright and early with the CitiesAlive! Opening Plenary, where Steven welcomed everyone and stressed  the importance of the bigger picture and how green infrastructure options can secure a more sustainable and prosperous future for us all.  He talked about two main themes: Cities can and are leading on major environmental issues such as global warming and how the best solutions are those that are good for the environment and good for the economy.  The City of Toronto is leading by example in many areas; for example, it now has  a 40% reduction of greenhouse emissions based on 1990 levels and the #1 hybrid electric bus fleet  in Canada, which is #2 in North America behind New York City, saving significant operations costs.  And through partnering with local businesses and residents, Live Green Toronto has issued grants in excess of $10 million to Torontonians.

Mayor Miller presented the Opening Address “Towards a Green Toronto” spoke about Living Green here with projects such as their “Transit City” program, whose transit expansion  into underserved, poorer areas really equals social justice as light rail encourages better development and will better the lives of many.  New programs like Live Green Toronto and city-wide initiatives like Mayor’s Tower Renewal will revitalize communities.  For example, plans to add thermal over cladding and insulation (plus greenroofs and other eco- friendly building features) to the numerous city  concrete slab highrises will not only reduce energy but will cut citywide gas emissions by 3-5%.  These efforts  will help create local employment and result in an environmental success story for Toronto. The City’s overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone spoke about the evolution of the Toronto’s Eco-Roof Incentive Program (formerly the Green Roof Pilot Program).  For example, in 2006, 16 projects were funded, 30 in 2007, and 34 projects have been approved in 2009.  Approved by City Council in November 2008, the Eco-Roof Incentive Program is based on the successful Green Roof Pilot Program of 2006 and 2007 and includes both cool and eco-roofs.   In May, 2009 Toronto became the first City in North America to adopt a bylaw to require and govern the construction of greenroofs on new development.  The bylaw will apply to all new building permit applications made after January 31, 2010 (residential, commercial and institutional) and January 31, 2011 for all new industrial development, with a few exceptions. The new bylaw will be required on all new development above 2,000 m² (about 21,530 sf) of Gross Floor Area and have a graduated coverage requirement ranging from 20-60%.  (See more details at the City of Toronto website.)

Christine in TorontoThen the first round of speakers  started from each of the four concurrent tracks, which I felt was rather ambitious all in just one day –  I think we missed out on a lot of really pertinent info, and there was no conference CD like usual for later reference.  I remained for Track 2: Innovative Projects and Design from Around the World, and Aramis headed over to Track 3: Policies and Programmes Supporting Green Infrastructure Development with our Student Editor, Christine Thüring (who should be adding some commentary of her own soon).

Track 2: Don Delaney from Flynn Canada  started with details of the “Vancouver Convention Centre: 7 Acres of Green Roof in Downtown Vancouver” and went into detail about the trials and tribulations of Canada’s largest  greenroof to date, including solutions to stabilize the growing media on slopes up to 40° and planting the 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses.  Innovative features  include decorative runnels with perforations on the high side to retain water and runoff collection used for irrigation and in a blackwater system.  International Leak Detention was brought on board to test the integrity of the waterproofing membrane before and after the installation of the overburden with their Electric Field Vector Mapping (EFVM ®) system.  We were all very happy to have Andrea from N.A.T.S. Nursery in the audience to answer a lot of growing media and plant questions!  This project will be a highlight to our trip to Vancouver, B.C. next year for the 8th installment of the Greening  Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference.  The Vancouver Convention Centre will be home of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games media and broadcast centre.

Vancouver Convention Centre Living Roof

Prof. Dr. Eun-Heui Lee from Women’s University in Seoul, South Korea  impressed us with “Green Roof Policy and Projects to Expand Green Space in Seoul” with some key figures: From 2002 through 2008, 218 greenroofs equaling 104,403 m ² were constructed and in 2009 so far, 104 greenroofs totaling 41,000 m ² have been built or on the boards!  And perhaps more importantly, the Seoul Metro Government plans 600 new roofs to be greened by 2012.
The Biotope Area Factor for Seoul

Francois LaSalle of ADIVET in France addressed “Development of Green Roofs and Green Facades in France, and presented a history of greenroofs and walls in France.  Starting in the 1970’s, about 1 m² of roofs have been greened here, mostly intensive roof gardens, through the 1980’s.  By the end of the 1990’s, about 10 greenroof companies had emerged from the extensive market, and in 1994 Patrick Blanc unveiled his first green wall (Mur Vegetal) at the Garden Festival in Chaumont Sur Loire (although probably most famous for his Musée du quai Branly  vegetated wall in Paris, 2006).  Francois concluded with various French policies, subsidies, and bills to promote, and believe it not, prohibit opposition to planted roofs.  Currently, vegetated facades are in their infancy, but greenroofs have a firm hold in the marketplace.

Example of a French Greenroof

Ignacio Espoz Babul from LatinGreen in Santiago, Chile, presented “Living Walls for Better Indoor Climate in Subways,” an experimental green wall research program currently being implemented at two underground Metro stations in Santiago.  Ignacio believes that indoor air pollutant abatement with an improvement in air quality due to reductions of metals and volatile chemicals is possible along with noise reduction due to plant foliage and the associated natural processes – as long as there is sufficient light, air, and water.

Acoustic Benefits of Green Walls

The sessions ran a bit late, and the Networking Break on the Trade Show was only supposed to last 30 minutes, but we stayed  through lunch because we kept running into people we just had to talk to!  So we skipped the next round of speakers in between (sorry I missed Paul Kephart, Andrew Bowerbank, Dr. Nigel Dunnett, Jeff Bruce, and James Sable!).  The Networking Break on the Trade Show was very lively, and packed with people – I hope not too many missed those speakers, either.  Lunch was held on the Trade Show Floor, which is always a good thing for the exhibitors, who help foot the bill and provide us with so many varieties of products and services.  Here are a few:

The Tremco Booth

Bill Corrigan from Tremco Canada told us about some of their company’s 1 million sf of greenroofs in Canada.

The folks at International Leak Detention

International Leak Detection performs non-destructive integrity tests of waterproofing membranes utilizing their patented Electric Field Vector Mapping technology. Membrane defects are located with pin point accuracy.

The Green Living Technologies booth

Diane DiGregorio of GLT shows off the Green Living Technologies living wall.

The LiveRoof booth

Lots of people visited the LiveRoof booth to learn about the modular manufacturer’s Soil Elevator™ and Moisture Portal™ technology.

Soprema reps

Marie-Anne Boivin and fellow Soprema colleague told us about their many years of greenroof experience in the harsh Canadian climates.

The Trade Show was a good size and was heavily trafficked by all, especially since the refreshment break and newtworking lunch and cocktail were set here.   Other Greenroofs.com exhibitor friends included Xero Flor America and Xero Flor Canada, Motherplants, Hydrotech, Sika Sarnafil, and Nilex, where Janet Faust of JDR Enterprises was present.

After lunch, the next round of speakers in Track 2 included Peter Lowitt from Devens Enterprise Commission who spoke about “Green Infrastructure & Eco-Industrial Parks: Lessons Learned From Devens, Massachusetts,” a former military barracks now a 40-acre eco-  industrial park with an International Audubon Certified Sustainable Golf Course.  He spoke how green infrastructure must take a holistic approach and asked how can we make these projects sustainable?  By promoting social and environmental equity.

Peter and Friends

João Manuel Linck Feijó of the Associação de Telhados Verdes do Brazil presented “Innovative Projects & Green Roof Progress in Brazil” – introducing us to the relatively new greenroof market in Brazil and explaining a potential tax break for large citie  and various state proposals for living roofs.  He showed some beautiful greenroof projects throughout Brazil using a modular greenroof system from Ecotelhado.

Joao and Ecoltelhado

Dr. Karen Liu of Xero Flor Canada addressed “Special Green Roof Projects in B.C.”  Dr. Liu highlighted a couple of projects which presented opportunities for greenroof design and engineering creativity.  The Butchart Gardens Carousel Pavilion in Victoria, B.C. has slopes ranging from 14-44% and utilized a 2-ply modified bitumen, standing seam copper roof and the architects needed to capture 36 liters of rainwater.  Dr. Liu explained the steel grid system to retain the growing media and cautionary items to consider as  well.  The second project focused on Canada’s first  LEED Gold Community, the 2010 Olympic Village where all of the roofs will be either extensive or intensive greenroofs!  The extensive greenroofs will feature Xero Flor roofs with vegetated sports figures.  These athletic figures will be planted with red flowering annuals and set in red lava rock.

Michael Krause of Kandiyohi Development talked about “Urban Forests and Energy in Minnesota,” a different and very interesting topic.  Biomass energy is included in current U.S. energy legislation, and a biomass fuel energy strategy can be used as a small, community-based local climate change solution.  Fallen trees are viewed as a carbon sink and vast supplies of excess biomass are available – Michael believes that biomass can be used as an interim strategy for the next 30 years or so, and sees this as a way to democratize energy and bring energy to the community level, since there would be no importing fossil fuels from afar.

Biomass Slide

Toby Lennox from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority finished with “Industrial Ecology: Partners in Project Green,” Canada’s largest eco-business zone at 4,000 acres.  Toronto Pearson Airport manages one half of Canada’s commercial air traffic and 65,000 trips are made to the airport each day.  Project Green is bringing together common strategies in a new eco-model of development in a growing community of businesses working together to green facilities and the bottom line.

Afterwards we all convened for  the Cocktail Reception, once again on the Trade Show Floor, with spirits and snacks and an opportunity to unwind a bit, followed by the “Transforming the Face of Buildings” Student Design Challenge Awards, Poster Presentations and Networking Event at the Steam Whistle Brewing Roundhouse, a very funky locale and local brewery.  The quality of the student entries was superb and I’m sure that the judges had a hard time selecting the winners.  Congratulations to everyone who participated, and especially the First Place winner, “Cliffside Village” from students Dov Feinmesser, Yekaterina Mityuryayeva, Tommy Tso, and Aaron Hendershott form Ryerson University, Architectural Science!

Reception

We ended the evening with a spirited dinner compliments of George Irwin, our Green Wall Editor, and Diane DiGregorio of Green Living Technologies.  Christine took us to an artsy part of town that’s being refurbished where we had  awesome appetizers and organic pizza, incredible wine, and great conversation.

A close up of some of the flowers at Covenant House Toronto

I believe that the 2009 CitiesAlive! has indeed sown future seeds of success as WGRIN continues to bring together the international greenroof community of non-profit organizations to highlight  current and planned green infrastructure research, policy and projects.  Their first congress had some growing pains but I believe that overall it was important, fruitful, and promising with quite an international  flair – set in  a perfect international city with a very promising future of its own.

Next up I’ll wrap up our time in Toronto with some photos of our day on the Toronto Sustainable Bus Tour and evening at the lovely Toronto Botanical Garden.

Terry and friends at the Botanical Garden

~ Linda V.

CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress – A World of Reasons to Come to Toronto

October 6, 2009 at 1:27 am

CitiesAlive! Banner, Photo Gardens in the Sky, Toronto

The first ever CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress will be held in Toronto in a couple of weeks and Greenroofs.com will be there.   In partnership with the City of Toronto, the World Green Roof Infrastructure Network (WGRIN), and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities  (GRHC),  CitiesAlive! is expecting a great turnout with over 1,000 participants.   Addressing the theme “Green roof infrastructure as a global solution to climate change,” the congress will host over 60 internationally renowned speaker presentations and expert roundtable discussions in greenroof design, policy, research and emerging trends in green infrastructure, and an industry trade show.

We’ve had multiple questions from readers about this conference, in terms of comparing it to the annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, which also  offers all  of the above.   GRHC is a founding member of WGRIN, who has been planning this congress for some time now, and since Toronto is at the forefront of greenroof policy in North America – plus it’s their home –  it’s only natural the inaugural  congress should be held in this beautiful international city.   But some people are asking me why it would be beneficial to attend in Toronto, especially if they had just come to Atlanta in June.   They’ve asked me about the focus of CitiesAlive! since we’ve always had global views and speakers at the seven Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conferences so far.

I recently asked Steven Peck, President, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, these questions on the differences between the two events, and he shared his views with me:

“There are a number of important differences. The main ones are that the focus of CitiesAlive! is on how vegetative technologies, including urban forests, can help us mitigate climate change and adapt cities to the negative consequences like heat waves and severe storms. We have invited various experts from around the world to give presentations. It is much more focused than our annual conference which includes a wider range of topics. Another major difference is that WGRIN is the co-host of this event, which is scheduled to be held in Mexico City next year. This event will have a greater international flavour and we are having a Mexican fiesta and international showcase of projects on Wednesday, October 21 at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

Toronto Botanical Garden, from their website, by Jenny

“We are also not having North American industry programs like the Awards of Excellence but a Student Design Contest instead – where 22 groups of students from around the world are redesigning a city block with multiple forms of green infrastructure for maximum sustainability benefits.

“We are also celebrating and acknowledging the policy and program leadership of the City of Toronto, which passed the first green roof construction standard and mandatory by-law for new buildings in North America.”

And Steven concluded, “So, CitiesAlive! is a different program with a broader scope of green technologies but more of a focus on positive climate change impacts. Cities Alive! is going to be a really unique, one-time event.”

OK, so we can expect greater green infrastructure beyond greenroofs and green walls,  encompassing broader living architecture technologies, with greater international focus and flavor – got it!   I love the inclusion of the  international student design competition, “Transforming the Face of Buildings“ – it sounds very promising, where students were asked to rethink the connection between built and biotic landscapes.   It will be very interesting to see the entries.   Also of note, the Congress is offering courses, many sustainable project tours, CitiesAlive! delegates can learn more about the new Toronto Green Roof Bylaw, and the Canadian Green Roof Professional (GRP) Accreditation launch will be held on October 19, 2009.  

Speaker highlights include Paul Kephart (Executive Director, Rana Creek, USA); Dusty Gedge (President, European Federation of Green Roof Associations and livingroofs.org, England); Sadhu Johnson (Chief Environmental Officer, City of Chicago, USA); David Yocca (President, Conservation Design Forum, USA); Don Delaney (Environmental Solutions Manager, Flynn Canada); Sable (Director Marketing & Education, Green Screen, USA); and Jeffrey L. Bruce (Principal, Jeffrey Bruce & Co., USA).     Download the Agenda here.

CitiesAlive! logo and banner

The CitiesAlive! 2009 International Green Infrastructure Congress will be held from October 19 – 21 2009 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Downtown, 123 Queen St. West, Toronto, ON, Canada.   Visit www.citiesalive.org for more information and to register.

It’s great to see the international greenroof community coming together again, and we’re very happy to be attending the CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress, too.  We  hope to see many of you there, including our Student Editor, Christine Thuring, the Green Wall Editor, George Irwin, and the Architecture Editor, Patrick Carey.   Aramis and I look forward to  taking  the Toronto Sustainable Roof Bus Tour,  sponsored by Tremco and Bioroof, and enjoying the sights and sounds of awesome downtown Toronto with friends and colleagues.

~ 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.