GPW: ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky

May 19, 2010 at 5:54 pm

As you know by now, ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky  in Toronto, Canada  is the winner in our  first contest here at Greenroofs.com, the 2010 Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!  Earth Day Photo Contest, and was featured as our Greenroof Project of the Week (GPW) from May 2, 2010 through May 9, 2010.   Submitted by Josephine Chan, Public Relations Specialist, Marketing, with ESRI Canada, this project received a whopping 735 votes!   Well, Josephine is a marketing specialist and  should be  commended on doing a great job of  getting the word out to vote for her project!

 

Although this really was a popularity contest, nonetheless, this “Garden in the Sky” is a stunning example of  collaboration, resulting in a thoughtful,  peaceful, and inviting  greenspace in an otherwise dreary, hot urban roofscape canyon typically found in our core downtown areas.   I asked Josephine why she felt the ESRI Canada living roof was special:

“The green roof is a great project because it provides access to nature in an urban environment.   It reflects the passion for the environment and collective creativity of ESRI Canada’s staff, who were consulted and encouraged to submit suggestions for the design of the green roof.   The result is a colorful, accessible and functional rooftop garden that significantly enhances our workplace and the environment.”  ~ Josephine Chan

ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) Canada is a geographic information systems software company who wanted an ecological roofing alternative for their ninth-story  headquarters.   According to an article in unlimited Magazine, company president Alex Miller saw big potential:

“We’re an environmental company.   Our business is building geographic information systems for our customers.   We wanted to set an example of what a company could do, for a relatively small amount of money overall, at improving the sustainability of our surrounding environment.” ~ Alex Miller

The greenroof was designed by Scott Torrance Landscape Architect of Toronto, who also  conducted  a Green Roof Feasibility Study for the ESRI Canada Head Office in 2007.    The design encompasses several zones of outdoor rooms  for circulation purposes,  and also reflects the indoor plan.

The project  was  installed and is maintained by Gardens in the Sky, Flynn Canada.   Not including the planters, the 7,500 sf  installation is a pre-vegetated LiveRoof  Hybrid  greenroof system combining 4″ LiveRoof Standard and 6″ LiveRoof Deep modules.    Josephine told us about several challenges that  were encountered during the design and implementation of the roof garden.  The first step was convincing the landlord, Crown Property Management, that it was an idea worth pursuing.

“Fortunately, they are committed to making their buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.   They agreed that a green roof would be a valuable enhancement and covered the cost of re-roofing the structure on which the garden would be laid.  Capital costs for the green roof were in the range of $25 to $35 per square foot.   The investment the company allocated for the project was substantial.   However, it knew the benefits would far outweigh the costs and proceeded with the project despite the severe economic downturn.”  

 

ESRI Canada faced other challenges such as winds, loading capacity and logistics for a project located in a busy commercial area of east Toronto, and shares the following items that needed to be addressed:

“Wind velocity, particularly nine stories above ground, needed to be factored into plant selection and installation.   An 85-ton crane was used to lift a total weight of 260,000 pounds of plant modules, including 100 yards of soil, 56 planter boxes and 4,000 individual modules of live root plants.   Further complicating the process was logistics.   Crane availability and other logistical considerations in a busy office building meant that work could only be done on Saturdays and Sundays.   This was carried out with a crew of eight working 12-hour days for two weekends in early May 2009.”   Another reason for doing the crane work  over weekends was so that the fire routes were not blocked during working hours.

One other interesting  challenge was  the need to access window washing anchors set within the gravel, which was accomplished through Scott Torrance’s design (photo below from Treehugger).   The landscape architect positioned the  plantings “so that the lines for the window washers go between them.  The gravel also keeps people on roof away from the glass.”

 

Kees Govers, BSc (Agr), of LiveRoof Ontario Inc. adds perspective from the installation process:   “In May 2009, Gardens in the Sky devoted two consecutive  weekends to the installation.   On the first Saturday, all the planters and furniture were hoisted to the 8th floor balcony and positioned, and on the second Saturday the LiveRoof modules were craned up and installed along with the irrigation and the pathways.

“The pathways were all preloaded in LiveRoof modules and were simply installed as any other module.   As a result, the entire green roof is truly portable.  It would take approximately one day to completely remove the entire green roof without a trace, if and when the time came.   Because LiveRoof utilizes patented “˜hoppits’ as conveyance for the modules to the rooftop, even grasses and perennials can be completely full grown ready for installation in the nursery and installed without any damage.  As a result, the green roof is truly finished on the day it is installed rather than requiring another two to three years of growth.”

 

These two photos below were taken by Kees  approximately two weeks after installation was completed (late-May, 2009):

 

Kees explains that unlike other modular systems, LiveRoof doesn’t stack their modules.   “We also use only a minimal amount of stretch wrap to prevent overheating of the plants.   As a result we can ship fully grown grasses, perennials and sedums without any shipping damage to the plants and without having to utilize refrigerated trailers.   The elevators are removed during installation to create a monolithic green roof without visible modules.”

“We always utilize the living mulch principle when executing plant designs.  No deciduous plants are used without an evergreen groundcover underplanted.  Because everything is full grown and already maturing at the time of installation, there is never any exposed growing medium.   As a result, wind erosion of the growing medium is virtually non-existent even when the deciduous plants have gone dormant.” ~ Kees Govers

Patrick Biller, Green Roof Maintenance & Installation with Flynn Canada, Gardens in the Sky, believes the ESRI is a unique project.  “It has all the typical Sedums and grasses that other LiveRoof systems have, but it also has an area devoted to plants that are unique to green roofs.  A lot of rock garden Sempervivums were used, as well as thyme and Nepeta.   The sculpture in the center is unique and points in the direction of the city with the CN Tower in the background.”   From a maintenance point of view, Patrick says that the  LiveRoof system is quick to install, fills in quickly, and reduces the maintenance challenges, and that everything about the system is efficient.   Other than a few select perennials such as coreopsis and evening primrose dying out,  the greenroof  has filled in very nicely.   In early May Flynn Canada/Gardens in the Sky planted some more coreopsis and yarrow.

“I had the privilege of doing the spring clean-up on this site this spring, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.  All the hustle and bustle of the city, with the Don Valley Parkway directly underneath and general road noise are masked up there, and it feels like an oasis.  Not very often do we do projects that can actually separate you from your surroundings, offering a tranquil space for people to enjoy.  I wish more projects were like this one!” ~ Patrick Biller

Despite the many site  challenges, ESRI Canada believes the company was able to “transform a previously dreary concrete terrace into a lush green roof that provides important environmental and business benefits, including improved air quality, lower energy consumption for air conditioning and reduced stormwater runoff.   Previously, you would be met by dust and highway noise when you stepped out onto the terrace.   Now, employees and visitors can walk out to green outdoor space for formal meetings, corporate events and informal lunch breaks.   They can enjoy the breathtaking view of perennials and tall grasses intermingled with sedums that can also be seen from inside and neighbouring buildings.   Birds and butterflies have also become frequent visitors to the green roof.   It has been transformed into a colourful, living garden enjoyed by many.”

Josephine gave us her personal reflections on the greenroof and its contribution to a healthier Earth:   “It’s been almost a year since ESRI Canada’s green roof was installed.  It was about the same time when I started with the company.  I have never worked in an office with a green roof before so I was, and still am, extremely impressed with ESRI Canada’s environmental effort and proud to be part of a company that is committed to being green.

“From inside the offices, you get seamless views of the garden, which is broken into zones that extend the interior space.   It’s a refreshing place to relax during breaks and provides a great venue for more formal corporate gatherings.  It’s designed with several walkways, so you can tour the roof and look closely at the more than 50 varieties of shrubs, flowering plants, grasses and trees.

“We’ve hosted numerous tours for customers, partners, journalists, and tenants in the building and surrounding buildings who are curious to see the green roof.  They are always amazed by how cool and quiet it is there, given that the busy Don Valley Parkway is just below.   Birds and butterflies are also frequent visitors.  It’s a living garden enjoyed by many.   In addition to providing weather and noise insulation, it retains stormwater and delivers significant energy cost savings.   It also serves as an excellent demonstration of and inspiration for preserving nature and caring for the environment.  “

Kudos to  all the stakeholders for a wonderful project and in particular  to Josephine Chan of ESRI Canada, who says she’ll be donating the $100 prize to a local charity that protects migratory birds.   Josephine adds, “I love seeing them on the green roof!”

Lloyd Alter from Treehugger.com created two videos about the project for his article “Prefab, Portable Green Roof Installed In Toronto” of October 5, 2009, where he interviewed ESRI General Manager John Kitchen and the landscape architect, Scott Torrance.     Also read more from  the  project  profile in the Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database, and watch a short video about ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky below:

Happy Greening for Mother Earth! ~ 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.