Designing with Nature and Not against It: Translation of the Spanish Interview with Linda S. Velazquez in El País

September 29, 2017 at 7:47 pm

Diseñando con la naturaleza y no contra ella: Entrevista a la arquitecta paisajista Linda S. Velazquez sobre la necesidad de una arquitectura verde en las ciudades

Spanish interview with Isabel de Felipe in Berlin, originally published by El País on July 17, 2017

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Designing with nature and not against it:

Translation of the Spanish Interview with Linda S. Velazquez in El País on the need for green architecture in cities

Under the header of “Urban Beings” in the “Green Cities” section, here’s my translationOf course, they edited quite a bit and didn’t include all of my answers, but so be it.

NOTE: El País didn’t use any of the photos or graphics I sent, and in fact put one in of an interior courtyard landscape above – is it a greenroof?  I don’t know.  All of the photos below are my own placement!

Q & A Translation by Linda Velazquez

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Here in Alpharetta, GA at Rock Mill Park where I designed the Greenroof Pavilion & Trial Gardens.

Linda S. Velazquez is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), GRP, LEED AP. She is also the founder and publisher of Greenroofs.com (1999) and design consultant at her company Sky Gardens Design (2004). Linda studied landscape architecture at the University of Georgia (2000).

Linda writes and reports extensively about greenroofs and living architecture and has presented across the globe. Linda’s role as Greenroofs.com publisher affords many opportunities to promote the industry.  She has collaborated on numerous books including Green Cities in the World, Vertical Garden City: Singapore, and The Rise of Living Architecture, in addition to journals, magazines and online media.

Q: From your experience as a pioneer in the analysis and dissemination of urban green infrastructure, how do you perceive its evolution in the last few years?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

SOLARIS, Fusionopolis (Phase 2B), One North Singapore schematic by T. R. Hamzah & Yeang Sdn. Bhd., courtesy of Ken Yeang.

A. In my opinion, I believe our green architecture industry and market continues to grow each year because of the increasing general public interest and acknowledgement of important projects along with their associated multiple benefits – both public and private. We must also recognize the accomplishments of innovative leaders within the industry and design fields, businesses, and government at all levels who have promoted the idea and its progression further.

In the last 20 years we have seen dynamic and avant-garde designs that have drawn great attention to promote the greening of the planet with the integration of green: bioclimatic, biodiversity, biomimicry and sustainability.  Of course, construction follows financial cycles and we had a few years with fewer projects completed, but many people around the world are interested in green technologies, whether renewable energy or low impact development including green infrastructure like greenroofs and walls, and much more.

Q: Who or what are the most dynamic elements?  Architects, designers, entrepreneurs, institutions, NGOs …?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Vancouver Public Library, B.C., 1995. Currently under renovation, its new greenroof garden will be at grade with the existing maples. The top 2 floors will have a reading room, community event space, theater & public garden. Photo: American Hydrotech.

A: I think it has been a combination of experts, visionaries, and multidisciplinary professionals who have spread greenroof technology, at least here in North America.  As for early completed projects, I would have to credit collaboration between architects like Moshe Safdie and landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander with the government of Vancouver, B.C. in Canada with its spectacular Public Library (1995, currently under a major renovation to create an accessible public roof garden space).  Another innovative architect is William McDonough who worked with entrepreneurs such as the GAP in San Bruno, California (1997); the City of Chicago with its City Hall (2001), perhaps the most famous greenroof in the U.S.; and the Ford Motor Company with its River Rouge Truck Plant in Dearborn, Michigan (2003), which had the distinction of being the largest greenroof in the world for a few years, with 454,000 square feet.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Chicago City Hall, designed by McDonough + Partners and a multitude of multi-disciplinary professionals. Photo courtesy of Charlie Miller and Roofmeadow.

In the United States in 1997/98 the pioneers who helped me tremendously were civil engineer Charlie Miller of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; landscape architect Tom Liptan of Portland, Oregon; and the German environmental engineer Katrin Scholz-Barth who lived at that time in Minnesota.  Also, ASLA began writing on the subject during that time frame and, with thanks, I began to discover and research further, culminating in Greenroofs.com in 1999.

Q. In your presentation at the WGIC Berlin 2017 Congress, you identified the 10 most recent trends in greenroofs and walls. What are the underlying market drivers?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

A. Each trend in greenroofs and walls has several underlying factors depending on the location of the project: variables such as the needs and desires of the public and governments or the client / owner, what type of buildings are popular or necessary, different uses of a structure, aesthetic tendencies, the weather, the available products or materials, etc.

With Greenroofs.com’s annual compilation of the most popular trends, the “Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” (since 2007), we try to highlight cutting-edge structures and designers who are outstanding, inspiring, and magnificent – underlined by the exceptional green vegetation covering the building.

Q. What effects can green infrastructure have on the population?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh: 1st & only building to meet 4 of the highest green certifications: • Living Building Challenge, world’s most rigorous green building standard • LEED® Platinum — tied for highest points awarded under version 2.2 • 1st & only Four Stars Sustainable SITES Initiative™ for landscapes project (pilot) • 1st & only WELL Building Platinum project (pilot). Photo: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

A. Instead of using “gray” infrastructure such as concrete, asphalt, or hiding rainwater in underground pipes, detention ponds, etc., designing with nature instead of against it – using vegetation and natural ecosystem services – offers a multitude of beneficial opportunities and associated effects to improve a city or locale. The integration of nature into the urban fabric produces a wide spectrum of environmental benefits for the flora, fauna and human communities of our planet.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Santalaia in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo by Groncol.

Green infrastructure’s greatest potential lies in the ability to cover impermeable surfaces with permeable plant material. Using plants with engineering systems for stormwater management results in cleaner, fresher water and at the same time reduces the volume intensity that eventually falls on the streets. This immensely ameliorates a city, which is mostly impermeable, during heavy storms, when there may be overflows of the sewer system. Green infrastructure also reduces the urban heat island effect, which can dramatically increase temperatures due to lack of trees, plants, and green areas in cities, affecting the health of many people.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Berry Architecture Office Building Green Roof, Red Deer, Canada. Bumblebee feeding on Gaillardia sp. overlooking downtown, September 2014. Photo by Cynthia Pohl.

We can re-introduce native or sometimes even endangered plants by planting roofs and walls and green facades. At the same time, this attracts wildlife back to our cities like bees, butterflies and birds. We all know that seeing and being in nature is beneficial to human beings because of biophilia, the innate attraction in our biology to connect with nature. For example, nature helps us psychologically, improves the recovery of patients, and we rejoice within its natural and open spaces.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Mashambas Skyscraper, a mobile educational center for Swahili, Africa: eVolo 2017 Skyscraper Competition Winner by Pawel Lipinski and Mateusz Frankowski.

The creation of green spaces in a city is extremely important but sometimes there is no where to build a park or vegetable garden. Why not put it on top of a public building? And we must not forget that sometimes the green infrastructure costs much less than the gray infrastructure because we are using natural systems. If the cost of building a greenroof, for example, is more expensive at the outset, it has to be understood that life-cycle costs will reduce the final cost because of lower replacement costs because it will last double, triple, or perhaps even longer. Also, the use and energy costs of the building will decrease while at the same time a fifth facade has been created for the building – a new roof or wall space previously not utilized for the use of the owner or the public.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision of the idyllic Middle-Earth village home in The Shire.  Frodo’s Home, Hobbiton Movie Set, Matamata, New Zealand, October, 2014. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

The World’s 1st & largest Double LEED Platinum Museum: California Academy of Sciences (CAS) Living Roof in San Francisco. Photo by Tom Fox, courtesy of SWA Group.

Finally, using a variety of low impact development techniques can reconnect people with nature. When all the environmental, aesthetic, emotional, and economic benefits are added, we can see that green infrastructure offers sustainability benefits to many. Implemented on a local or intermediate scale, green or biophilic architecture can improve the health and well-being of a community, country, and our planet Earth.

Q: With your international vision, what are the most dynamic cities in the implementation of green infrastructure and what are their drivers?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Potsdamer Platz in Berlin – a glowing example of green infrastructure! Photo by Linda S. Velazquez, June 2017.

A: It is impossible to talk about the most dynamic cities and not start with Germany in general, since many cities like Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, and others have been leaders for the last 50 years. At least 48 German cities provide financial support for greenroofs. Around 35% have integrated greenroofs as part of their regulation, establishing around 86 million m2 of greenroofs which represent 14% of the total roof area of Germany. And they have established professional associations and organizations for the study of materials and best practices, such as the FLL (Forschungsgesellschaft Landschaftsentwicklung e.V.), FBB (Fachvereinigung Bauwerksbegrünung e.V.), and DDV (Deutscher Dachgartner-Verband), to name a few.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Oasis d’ Aboukir in Paris full bloom, one year after the plant installation, early April 2014. Photo courtesy of Patrick Blanc.

There are other numerous cities in the world that stand out with integrated green construction including Chicago, Basel, Portland, Toronto, New York, Linz, London, Paris, Mexico City, Shanghai, Washington, DC and the area, Milwaukee, Bogotá, and lately Madrid and Barcelona. American states like California and Pennsylvania have also done many projects. My favorite leader is Singapore, an island nation that currently has more than 720,000 m2 of greenroofs and over 50,000 m2 of green walls with plans for 2 million square meters of skyrise vegetation by 2030.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, by Grant Associates, Wilkinson Eyre Architects plus many more. Photo by Grant Associates.

Q: Could you provide some advice on measures we can take to improve urban dwelling?

A: We need to find or identify local leaders to talk about the topic of greenroofing and other greening opportunities and how to implement policies and strategies to encourage project stakeholders to build with green infrastructure. We still need to inform the public and various governments of the benefits so they understand the importance of protecting the natural environment and improving our construction practices using green infrastructure. As designers and other project principals we need to inform our customers why and how to do achieve this. And, we have to find ways to lower the prices of greenroofs and walls, either through industry or with the support of governmental incentives, tax exemptions, subsidies, etc. Green infrastructure should be considered first, whenever possible, within our built environment.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

1. Munich development: Connected to large park. 2. Community garden allows people to grow flowers & vegetables. 3. Most roofs covered with greenroofs, most buildings have greened balconies. 4. Open space for socializing, typically above underground parking garages. 5. Solar Garden Roofs combine to max-out environmental benefits. 6. Houses are entirely covered with PVs. Photo courtesy of Green Roof Service.

Q: The well-being of city dwellers requires action in different fields. Could you give us your opinion on the importance of biodiversity, food security, a healthy environment, water management, energy savings, and creation of green spaces and recreation?

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

ACROS Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall by Emilio Ambasz & Associates, a perfect integration of green over gray.

A: My academic background is landscape architecture. We recognize that our Earth is limited in its natural resources, and we have to protect all of us: animals, plants, and humans. We are as one, living and sharing an ecology that is this planet. We must bestow the heritage of a healthy and sustainable land to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The Earth is not ours to plunder, but our planet to sustain and protect for generations to come! With all my being, I believe that, in part, this is possible with architecture and design that is ecological and sustainable. Urban greening diminishes the effects of the built environment and promotes a strong and beautiful green infrastructure, flourishing and healthy.

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

NAUTILUS ECO-RESORT Biophilic Learning Center: Zero-Emission, Zero-Waste, Zero-Poverty by Vincent Callebaut Architectures, Palawan 2017, Republic of the Philippines.

Author Isabel de Felipe

Designing with Nature Linda S. Velazquez Interview El País Translation

I’m honored to have been interviewed in Spain’s #1 newspaper, El País, by Isabel de Felipe, PhD and thank her for the opportunity!

Isabel is Professor Ad Honorem Polytechnic University of Madrid, on the Board of Directors for the Center for Innovation in Technology for Human Development, and has published numerous articles and books on urban greening and agriculture for development. Most importantly, she is a dear colleague of PRONATUR and WGIN.

Isabel and her husband Dr. Julian Briz participated in our second Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2013 in the Spanish-language Panel “La Agricultura Urbana en Iberoamérica y España” – “Urban Agriculture in Iberia-America and Spain” along with Dr. José María Durán-Altisent, Tanya Müller García (Moderator), Dr. Gilberto Navas, and Joaquin Sicilia Carnicer – watch it on our 2013 Virtual Summit playlist.

If you’re a Spanish speaker, you can read Diseñando con la naturaleza y no contra ella yourself at in El País.

Contact Isabel at isabel.defelipe@upm.es.

Get Your Photos Ready for the 2014 “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Earth Day Photo Contest!

March 27, 2014 at 4:04 pm

After a one-year hiatus – still busy with with our second Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit 2013: Connecting the Planet + Living Architecture – we are happy to announce our “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Earth Day Photo Contest for 2014!

Submit your favorite pictures of beautiful projects by Earth Day and receive a whopping $100 – a small token of our esteem.

2014LovetheEarthPlantARoofOrWallPhotoContest

Inaugurated in 2010, we wanted to find a fun way to get our readers involved in honoring Earth Day, so we started the (almost) annual “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest!  But now we’ve added living walls to the mix.

Earth Day is April 22, and This Year’s Theme is Green Cities

Marking what many believe is the beginning of the modern environmental movement, Earth Day was created by Senator Gaylord Nelson in 1970.  Now in its 44th year, Earth Day promotes ecology and respect for life on the planet as well as encourages awareness of our growing ecological problems.

EarthDayNetwork2014

Earth Day Network is the global organizer behind Earth Day and creates tools and resources for you to get involved with Earth Day in your community:

“Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day. From San Francisco to San Juan, Beijing to Brussels, Moscow to Marrakesh, people plant trees, clean up their communities, contact their elected officials, and more—all on behalf of the environment.

Like Earth Days of the past, Earth Day 2014 will focus on the unique environmental challenges of our time. As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever. Earth Day 2014 will seek to do just that through its global theme: Green Cities. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future. Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.” ~ Earth Day Network

GreenEarthCities

Celebrate Greenroofs & Walls with our Earth Day Photo Contest

All around the globe, people are gearing up to green their cities and communities for Earth Day.  Well, we do that every day with building and promoting living architecture, so why not get some exposure for your favorite project?

The mission of the “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall!” Earth Day Photo Contest is to create interest in all kinds, styles, and sizes of beautiful living architecture and highlight some outstanding designs.  It’s designed to be quick and simple, and basically is a popularity contest among our international readership.  Any and all types of greenroofs or walls are eligible, any place on Earth.

All you have to do is submit a photo (or two) and tell your friends and colleagues vote for your favorite photo! We’ll be keeping everyone updated on the number of votes for each project on our Facebook page.

Each planted roof or wall needs to visually epitomize its relationship to our planet – it needs to show us that it’s a living example of loving the Earth – in other words, don’t just send a close-up of pretty flowers!  Show it in context with its site.

Yes, it has to be a gorgeous photo of a spectacular greenroof or greenwall, but remember that this is a popularity contest, too!

The contest is open to everyone, not just the roof owner or the designers of record.  And voting is open to everyone, so tell your friends to vote for your submission.

What do I have to do to enter the contest or vote?

Like us on Facebook first and then follow the directions to submit your photo(s).  We are finalizing the set-up, so start gathering your pics now and watch for an update post next week.  Check out previous winners here.

GreenEarth

Join Greenroofs.com by sharing your awesome photos of greenroofs and walls with our community to help inspire awareness of and appreciation for our Earth’s environment – and maybe get $100 to spend on your favorite Spring project!

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.

GPW: PECO Main Office Building

November 5, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Greenroofs.com Project of the Week: 10/24/11
PECO Main Office Building
47,000 sf.  Greenroof

Year: 2008
Owner: PECO Energy
Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Building Type: Corporate
Type: Extensive & Intensive
System: Other
Size: 47,000 sq. ft.
Slope: 1%
Access: Accessible, By Appointment
Google Maps: link
YouTube Video: link

Project Description & Details

Located on top of an eight-story section of the PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company) building, the rooftop garden holds growing media up to 8 inches thick; the greenroof development is part of the company’s recently-announced comprehensive environmental initiative with a range of programs over the next several years.

This retrofit project was established with low-maintenance pre-vegetated Sedum mats by Sempergreen over a specially formulated growing media. Because of the dead load restrictions, the extensive greenroof media was designed to be extra-lightweight. The Roofmeadow Type I extensive greenroof assembly weighs 17 psf when fully saturated. The cool green Sedum carpet is punctuated by pathways, lit seat walls and Roofmeadow Type III intensive native perennial beds located over zones with a higher dead load capacity. In partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, PECO co-sponsors public greenroof tours that attract architects, developers and engineers intent on learning more about vegetated assemblies.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Architect: William Craig, Architect and Re:Vision Architecture
Structural Engineer: Michael D. Pieroni, Robert E. Lamb, Inc.
Installation: Former Roofmeadow Network Contractor, Michael Furbish, Furbish Company, LLC
Vegetated Mat Provider: Sempergreen
Greenroof System: Roofmeadow Types I and III
Growing and Drainage Media: SkyGarden, Stancills, Inc.

Additional Info

Headquartered in Philadelphia,  PECO is an energy delivery subsidiary of Exelon Corporation and is the largest electric and natural gas utility in Pennsylvania, serving approximately 1.6 million electric customers and 490,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania.  Approximately 90% of PECO’s customers are residential and the remaining 10% are commercial and industrial.

PECO is taking major steps to demonstrate its environmental leadership.  In 2008 PECO embarked on the first phase of a five-year major environmental initiative to preserve the environment and help customers become more environmentally responsible.

Along with other initiatives and policies, the company received ISO 14001 certification, the internationally recognized standard to help organizations minimize their  impact on the environment.  See the very informative video, “PECO’s Environmental Initiative” below which also has time lapse photography of the greenroof installation:

 

For example, in addition to the 47,000 sf greenroof  atop the Main Office Building headquarters – which was largest greenroof in the state of Pennsylvania on an existing building –  the PECO Crown Lights were updated with the installation of 2 million energy-efficient LEDs (light-emitting diodes) with color capacity, resulting in a 40% energy savings.

As the result of a centuries old combined sewer system, the city of Philadelphia is plagued with a serious water pollution problem.  The PECO Main Office Building sits on the densely developed Schuylkill River banks in the heart of Center City and the roof footprint is 95% of the lot area.

In an effort to solve the onerous CSO issue and comply with the Federal Clean Water Act, the city is incentivizing green infrastructure as a key solution, with the added advantage of providing additional environmental benefits for the adjacent cityscape.  Initiatives include  Green Cities, Clean Waters Plan,  Philadelphia’s 25-year plan to protect and enhance their watersheds by managing stormwater with innovative green infrastructure.

“The Philadelphia Water Department developed the Green City, Clean Waters plan to provide a clear pathway to a sustainable and resilient future while strengthening the utility, broadening its mission and complying with environmental laws and regulations.” ~ Green Cities, Clean Waters Plan

Shown below on the roof, Howard Neukrug is the Water Commissioner at the Philadelphia Water Department and the man behind the Green City, Clean Waters Plan:

The PECO green roof is under management with the  Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) which leads regular tours of the roof by appointment and on special  occasions.

“In order to safely accommodate guests, the roof area used for tours and gatherings is separated from the rest of the expanse by a self-ballasting, ADA compliant railing for pedestrian safety. The railing provides a secure barrier without requiring the attachment to the roof deck or penetration of the waterproofing membrane.” ~  Roofmeadow Case Study

The  43,000 square foot  extensive portion is unirrigated and was planted with drought resistant vegetation using 12 different species of Sedums.  The remaining  2,000 square foot  intensive portion is planted with perennials and ornamental grasses indigenous to Pennsylvania  and uses a partial base capillary irrigation system, providing moisture without losing any water into the atmosphere.

Due to weight concerns, the growing media is a specially formulated lightweight blend specified by Charlie Miller and the pre-vegetated mats were produced with the same blend by Sempergreen.  On site in Philadelphia, a second batch of extra lightweight media was distributed before the mats were unrolled. The growing and drainage media for the extensive areas and the intensive beds and planters were provided by SkyGarden.

“We made a very definite decision to choose plants that were drought resistant or drought tolerant.” ~ Liz Williamson of PECO in 6abc.com.

The green roof has recovered from die back of some species during the hot, dry summer of 2010; the vegetative cover is now more diverse and vigorous than ever.  The Roofmeadow maintenance program is being followed and documented.

“Roofmeadow and PHS closely track the native plants to identify those that are best able to endure the harsh conditions of a windy, riverside rooftop.”  ~  Roofmeadow Case Study.  Download it here.

Along  with the City of Philadelphia, the PHS is co-hosting the upcoming 9th annual  Green Roofs for Healthy Cities 2011 CitiesAlive Green Roof & Wall Conference on November 30 – December 3 (read more about the Conference here).

Drew Beecher, president of PHS, and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter were filmed for  this promotional video below  on top of the PECO greenroof – click to see:

The PECO  Main Office Building  greenroof will be included as part of the  CitiesAlive  Center Cities Tour and also will be the focus of a technical session, Session 5.  If you come to Philly for the CitiesAlive Conference, you must see this wonderful roof!  Aramis and I will definitely be on this tour.

Public outreach and education are very important to PECO – if you can’t make it for CitiesAlive, do call PECO when in town to set up a tour.  The PECO Main Office Building is located at 2301 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103  – visit their website here.

Did we miss something?  We’d love to hear from you!  Click  here to see more information about this project in  The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See how you can submit yours  here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.