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.