The Best Green Roof Solution… by Jörg Breuning, the Green Roof Patroller

September 28, 2017 at 6:11 pm

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

The Best Green Roof Solution: Education & Experience

In my opinion as the Green Roof Patroller, the best green roof solution can only come from well-educated practitioners with a very long experience in selected horticultural and landscaping fields.  Over the many decades, Green Roofs have been developed from a mixture of high performance natural materials to a combination of engineered elements with natural components.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Case in Point: “Classic” Roof Drain Cover.

Since North America was introduced to modern Green Roof technology much later than Europe, I believe only a few people understand the real basics and the evolution of this amazing landscaping/ horticultural practice on ground-remote locations.

Trial and Error System

Without understanding the basics, the North American Green Roof market is still like a kid who learns by trial and error – on the back and costs of building owners.  One problem is that every few months “new,” “revolutionary,” and “optimized” Green Roof systems are introduced.  Made of all kinds of materials that may sound good, many hardly withstand the biological activity of plants or the harsh environment on the roof for as long as the structure lasts.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Brilliance – we don’t know what we are doing but when we mix all kind of different materials, double up drainage, and weigh it down with pavers, there should be no problem, right?

Something that may have been tested by NASA or firefighters isn’t automatically good for the plants or the environment.  The engineers or technicians behind such reinventions of the wheel might have fancy degrees.  However, many have hardly installed their own developments with their own hands on a large scale.

Long Term Research Lacking

Additionally, they never evaluated their inventions or innovation over a long enough time (more than 5 or 10 years) before making them available for the market.  I have seen people coming into this industry with a big bang and quietly leaving after a while to move up in the hierarchy of a different industry – to do the same there?

Who You Gonna Call?

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Erosion Blanket – is eroded and takes the soil down.  Sometimes a belt, suspenders, duct tape, super glue, and a nail in the belly button don’t help to hold the pants.  Buy pants in your size!

All of a sudden, the kid falls into the water well (a/k/a the Green Roof is not performing), then the building owners call for practitioners who are supposed to fix the engineers’ problems.  Building owners don’t usually call the original engineers or technicians because they can be vain.

And, when later problems or questions arise from the building owner, the engineers behind the design of the green roof don’t necessarily feel responsible anymore.  Perhaps they don’t always know the answers without Google, and these are hardly right.  In some cases they call a practitioner later; and even then, they don’t always provide the entire picture.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

The beauty of engineering – a squared box doesn’t follow a radius.

Engineers are typically not seeking for answers that discredit their efforts.  However, they try to suck out every piece of information they can get from practitioners and simultaneously avoid valuing the source because of being afraid of scratches to their polished image.

Plants vs. the Bottom Line

An additional problem is that most engineers (even at universities) are on the payroll of large corporations that are pressured to develop profit-maximizing solutions.  These solutions are typically against the needs of plants – because plants don’t care about money and the stock market.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Plants are “only” the key player on green roofs.  No happy plants = no Green Roof = no happy client.

Underperforming Green Roofs

I estimate that around 50%-60% of all Green Roofs in North America are underperforming, failing, or have been renovated, replaced, or will be going under a major renovation soon.  For Germany I would estimate this number at around 5%.  At the same time, in Europe an extensive Green Roof costs around $5/sf and in the US closer to $20/sf.

My Concerns within the North American Green Roof Industry Besides the Odd Engineering Practices?

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Ingenuity – when polystyrene plastic materials fall apart before they are installed.

1. No solid, full time practical training over more than two years before getting a professional in this field.

2. Students are not being paid during practical education – they actually have to pay a few 1,000 bucks to get a certification, like buying a certificate or a title at Walmart.

3. No innovative and large scale research over 5-10 years.  Just baby step copies and mail stamp-size research (typical research areas in Europe are 10-50 times bigger than in the US).

4. Green Roof contracts are coupled with roofing contracts (it is like buying a dryer only in combination with a fridge).

5. Low roofing quality, materials and/or inverted roof membrane assemblies (IRMA).

6. Repurposing materials that were never engineered for green roofs (e.g., in my opinion, there is no American-made drainage board that would meet my criteria and the full needs for plants).

7. Worthless single source warranties.  If you choose your own microwave, you don’t get a warranty on the fridge.

8. Greed for quick cash and/or fame.

9. Not understanding the big difference within the horticultural trades (a carrot grower is not automatically a green roof expert and a beekeeper doesn’t understands all plants).

10. Huge deficit in experienced and reliable hands-on installers and maintenance for Green Roofs.

11. Often, hands-on installers/practitioners are treated dismissively from architects, GCs (general contractors), roofing companies, or engineers.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

This makes a worried customer and a happy landfill.

Green Collar Workers

Practitioners are not Blue Collar workers, they are not White Collar workers.  We are Green Collar workers who stand above the traditional collar thinking and who have had the patience to monitor this unique living environment for decades to learn how to go beyond what is written in books or on the internet.

All the above problems have a great potential to damage the Green Roof business in the long term.  Building owners don’t want to be ripped off and each project that causes problems will change their opinion about Green Roofs in general.  While many building owners don’t want to commit to owning up to a problem on their green roof, others will spread the word among other building owners.

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

The nature of nature – growing media below a plastic box with stressed Sedums. When you hire a butcher: Edging with hardly any slots; slots are too big and too high.

Ultimately, all the nice colorful brochures and great write-ups from environmental associations won’t help to change the opinion of a dissatisfied building owner, nor will it change the quality of Green Roofs.

As a practitioner I approach things very practically:

If I want a good loaf of bread, I am simply not going to the butcher.  So why do you let the butcher engineer your Green Roof?

Jörg Breuning, the Green Roof Patroller

The Best Green Roof Solution Jörg Breuning Green Roof Patroller

Jörg Breuning is the founder and owner of the advisory, engineering, and design firm Green Roof Service LLC / Green Roof Technology. He first came in touch with modern green roof technology, or ecoroofs, in 1980 as an employee at a German landscape and green roofing company in Stuttgart. While continuing to practice his hands?on education, Jörg attended the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany earning his degree in Horticultural Science. In 1985 he started his own company focused on ground remote vegetation, extensive green roofs and the establishment of vegetation on extreme locations. Since then his company has overseen countless projects, introduced many green roof innovations or installation techniques, and received many awards.

Contact Jörg at or 443-345-1578.  Or post your opinions here.

Past Green Roof Patroller Articles

The opinions expressed by our Guest Contributors may not necessarily reflect the beliefs of, and are offered to our readers to simply present individual views and experiences and open a dialogue of further discussion, debate and research.  Enjoy, and please share your comments.

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists at the 2017 Virtual Summit

April 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists 2017 Virtual Summit

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists 2017 Virtual Summit

We hope you’ll join us for our 2017 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit: Connecting the Planet + Living Architecture. Highlighting excellence and lessons learned in green living architecture, the 4th biennial web-based Virtual Summit is being held from April 9 through December 31, 2017.

We’ll have a variety of live events scheduled though December 2017 – all with the backdrop of our fantastic speaker videos you can watch on demand from across the globe.  But up first is the Long Earth Day Weekend this Friday, Saturday and Sunday – don’t miss watching these videos in time for their Q & As!

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists at the 2017 Virtual Summit!

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists 2017 Virtual Summit

For Earth Week we’re highlighting these awesome colleagues and practitioners and their engrossing videos:

Keynote Joanne Rodriguez, CSI, CDT, LEED AP, Tremco Director, Sustainable & Strategic Initiatives:

Roofing BMP’s for Low-Impact Development Projects

Adrienne Aiona, PE, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services, Stormwater Management Manual Manager and Henry Stevens, City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services:

Credits for Stormwater Management: A Survey of North American Cities with a Focus on Portland, OR

David L. Aponte, MSCE, GRP, PRGD Inc. Founder & Principal:

Managing Stormwater with the Use of Green Infrastructure in the Caribbean Region

Jörg Breuning, Green Roof Service LLC / Green Roof Technology Founder:

Green Tea 4 Two with Patrick Carey & Jörg Breuning” – a talk along with architectural designer Patrick Carey, GRP

Dusty Gedge, European Federation of Green Roof Associations (EFB) President and Founder:

Green Roofs and Walls – a View from London

Elizabeth Hart, CDT, GRP, Tremco, Inc. Manager, Sustainability Program Development and Green Roof Info Think-tank (GRiT) Executive Director:

Extended Lifecycle Green Roofs – Avoiding Failure of Roofing and Vegetation

Thomas W. Liptan, FASLA, Green Infrastructure Specialist:

Sustainable Stormwater Management: A Landscape-Driven Approach to Planning and Design

Eyal Mirelman, BLDVEG – Building Vegetation Co-Founder & Owner:

Hardware and Software – Balancing the Ingredients for the Middle East

Charlie Miller, PE, Roofmeadow Founding Principal and President:

The Second City – Elevated, Grounded, Inspired”- along with landscape architect Laura Hansplant, RLA, LEED AP

Amy Norquist, GRP, Greensulate Founder & CEO:

Experience Gained: Lessons Learned by a Decade-old Green Roof Company

James Ramsey, raad Founder & Principal, Lowline Designer:

The Lowline

See the entire Agenda.

Speaker Q & As this Long Earth Day Weekend

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists 2017 Virtual Summit

Don’t miss our upcoming first live event over the Long Earth Day Weekend for Speaker Q & As – see the Agenda for dates and times.

FREE Global Social Media Event

This is a FREE global Social Media Event!  Connect with your favorite speakers and we’ll see you online soon!

Thank you to our Partners, and please contact Aramis if you’re interested in being a Sponsor or Exhibitor at

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists 2017 Virtual Summit

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists 2017 Virtual Summit

By Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA, LEED AP, GRP Publisher & Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Virtual Summit Host

Register now and join us online for our 2017 Virtual Summit with live events over the Long Earth Day Weekend: April 21, 22, & 23 – and through December, 2017!

Watch Green Infrastructure Specialists 2017 Virtual Summit

Greenroof & Greenwall Directory Company of the Week for January 9, 2015: Green Roof Service LLC – Green Roof Technology

January 12, 2015 at 9:00 am

New feature on!

Our Greenroof & Greenwall Directory Company of the Week is an exclusive benefit for companies listed in our Directory, highlighting their business to our audience of stakeholders, professionals, and decision makers:

GCW-Green-Roof-Service-010915Green Roof Service LLC – Green Roof Technology are experts from Germany with more than 35 years of experience in planning, designing, installation and maintenance.

Green-Roof-Technology-logoGreen Roof Service – Green Roof Technology’s unparalleled consulting expertise focuses on reviewing and evaluating Green Roof and Wall designs, specifications, installations, and maintenance at any stage of the project including Horticultural Consultation, Product Development and Testing, Roof Deck Consulting, Planting Design, Planting Plans, Plant Sourcing or Contract Growing, Growing Media Specifications and Installation Guidance (including Hands-on Training), long-term Maintenance Plans and Warranty Handling.

And they are the first company in North America to promote a highly advanced solution to combine Green Roofs and Photovoltaics as a seamless, non-roof penetrating system with a payback of under 5 years, depending on location.


For more detailed information about Green Roof Service – Green Roof Technology, please visit their company profile in The Greenroof & Greenwall Directory.

In addition to the eNews blast to our 10,000+ opt-in subscribers, we have created a prominent position on the Homepage for this weekly spotlight as well as posted on all our social media sites…  And, the centerpiece of this premier feature is the original video!  This exclusive video (about 1:00 -2:00 min., depending on listing level) of each firm is also included inside their company profiles – see below.  For additional exposure, these videos will also be playing on various playlists in our GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube.


Would you like to have your company featured as Company of the Week?  First, you have to be listed in The Greenroof & Greenwall Directory at either the Sponsor, Elite, or Premium advertiser level.

Get Listed! Join The International Greenroof & Greenwall Directory.

Please check out our Advertise with Us page or contact us at email: or phone: 888-477-1326.

If you want to get found, you have to be listed!

~ Linda V.

Video & Project of the Week for November 24, 2014: Insurance/Financial Company, Stuttgart (FBB Green Roof of the Year 2014)

November 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm Project of the Week: 11/24/14


Insurance/Financial Company, Stuttgart
(FBB Green Roof of the Year 2014)
Stuttgart, Germany
21,000 sf. Greenroof


Project Description & Details

In 1981 one of the world’s largest insurance and financial services groups decided to build their local headquarters in the heart of Stuttgart. At that time the office building complex was already a big step forward for urban development in many regards. Along with very advanced, environmentally friendly technologies it was also one of the first buildings to achieve the dual purpose of a green work space combined with luxurious living in the downtown of a large city. Green roofs are located on different levels throughout the building campus – atop the above-ground parking garage, and office and residential areas.

Designed by Brümmendorf, Müller, Murr, Reichmann and Luz Landschaftsarchitektur, the inner city oasis was constructed from 1981 to 1984. The green roofs were installed by Jörg Breuning, who was at the time with Otto Arnold GmbH, but now CEO at Green Roof Service LLC / Green Roof Technology. While most are inaccessible, some areas of the green roofs are accessible for coffee breaks and on the highest floors, there is usable garden space for the condominium owners. The top floor even offers extensive lawn areas as playgrounds for kids. Utilizing an advanced Optigreen Green Roof System with fully automatic high tide and low tide irrigation system in the mineral drainage layer, the plants “decide” when they need irrigation; no drop of water is wasted or can evaporate before reaching a plant. The depth of this highly efficient green roof is approximately 18″ and has allowed lawn, perennials, shrubs and small trees to grow for over 30 years without replacement or changing out the growing media.

In fact, the 30-year old roofs were looking in perfect shape and condition and received two prizes including from the oldest green roof association in the world, the FBB (Fachvereiningung für Bauwerksbegrünung): the “FBB Green Roof of the Year 2014.”

Find more photos and additional information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Year: 1981-1984
Owner: Private
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Building Type: Multi-Use
Type: Intensive
System: Single Source Provider
21,000 sq.ft.
Slope: 0%
Access: Accessible & Inaccessible, Private


Designers/Manufacturers of Record:

Landscape Architect: Prof. Hans Luz, Luz Landschaftsarchitektur
Installation: Jorg Breuning, Otto Arnold GmbH
Greenroof System: Optima/Optigreen international AG
Architect: Brümmendorf, Müller, Murr, Reichmann


Project of the Week Video Feature

Watch the Insurance/Financial Company, Stuttgart (FBB Green Roof of the Year 2014) – Project of the Week Video below or see it on our greenroofs.TV on YouTube:

Did we miss your contribution? Please let us know to add you to the profile.

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Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.