Greenroofs.com’s “This Week in Review” on GreenroofsTV: April 22nd, 2011

April 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm

Each week you can expect to learn What’s New here on  Greenroofs.com through our “This Week in Review” video.   Here’s the transcript for April 22, 2011 from our daughter,  Anjuli –  click on the photo below to see the video, or  here.   Enjoy!

–   Hello, I’m Anjuli Velazquez and welcome to This Week in Review for April 22nd, 2011, Earth Day,  on  GreenroofsTV.

–  Project of the Week

– Our project of the week is the  Cook+Fox Architects Office built in 2006 in New York, NY.  The Cook+Fox Architects decided to set a greener, healthier example with a roof that absorbs stormwater, lowers surface temperature, and benefits both the local ecosystem and the human environment.  The firm was interested in a flexible system that could allow for a custom shaped greenroof, and the Green Paks were a perfect fit.  In December 2006, the new Cook+Fox office was officially awarded Platinum certification under LEED for Commercial Interiors.  Cook+Fox designed its project in collaboration with Green Roof Blocks, a St. Louis, Missouri-based roofing company, but was able to contribute most of the labor needed for installation from their own architects and staff, substantially reducing the cost of the project.  The greenroof has become a highlight of the office and a valuable educational tool for clients, visitors, and employees.

– To learn more about Cook+Fox Architects, LLP Office, click on our project of the week photo on our  homepage,  read Linda’s blog post on Sky Gardens or watch the premiere of our Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World WebTV episode featuring the Cook+Fox Architects Office now playing on our homepage, greenroofsTV page and on our greenroofsTV YouTube channel!

–   “What’s New“

–   Check out what John Shepley, our new Green Business Editor, has to share in his first column titled “Sustainable Business Insights.”

–  Advertiser Press Release:    LiveRoof Selects Stormwater360 New Zealand to Distribute its Green Roof System in New Zealand and Australia.

Submitting a photo for our  2011 “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest has been extended to next Friday, April 29th – so go to our Facebook page and keep submitting your greenroofs and walls photos and tell your friends and family to vote!

– Be sure to read Linda’s Sky Gardens Blog posts  “Our New Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World WebTV Video Premiere & GPW: Cook+Fox Architects, LLP,” “Cradle to Cradle & Inhabitat’s Green Giveaway,” and “Greenroofs.com’s “˜This Week in Review’ on GreenroofsTV: April 15th, 2011.”

Industry News

–   The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and its Committee on the Environment (COTE) have selected the top ten example of sustainable architecture and green design solutions that protect and enhance the environment.  And three  of those 10 have greenroofs! Congrats to Cherokee Studios, First Unitarian Society Meeting House and the Vancouver Convention Centre West for their achievements!

–   “Upcoming Events“

–   April 27th: GRHC’s GRP Exam will be held in Toronto, Canada.

–   April 27th-28th: are Tremco Roofing & Maintenance Division – Educational Seminars for Environmental Excellence, 2-day High Performance Buildings Expo in Toronto, Canada.

–   April 27th-29th: is the Living Future – The UNconference for Deep Green Professionals in Seattle, WA.

–   April 28th: Building Green Expo & Workshops in New York, NY.

–   April 28th-29th: is the ASLA Texas Chapter – Regional Conference & Expo in Galveston, TX.

–   And on April 28th-May 1st: is the GRHC: Green Roof Boot Camp in New York, NY.

–   “In the News“

–    Joe Peach of This Big City Blog asks, “Is the World’s Greatest Green Roof in Warsaw, Poland?”  He says, “Warsaw is Poland’s biggest city…and with its violent history now something of the past, the city has been able to refocus, positioning itself as a metropolitan hub linking west and east Europe.”  One way that has happened is with the University of Warsaw’s Library: a building with an impressive green roof that is also an urban park.

–   Tracey Lindeman of the Montreal Mirror talks about “Life from above.”  Lufa Farms and the Rooftop Garden Project make eating local an urban reality by installing their own rooftop garden and rooftop greenhouse.  “It’s farming for geeks,” says Kurt Lynn, co-founder of Lufa farms.  But actually, its 21st century community-supported agriculture: food grown on a roof just around the corner from the people who eat it.

–   To learn more about these stories and new ones posted daily, go to our  In the News or  newslinks section of our website.

–   Have something you think we should know about and post on our website?   You can send us your green articles, videos and images to  editor@greenroofs.com.

–   Stay up-to-date with what’s going on at  Greenroofs.com by subscribing to our  greenroofsTV channel on YouTube, following us on  Twitter, liking us on  Facebook and being a member of our network on  LinkedIn.

–   This has been This Week in Review for April 22nd, 2011 on GreenroofsTV.  I’m Anjuli Velazquez and I’ll see you next week!

*This week’s episode is sponsored by  The Greenroof Directory, brought to you by  Greenroofs.com.*

Did we miss something?   We’d love to hear from you!

~ Linda V.

2009 Top 10 List of Milestones and Accomplishments

January 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm
Sunbeams at sunset from Webshots

As we continue to ring in 2010 we hope you enjoyed warm holidays with family and friends and celebrated the New Year with renewed hope for the future.   Can you believe we’ve entered a new decade?   Shall we call it 2K10, Twenty Ten, or just good old fashioned 2,010?   In any case, we’re finally out of the 0’s, now we’re into the 10’s.

Our world economy has been through a lot in the past few years, yet with a promising light hovering just over the horizon.   Although development overall has declined, there is continued desire for green buildings from both the public and private sector, and in general our greenroof & greenwall industry has weathered quite nicely.   Many of  us are  taking time to reflect on this passage of time and make New Year’s resolutions (another topic altogether!), and I was thinking of how far  we  have come since the German experience entered our architectural radar and into our collective consciousness in the 1990’s.   Literally thousands of vegetated roofs and walls have been constructed since then in  every continent except for Antarctica, with ever growing support from forward thinking  multidisciplinary professionals: designers, government officials, organizations, companies, universities, students and other  advocates looking to make Earth a little more sustainable.

Sadly, one of those special,  innovative people passed away last November 27,  the indomitable architect Malcolm Wells.   Regarded as “the father of modern earth-sheltered architecture,” he was a staunch advocate  of living architecture, known for his way ahead-of-the-times underground earth designs with living roofs  starting in  the 1960’s, see just one example below.   He leaves a legacy of what he referred to as gentle architecture,  design that would, in his own words, “leave the land no worse than you found it.”

 

Malcom Well's design for an eco-gas station, from MalcomWells.com.

The visionary Malcolm Wells' design for an eco-gas station, from MalcolmWells.com.

 

Many inspirational people and organizations have contributed to our current market,  and I want to highlight just a few success stories from the past year, personal and global.   So in my review, here are my favorite 2009  Top 10 Milestones and Accomplishments for both Greenroofs.com as a company and our international community as a whole:

10)   In 2009 Greenroofs.com celebrated 10 years of being in business!   We’ve seen a lot of progress and change for the good here as well as across the greenroof world.   The fledgling Greenroofs.com – “exploring the ecology of organic greenroof architecture” started out as 60+ pages in 1999 as the result of an independent research study I did at the University of Georgia.

What Greenroofs.com looked like in 1999.

By 2003 we changed our format and grew  into Greenroofs.com – “the international greenroof industry’s resource and online information portal,” and contained 600+ pages  at the end of  2009 (not counting the hundreds of  .php pages from The Greenroof Directory or The Greenroof Projects Database).   At present, each month Greenroofs.com receives more than 160,000 unique visits and about 400,000 page views, and we’ve also expanded our presence in social marketing, too, so now you can stay connected with us on: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, eNewsletter (our monthly eNewsletter consists of 10,000 opt-in subscribers) & YouTube, as well as our Blog.

Greenroofs.com in 2010!

9)   The  proliferation of living architecture is greatly  spreading and permeating into the areas of  design, policy, research  and  education through numerous world  conferences, congresses, expos, trainings, tours, and other events.   For example, the World Green Infrastructure Network (WGIN) – formerly the World Green Roof Infrastructure Network (WGRIN) –  held its first CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Congress in Toronto, Canada,  with the second scheduled for Mexico City this October, 2010.   The International Green Roof Association (IGRA) hosted the 2nd International Green Roof Congress 2009 in Nürtingen, Germany and  the 3rd annual  Green Roofs Australia Conference 2009 was held at the University of Melbourne.   Longevity was evident  with  the 7th National FBB Green Roof Conference in Ditzingen, Germany  and the 7th annual Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards, and Trade Show in Atlanta, Georgia.   By the way, look for the 8th annual GRHC conference to  occur in Vancouver, B.C.  on November 30 – December 2, 2010, rebranded as  “Cities Alive.”   Look for many new 2010 events throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Germany, China, Singapore, India and more under Upcoming Events, where you can also access  Past Events.

8)   For the third year, we published our 2010 Greenroofs of the World™ Calendar.   I’ve already blogged about it, and we’re very proud of our first hard product.   And we thank our Sponsors for their support: American Hydrotech, Barrett Company, Conservation Technology, Express Blower, GREEN ROOF BLOCKS,  GreenGrid,  International Leak Detection (ILD), LiveRoof, Roofscapes, Inc., Saul Nurseries, Tremco, Xero Flor America,  and ZinCo USA.   You can find the Calendar on Amazon.com, but it’s a better deal if you order from us!

The 2010 Greenroofs of the World Front Cover

7) Green walls are firmly  becoming entrenched in sustainable design, evidenced by  high media attention, as much for their green properties as for their edible  gardening possibilities. We’ve had tons of news articles posted in NewsLinks, our huge database of global articles,  concerning living walls and green façades!   In fact,  they  were listed as #31 in TIME’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009 and  Triple Pundit recently proposed:  “Gardens Grow Up: Are Vertical Landscapes the New Green Roofs?”  – both featuring  the works of  Patrick Blanc.   In our business  you’d have to be living under a rock not to know who the renowned French botanist is; his often fantastical “murs végétalisés” designs stretch the limits of horticulture and design.   Since 1994, he has created over 140 public vertical gardens as well as many private installations,  including his most famous, the  Quai Branly Museum in Paris,  shown below.   Read more about green walls from Treehugger, Daily Telegraph, Daily Commercial News, The New York Times, Times Online and CNN.com, just to name a few.

Quai Branly Museum photo by Jean-Claude Lafarge on www.jeanclaudelafarge.fr

Quai Branly Museum photo courtesy and by Jean-Claude Lafarge on http://www.jeanclaudelafarge.fr/paris.html.

In 2009  Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the North American professional association, established greenwall research projects at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland, and GRHC has included an award  category for Green Wall Excellence in Design for a couple of years now.   In 2008 Greenroofs.com added our 8th Contributing Editor, George Irwin –  aptly titled The Green Wall Editor  – to cover this growing vertical gardening field, and new for 2010 we have altered the title of our Greenroof Projects Database to reflect the inclusion of these:   The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

6) Investing in green building and infrastructure makes good economic sense by integrating green building policies into wider economic development goals, and creates a new job market. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) has prompted a gigantic increase in federal green spending, providing new money to all levels of government, aimed at stimulating the economy, promoting job growth, and lowering energy costs, providing an unprecedented opportunity for advancing green building and sustainability efforts in the U.S.    And last December, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported at least 138 U.S. cities with populations over 50,000 people have green building programs in place (compared to only 92 in 2007).   Referring to the economic recession, the AIA said “The downturn has had a devastating effect on construction generally, but sustainable building design continues to maintain and improve its market share.”   Read their 2009 in depth study “Green Building Policy in a Changing Economic Environment” to learn more.

 

AIA 2009 Study of Green Building Programs by Cities

American Institute of Architects 2009 Study of Green Building Programs by Cities

 

U.S. economic stimulus efforts  encompass green energy and construction, including greenroofs along with other forms of green building, and  just one such example of Recovery Act funds benefit Washington D.C., where the Washington Business Journal says “Nearly $4 million would go toward building more than 100,000 sf of green roofs on city buildings, including libraries, firehouses and a demonstration project atop the parking garage deck at University of the District of Columbia.   The stimulus funds would also expand the city’s green roof rebate program to allow residents and small businesses to afford another 20,000 sf of private green roof space.”

And importantly, many green building programs are also creating “green collar” jobs.   In late 2009, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Booz Allen Hamilton conducted a study and stated “Green building will support 7.9 million U.S. jobs and pump $554 billion into the American economy – including $396 billion in wages – over the next four years (2009-2013).    The study also determined that green construction spending currently supports more than 2 million American jobs and generates more than $100 billion in gross domestic product and wages…The full report can be downloaded at www.usgbc.org/greeneconomy, where one can also find other research, resources, tools and information about green building and its role in the economic recoveries of professionals, businesses and the nation.”   According to an analysis by American Rivers and the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that a $10 billion nationwide initiative to install greenroofs alone would result in almost 200,000 jobs – the Senate is expected to consider its own version of the bill in early 2010.

DC Greenworks' efforts at the Reeves Center

SSBx with Green the Ghetto participants

Some U.S. leaders offering hope and opportunity by creating greenroof/greenwall-specific green collar jobs through training include Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx) and their various programs,  i.e., “Green the Ghetto”  and “Bronx Environmental Stewardship Training (BEST)”;  D.C. Greenworks; Chicagoland Green Collar Jobs Initiative, and the  Urban Farming Food Chain.

5) Green Roofs for Healthy Cities launched the Green Roof Professional (GRP) accreditation   for North America.   The GRP is a measure of knowledge of established best practices and although a voluntary program, with the designation professionals can distinguish themselves in the marketplace.   This association milestone was at least four years in the making!   Currently with  more than 250  GRP’s in 2009,  GRHC  hopes to add more professionals in 2010.   Check their website for future  testing dates, and  consider attending one of their Green Roof Boot Camps to refresh and get you ready.   See my interview with Jeff Bruce, president of Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company, Chair of GRHC  and the GRHC Training and Accreditation Committee, which developed the Green Roof Professional program, to learn why the organization felt this accreditation was needed, how it evolved, and where it’s heading.   For more info on the GRP, see “A Video Introduction to the GRP Program” from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

4) Within the U.S. industry, major contributions were made in the area to develop best practice  wind and fire standards for greenroof design.   Since 2007, leaders from various organizations have been working hard on prescriptive standards, and  in 2009 standards were inserted into the International Building Code from members of  GRHC and Single Ply Roofing Industry (SPRI).   Read “Green Roof Wind & Fire Design Guidelines: After Three Years, Half the Battle is Won,” written by one of our Contributing Editors, Kelly Luckett, The Green Roof Guy, to learn about this winding road’s development of RP-14 and VF-1.    And stay tuned for updates with  his column  here on Greenroofs.com.

 

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) Wind Tunnel Testing in June, 2009.

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUe) Wind Tunnel Testing in June, 2009.

 

3)  The global Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database surpassed the 1,000 mark in December!   So where are all these greenroofs and greenwalls anyway?   Let’s continue to work together to grow, update, and share valuable case studies for our communal benefit, for free.   Even in today’s openly transparent society (think Google Earth), some people worry about confidentiality issues, and we only post information that is submitted to us by owners/project principals or that which is openly available through  various media channels, and we always list owners as “private” when requested.   The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database is now searchable by  24 fields, including specifically for green walls.   After our Home Page, the Projects Database is the next visited page on Greenroofs.com – make sure your projects and valuable  experiences are included here.

2)    My  albeitly biased personal favorite, Greenroofs.com inaugurated our first  episode of the Sky Gardens ~ Greenroofs of the World WebTV series.   Premiering  at Boston GreenFest in September, our new venture followed  on the GreenroofsTV channel on YouTube, and next on our own greenroofs.tv, where you can now see it in its entirety at just under 37 minutes.   By the way, you can also view our video offshoot,  “Greenroofs 101 from Greenroofs.com” (4:50) in Greenroofs 101 or directly below, which is a great way to  introduce the concept to newcomers.   Coming soon is episode 2, highlighting the gorgeous Cook+Fox Architects corporate offices in Manhattan, NY.   Our third episode is in the works, and more are being scheduled, so stay tuned!

1) 2009 saw some serious support for greenroofs, championed by professional organizations and governmental bodies alike. Global industry support has grown over the years, and many advocates continue to actively promote them worldwide.  For example, the City of Chicago, certainly the U.S. leader in greenroofs, now has over 7 million square feet of vegetated roofs completed or under development.   New support in 2009 includes:

North America:   In addition to offering eco-incentives for greenroofs,  currently Toronto has the most progressive policy in North America – last May  Toronto became the first city  here to adopt a bylaw to require and govern the construction of greenroofs.   The new bylaw will be required on all new development above 2,000 m ² (about 21,530 sf) of gross floor area and have a graduated coverage requirement ranging from 20-60%.   Working with a program budget  of $800,000/year, owners of industrial and commercial buildings can apply for grants worth up to $100,000 (Canadian) to build a greenroof.    Mayor David Miller predicts the rules and incentives will create 50 to 60 green-roofed buildings per year, in addition to their current 135 vegetated roofs.   Green Roofs for Healthy Cities supported the by-law against pressure from developers opposed to the policy.    See more details under Industry Support and at the City of Toronto website.

Toronto City Hall

Here in the U.S., in late 2009  ASLA, the American Society of Landscape Architects, worked with Congress to include the Green Act into the House-passed climate change legislation.   The Act would require the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to employ greenroofs, tree canopy coverage, and other site planning techniques to help reduce heating and cooling costs in certain HUD facilities.   Still pending before the Senate Finance Committee,  last January Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) introduced the Clean Energy Stimulus and Investment Assurance Act of 2009 (S.320), legislation geared toward creating high-wage green-collar jobs and revitalizing the economy through clean energy investments.   ASLA worked with Senator Cantwell’s office to ensure that a section of the bill was dedicated to green roof tax incentives, and  GRHC  provided technical support.   Under section 506 of the bill, residential and commercial property owners will receive a 30% tax credit for qualified greenroof expenditures.

As you may recall, Congress enacted Section 438 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) to require federal agencies to reduce stormwater runoff from federal development projects to protect water resources and in October of 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514 on “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance” calling upon all federal agencies to lead by example and address a wide range of environmental issues, including stormwater runoff.   Federal agencies can comply with Section 438 by using a variety of green infrastructure / low impact development techniques including living roofs.   Prepared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in coordination with other federal agencies, the “Technical Guidance on Implementing the Stormwater Runoff Requirements for Federal Projects under Section 438 of the Energy Independence and Security Act” PDF is highly detailed and  instructive.

State and municipal  governments also provided policy support:   Former  Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine signed three bills promoting incentives in 2009: HB 1975 and SB 1058 authorize localities to grant regulatory flexibility and incentives to promote the construction of vegetative roofs on private homes and businesses.  The incentives or regulatory flexibility could include a reduction in permit fees, a streamlined process for the approval of building permits, or a reduction in any gross receipts tax on greenroof contractors as defined by the local ordinance.   The third bill, HB 1828, allows water authorities to offer rate incentives for vegetative roof construction, based on the percentage of stormwater runoff reduction.   In late fall, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSDGC), and the Office of Environmental Quality created a Green Roof Loan Program utilizing money from the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund.   OEPA has made $5,000,000 available for linked deposit, below market rate loans to install green vegetative roofs within the service area of MSDGC on residential, commercial and/or industrial buildings.

Built Ecoroofs in Portland as of 12-09

Already a city offering several greenroof incentives, in October Portland‘s city commission approved a Climate Action Plan which calls for a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and an 80% reduction by 2050.   According to the Portland Business Journal, “The Plan calls for the city and county to take 93 actions over the next three years.  City bureaus must immediately begin implementing 15 of the new climate-related initiatives, such as establishing a tax credit for businesses that install ecoroofs and solar panels together.”   And last month, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District invited governments, organizations, school districts, and businesses within the 28 communities it serves to participate in their 2010 Regional Green Roof Initiative Program.   Among other prerequisites, proposed projects must minimize impervious roof area and maximize the reduction in the rate and/or volume of stormwater runoff.

The World:   Singapore is targeting 50 hectares of skyrise greenery by 2030 and its Urban Redevelopment Authority launched  the LUSH Programme (Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High-Rises) in April of 2009.   Offering financial and planning incentives to developers to provide greenery at the upper levels of high rise buildings, their goal is to make 80% of all buildings in  Singapore green by 2030. Quezon City, Phillipines has a new law requiring private and government-owned buildings to green part of their rooftops.    New commercial/residential buildings, under the Green Roof Ordinance (Ordinance 1940) signed into law by Mayor Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. last September, should  allocate at least 30% of their roof area for plants and trees.   In Australia, the Queensland Government signed a “Memorandum Of Understanding” with the Singapore National Parks Board late last year to trial vertical gardens and greenroofs in various cities in an effort to benefit from Singapore’s experience with skyrise greenery.

A splendid Sky Terrace at the One George Street building in downtown Singapore; source: The Star.com

Dubai Municipality launched a greenroof initiative in line with a Dubai law on green building specifications.    The Municipality’s strategic goal is to raise per capita green area to 23.4 square meters by the end of 2011,  with the green building project coming under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, United Arab Emirate Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.   A public awareness  campaign  for greenroofs was announced  last month, committed to the “development of laws and regulations to keep pace with international standards in the field of sustainable development by planting green roofs and facades in the Emirate of Dubai.”   Traveling display models and educational publications will circulate residential neighborhoods and shopping centers and markets for a 12-month period.   Read more on the Dubai Municipality Portal.   One spectacular greening project currently on the boards in Dubai is the self-sustained system “Food City” below, designed by Green Concepts Landscape Architects (GCLA):

Dubai Food City; photo source: Inhabitat

The proposed Dubai Food City, conceptualized by landscape architecture firm GCLA.

 Well, those are my thoughts on the  important  highlights of 2009, and while on the topic  of Top 10 lists, Haven Kiers – our Design Editor – and I are compiling our 4th annual Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Designs for 2010, and we welcome your input with  ideas and project example submissions, as usual!   Send comments to Linda@greenroofs.com or DesignEditor@greenroofs.com.

So here we are at the start of a whole new year – we hope you’re excited and optimistic about it, just as we are!     Whatever 2009 offered you, we hope you embraced new friends and opportunities and experienced great personal and professional growth, and we thank you for your readership.   What’s in store for our new decade?   We’ll see, but as the green building industry continues with positive signs of sustained growth, let’s also continue to collaborate and create a more sustainable world with eco-architecture embracing greenroofs and greenwalls as part of the overall green living architecture strategy.

“I woke up one day to the fact that the earth’s surface was made for living plants, not industrial plants.”   ~ Malcolm Wells

Here’s a gentle toast  to continued  health, love,  and  prosperity  for you, your families, and all of our  greenroof associates in 2010!

Happy Greening ~ 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.