Ecoroof Portland, Day 1

March 23, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Since the 1990s, Portland, Oregon,  has worked hard to  earn its reputation as a sustainable building pioneer.   Very socially conscious, it’s also a very young city  in terms of energy and spirit.   As the host of Ecoroof Portland 2010, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services  (BES) does  a great  service to its citizens with this free yearly event with information and technical assistance about ecoroofs – other sponsors included ReDirect Guide, EcoMetro, KXL radio, KINK radio, Portland Business Journal, Left Bank Annex, and ecoShuttle.

A large number of BES staff was on hand to assist, but Matt ran the show.   Matt Burlin  is the  Outreach Coordinator, Sustainable Stormwater Management, City of Portland Environmental Services, and  did an excellent job of organizing and coordinating everything!   Held at the Left Bank Annex  close to the Rose Quarter,  Ecoroof Portland  was easily accessible by public transportation, and in fact, the city encouraged folks to do just that.   The industrial urban space venue was chock full of environmentally friendly features including great daylighting, recycling bins everywhere, and water conservation features in the restrooms.

The program provided options for all levels of sophistication – beginner, professional, researcher, and those who were ready to put  an ecoroof  on their own house or commercial structure.   Friday started out at a very civil 10:30, with  “An Introduction to Ecoroofs in Portland” given by Matt and Amy Chomowicz (also offered on Saturday morning).   Attendees heard about general ecoroof information – how they work, why they’re important, and what resources are available in Portland  to help you get started on your own project  to  gain skills and experience in the industry.

 
The Vendor Fair was open at 10:00, and I was surprised to see how full both the intro session and exhibitor area was for a Friday morning.   We skipped the intro and perused the trade show on the main floor, mingling with  old friends and meeting new ones.

These regional expos are so important for a variety of reasons, and it also gives us an opportunity to meet with local reps of some of our advertisers, too, and learn about business in their neck of the woods – we connected with “new” folks from Tremco, Tournesol Siteworks, American Hydrotech, Xero Flor America, GreenGrid, ILD, and Etera Green Roof Plants (Northwest Horticulture), below.

I was pleased that there was  such a high number of professional firms  exhibiting  among the manufacturers and suppliers, for example landscape architects Lando & Associates Landscape Architecture(who have worked on many ecoroofs here including The Metro Headquarters Greenroof) and  Walker Macy (who worked on the Platinum LEED OHSU CHH building, among others).   Architects, consultants, contractors, structural engineers, and researchers also had booths.

In addition to product and service vendors, non-profit organizations and community organizations were also here including the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities booth, which was manned by Patrick Carey, a trainer for all of the courses needed to get your GRP designation – the 101, 201, 301 and 401.

And it was great to see Ecoroofs Everywhere  and meet Greg Haines,  above left, after all these years (who used to work at BES, seen with Matt, right).   Greg has been installing ecoroofs in Portland since 2002 when he co-founded Ecoroofs Everywhere as a non-profit organization (since 2007 it has been a for-profit partnership).   Of course, the City of Portland had  booths to answer questions about their Ecoroof Grant Program (they gave out beautiful posters) and WorkingGreenPortland.com, a  website  and tool to educate and motivate people about site specific stormwater management options, and city grants and incentives for each.

   

At noon,  Environmental Services Director Dean Marriott welcomed everyone, gave us a quick  update on the Ecoroof Grant program and introduced the keynote speaker, Ed Snodgrass.   Ed, in his usual laid back and affable way,  presented “Ecosystem Services: How Ecoroofs Contribute to Sustainable Cities” sharing his thoughts on how greenroofs  add benefits to our highly sealed urban areas by mimicking natural processes within the bigger picture.   He showed multiple examples of how the natural technologies of plants and soil protect the environment, economy, and equity in cities through connecting living roofs, rain gardens,  porous paving/vegetated parking lots and other systems, while  providing  stormwater management, energy reduction, cooling properties, treatment of graywater and sewage, wildlife habitat and more – for example  the corporate campus of Mercedes-Benz, below, a model of sustainability.

Next  came current research and monitoring efforts specific to the area.  Portland State University (PSU) graduate student Debbie Beck gave a presentation on “Greenroof Soil and Water Quality – Changes in Runoff Water Quality When Biochar is Mixed into a Greenroof Soil.”   Growing media needs to be designed to ensure low concentrations of nutrients in stormwater runoff;  biochar is a soil amendment made from the pyrolysis of waste products, ranging from biomass to tires in a carbon-net-negative process.   It was evaluated for its ability to retain nutrients in greenroof soils, and Debbie also  presented findings on its cleansing properties.

Tim Kurtz, PE, from the City of Portland BES  talked about  “Stormwater Monitoring of Three Ecoroofs in Portland, Oregon”  explaining that although ecoroofs have become a primary option for reducing roof runoff into sewers and streams, at present they’re all treated the same, regardless of growing media depth or composition.   Data was presented from the Hamilton Apartments, the Multnomah County Multnomah Building, and the Portland Building, above,  to determine which greenroof design and maintenance variables are most important to maximize stormwater retention.

 And featured speaker  Dr. David Sailor from PSU presented “Energy Performance of Ecoroofs – the Role of the Roof in Affecting Building Energy and the Urban Atmospheric Environment” – enlightening us how energy analysis of ecoroof performance requires sophisticated techniques and that complex energy balances on vegetative roofs vary from time of day and season to season.   Dr. Sailor concluded with his initial results of studies involving both greenroofs and photovoltaics, with a focus on potential system interactions and synergies.   His findings clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the two technologies working together – the plants fare better with some shading from the harsh sun and the panels perform better from a cooler rooftop.

“Portland’s Shift to a Sustainable Future: The Role of Ecoroofs” took over the late Friday afternoon session with an interactive panel featuring Dan Vizzini of City of Portland Environmental Services, Tom Puttman of  David Evans and Associates, and Tom Liptan, ASLA, Ecoroof Technical Program Manager with BES.   Fourteen years after ecoroof guru Liptan installed his own atop his garage, the City continues to boost implementation of green infrastructure practices, including a target of 43 acres of ecoroofs by 2013. The panelists discussed their evolution from “grey to green” and how these changes will influence the fabric of  their city.

At 6:00 pm the Vendor Fair was closed to the public, and the City provided a lovely reception for the exhibitors and speakers.   This casual gathering and networking opportunity was a great time just to relax a bit.   Matt and Linda Dobson  (she manages  BES’s Stormwater Team) welcomed Portland Mayor  Sam Adams and it was easy to understand the city’s success with their ecoroof initiatives – you could feel the Mayor’s pride, commitment and  passion for their projects and staff.   He extended an open invitation to all to embrace sustainable business practices and sustainable design, and let us know that the City was looking into funding low interest loans.   He also informed us that he was talking up the challenge to green his own garage roof,  Ã  la Tom Liptan!

Tom Liptan then introduced me in such a nice way, reminiscing about my student days at UGA and how I called him back in 1998 wanting to know all about his garage greenroof and what could we do to promote these earth-friendly roof covers.   I presented a short demo of The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database – how it began with my 1999 research study when I initially had about 30 case studies, to how it’s grown to 1,023 at the moment; why I felt the industry needed an open, free resource for compiling and maintaining a clearing house of sorts.

Ed was up next and Tom also shared his funny recollections of meeting him several years ago.   Ed showed some very unique and interesting” Greenroofs from Around the World” with a fast-paced show of his highlight reel.

Afterwards we were off to the  richly decorated  Alu Wine Bar for a glass of a spectacular local pinot noir (2007 Arterberry Maresh from Dundee Hills, OR) with a bevy of BES people.   From there  Aramis, Ed and I  met Patrick and Brian Heather, GRP,  from SolTerra  for dinner at the very funky and famous Cajun Montage – quite a noisy and fun local favorite!   Patrick and Brian have been collaborating on various projects in Portland and Seattle, and we topped the evening off with a visit to the mixed-use SolTerra offices to see some of their innovative handiwork.   SolTerra provides a variety of services and products for the solar, ecoroof, and living wall markets, and what we saw looked very impressive!

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up our visit  and experiences at Ecoroof Portland 2010 ~ Linda V.