Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences: Singapore, Part 2

January 11, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Singapore is Part 2 of reflections of our travels this past late Autumn 2010 – as you probably know by now, during the past three months I’ve presented the Greenroofs.com “2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” in Mexico City, Singapore, and most recently Vancouver, B.C.

Singapore

Singapore (Singapura in Malay) is officially the Republic of Singapore, a gorgeous island country off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia.  Although only about 600 sq km in size, Singapore is the world’s fourth leading financial center and its port is one of the five busiest in the world, playing a key role in international trade and finance.

Due to its prime location at the Equator, with its climate of perpetual summer and high rainfall, Singapore offers a rich diversity of flora and fauna, and influences from a multi-ethnic society make dining, shopping, and entertainment top draws, too.

Interestingly, it’s also known as The Lion City, although it is not believed that these animals ever lived on the island.

The inaugural International Skyrise Greenery Conference was held here from November 1 -3, 2010, but we stayed for about 7 days – hey, if you’re going to travel half-way around the world, you may as well stay a while and see as many sights as you can!  This was before getting stuck in Narita, Japan, one night on our trek – that’s another story.  But we made the best of it, and since we had been there before, we ended up eating at a Chinese restaurant in our hotel by the airport (go figure).

And what did we find the next day on our way to our ANA flight to Singapore at the Narita International Departures Terminal?  Extensive greenroofs!  See below:

The International Skyrise Greenery Conference organizers were CUGE (The Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology), a project of the National Parks Board of Singapore (NParks), and the International Green Roof Association (IGRA).  This 3-day international conference focused on the latest technological developments and new areas of application in the field of greenroofs and vertical greenery.

Greenroofs.com was a Media Sponsor, and participants were able to receive a huge discount through us!  We feel they did a fantastic job all around.  I’m not sure of the attendance numbers, but I would estimate around 550-600 people, with a large (and very friendly) contingent from China – about 75 delegates.  We met folks from all over including many lovely Chinese professionals – plus delegates from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, the UK, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, The Philippines, Indonesia, Denmark, India, Iran, Macau, and probably more!

All the speakers here were awesome, too, and the projects on the tours were simply over the top!  No, really. Check out the simply amazing SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands below – the one hectare Sky Park covers three 55-story hotel towers and cantilevers 65 meters over the edge.  Yes, this is a graphic below, but it really looks like this!  I did take the photo below it.

I’m not trying to compare any other conference city to Singapore – it would be unfair to all other locales and simply impossible to compare cities apples to apples, let alone top it.  We’ve never seen a cleaner and greener city in all our travels – even Roland Appl of ZinCo, who lives in the beautiful green Stuttgart area, was flabbergasted (sorry, it’s the only word that describes it) at the sheer amount of greenery and detail to greening practices.

Did you know that every tree in Singapore is tagged with a microchip to account for maintenance practices, and it’s a misdemeanor to trim a tree without city permission, let alone cut one down?  Of course it may have to do with local politics…they take their trees and urban greenery very seriously here.

And there certainly appears to be no economic slowdown here, either.  There was construction at every turn, and it seemed like each building was designed to be a stand-out, iconic structure, too.  Not surprisingly, Singapore claimed the title of fastest-growing economy in the world last year, with GDP growth of 17.9% in the first half of 2010!

In any case, skyscrapers and sky gardens reign here ~ about 90-95% of people live in high rise buildings (mostly public housing blocks) on this small island city-state nation, so it’s no wonder that a government so dedicated to greening practices wants to provide its citizens with as much nature within a tight city as possible.

Currently, about a third of the nation’s approximately 650 housing units have greenroofs, with plans to have them all greened soon. You can see the rooftops of seven huge housing blocks below in this photo:

Singaporeans are lucky to have the support of the government, who introduced the Green Roof Incentive Scheme in 2009 to encourage owners of existing buildings to green their rooftops, among other measures. The three-year program offers a cash grant equal to 50% of actual installation costs, subject to a maximum of $75 (Singapore) per square-meter of planted area.

Additional incentives include the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) LUSH (Landscaping for Urban Spaces and High Rises) which consists of four parts – Landscape Replacement Policy for Strategic Areas; Outdoor Refreshment Area on Landscaped Roof tops; GFA Exemption for Communal Sky Terraces; and Landscaped Deck.  This program was designed to consolidate and synergize a number of new and existing green initiatives.

And the BCA Green Mark Certification and Incentive Scheme, launched in January 2005, is an initiative to drive Singapore’s construction industry towards more environment-friendly buildings.  Several points in the scoring system can be achieved by installing greenroofs and greenwalls.

Getting back to the International Skyrise Greenery Conference, to be honest, everything about it was top-notch and highly impressive.  Our hotel was the beautiful Carlton Hotel Singapore, above, which was about a 4-minute walk away from the venue.  Held at the National Library of Singapore, below,the beautiful structure was designed by renown green architect-planner, ecologist and author Dr. Ken Yeang, of Llewlyn Davies Yeang, UK.  In 2005, this project received the  BCA Green Platinum Award for its green-accredited tower design.

It’s an innovative green building designed using bioclimatic design techniques perfectly suited to the tropics, with extensive landscaping and sky gardens.  It was pretty cool how they set everything up to fully enjoy the site – the Exhibition Hall was open air, set on the ground floor Level 1, The Plaza, which was warm but comfortable since it captured the balmy pass-through breezes due to the design of the wide spaces and high ceilings.  We also had the lunches and tea breaks here, too.  I have to say that the food and refreshments were outstanding!

The sessions were held inside in the plush auditorium-style theaters, and everything was close at hand with many conference staff available for assistance.  The Opening Ceremony of the International Skyrise Greenery Conference 2010 was officiated by Guest-of-Honor Ms. Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education, and she said:

“In today’s context of rapid urbanisation, 70% of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by the year 2050.  Cities will increasingly face competing uses of land, and it will be challenging to set aside sufficient land for parks and greenery.

It is therefore not surprising that skyrise greenery, in the form of green roofs, vertical greenery and sky gardens, is growing among cities around the world.  It is especially an attractive proposition for cities that are limited by space, but seek to provide a quality living environment for their people.” ~ Ms. Grace Fu

SIA-NParks (Singapore Institute of Architects and National Parks Board) then presented the winners of their third annual Skyrise Greenery Awards 2010, which aims to promote and recognize the greening of high-rise developments – to encourage creative and original ideas and to highlight the importance of team effort in their design, implementation, and maintenance.  There were some pretty cool projects featured here – three projects received first, second, and third prizes for Completed Projects, and one received the first prize for Unbuilt Projects/Ideas.

The organizers opted for two Plenary Sessions and we were treated to four keynote speakers, two on each day.  On Monday, November 1, we were intrigued (and entertained) by French botanist Dr. Patrick Blanc, above, from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (and creator of the Vertical Garden or Mur Vegetal) who presented “The Vertical Garden – From Nature to Cities.”  The always popular German Professor Dr. Manfred Koehler from University Neubrandenburg then shared his thoughts “On Green Design & Planning.”

I was honored to follow them with our Top 10 List, and then we heard from Roland Appl, President of the International Green Roof Association (and ZinCo Technical Director) who shared “The Development of Green Roofs – A Look Behind the Scenes.” Afterwards the program broke out into three parallel workshops – so Aramis and I divided.

On the second day, Tuesday, November 2, we were enlightened by keynote speaker Argentine-born U.S architect (and my personal favorite) Emilio Ambasz, below, and his reflections of “Architecture and Nature – Towards a Pact of Reconciliation.”  He spoke about his design philosophy over 35 years of experience designing “to integrate architecture into design,” making it accessible to all and to be used by the community at large.  He also showed his firm’s film “Green Over the Grey” which is the story of designing a building in the middle of a garden where 100% of the disturbed ground plane is recovered with green – where “the House AND the Garden” are organically integrated.  “People should be their own gardeners,” Emilio says.

Our fourth keynote, Malaysian born architect Dr. Ken Yeang, below, followed with “Vertical Greenery and Urban Water Management.”  He explained the need to create an ecological nexus between species and architecture, and spoke about the current Solaris project in Singapore, which among other features will contain the longest linear park at 1.3 km in the world when completed.

Each wowed us with their very unique personalities and distinct presentation styles!  For example, Mr. Ambasz said, “Architecture is a state of spirit, not diplomas,” and Dr. Yeang said, “A green building should look green, which means hairy!” Since Day 2 offered an entire plenary session, no choosing of sessions was necessary.

After the first day, the attendees were treated to a lovely personal guided tour of the National Orchid Garden and Welcome Dinner with an orchestra to entertain us at the Villa Halia in the stunning Ginger Gardens in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.  The Orchid Garden offers over 20,000 orchid plants on display, with every size, shape and color imaginable.  They have it divided into four sections to represent the four seasons, with a representative color scheme for each.  I think I took 100 photos here alone – what a magical place!  Here are a few to enjoy:

Within the Orchid Garden is the Tan Hoon Siang Misthouse, which was a cool refreshment after walking through the steamy tropical forest – check these out:

I didn’t take this one of the greenroof on site – I didn’t know it was there!  I found it on Wikipedia:

We made lots of new friends here, including Italian agronomist and green designer Laura Gatti from Studio Laura Gatti, seated below,with us.

The French red and white wine selection was fabulous, and since it was rather hot in the tropical rain forest climate, Aramis and I were very happy to sip on the white wine all evening.  We appreciated it even more afterwords!

Side Note:  We had arrived the afternoon before on Sunday and met many of the other speakers and attendees at Brotzeit Raffles City (with its own fabulous “garnish farm” greenroof over it), a popular German Bier Bar & Restaurant, where we obviously drank beer (kind of expensive at about $14 each).  So this wonderful experience at the Botanic Garden was our first full evening in Singapore with dinner.

Well, you can imagine our surprise (ignorance, I suppose) on the following evening when we found out that the cheapest bottle of wine in any restaurant was about $60!  We found out that all alcohol is highly taxed here, and the extra expensive prices were also due to the fact that we were hanging out in the exclusive Orchard Road area (the road which led to former nutmeg plantations).  So did we ever have a famous Singapore Sling? This traditional cocktail is a mixture of gin, cherry liqueur, grenadine, pineapple and lemon juice, very tropical-like, and of course we had to try one  – but at about $16 a pop, we only had one each!

Overall, we each had numerous favorite presentations, but I think my second favorite one (after Emilio) was from Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Associate Partner, BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group of Denmark – it had the definite wow factor of the conference!  His presentation started with the eye-catching, frenetic “Yes is More” video highlighting the young firm itself plus some of its equally eye-catching projects.  We had one as a project in Haven Kiers‘ and my 2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design this year – the cool World Village of Women Sports (WVWS) in Malmo, Sweden – in the #9 category, “Green Sporting Venues.”  Also, it turns out that Kai-Uwe actually grew up here in the Atlanta area, of all places.  (By the way, the YES IS MORE EBOOK app is now available for download on iTunes.)

Jaron Lubin, Associate, Safdie Architects (two photos below) described the incredible experience of “The SkyPark at the Marina Bay Sands” – a true marvel of engineering with its unique infinity edge pool, jogging paths, public observatory, restaurants and lounges – offering spectacular views of Singapore, towering 200 meters in the sky:

The 150-meter infinity swimming pool is the world’s largest outdoor pool at this height.

Professor Wang Xian Min, Secretary General of the International Promotion Center for Vertical Planting from China presented “Vertical Planting in Shanghai World Expo-Good Measure of Build Energy-Saving” and gave his experiences on the recent (May 2010) Expo there.  As also the Secretary-General of the Hainan China World Green Roof Conference 2011, he invited all of us to attend this conference on March 18-21, 2011.  “This World Green Roof Conference (WGRC) will be held in the three most special cities of Hainan (Haikou, Boao and Sanya). WGRC wants to further the cause of roof greening, vertical planting and ecological restoration and improve the various technologies for ecological, environmental protection and sustainable development through international communication.”

We were pleased to finally meet David Aponte, Founder of PR Green Design, who we’ve been corresponding with about his many projects in Puerto Rico who asked “Are All Green Roofs Created Equal? Green Roof Installation in the Caribbean Region” and then compared similarities between his area of the sub-tropical world to tropical Singapore.  David’s seen above between an attendee from The Netherlands, left, (forgot her name!) and Sidonie Carpenter, right, of Australia.

Dr. Tan Puay Yok, Deputy Director of the Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology, National Parks Board presented “The Greening of the Highrise Environment in Singapore:  An Overview of Policy and Projects” which was extremely interesting in its scope (read Wolfgang Ansel’s and his October 2010 Guest Feature about the Skyrise Conference here).  And the always affable Ho Wan Weng, IGRA Singapore Representative (whom we had met previously in Nurtingen, Germany – read my October 2004 Sky Gardens ~ Travels in Landscape Architecture column about it), talked about the “Sustainable Green Roof in Tropical Asia – Beyond the Horizon.

And “A Hospital Within a Healing Garden – Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore” (above) was extremely enjoyable, too, in particular due to the delightful speaker, Mr. Liak Teng Lit, CEO of Alexandra Health, who manages the hospital. He’s not your typical CEO – he’s very hands on and proud of all his employees – and had us laughing, too.

Designed by CPG Consultants, Peridian Asia, and Tropical Environment, the lovely Khoo Teck Puat Hospital project won the First Prize for the SIA-NParks Skyrise Greenery Awards 2010.  Rooftop garden spaces were designed to promote patient healing in weaving, terraced levels, and all of the staff was involved in the entire process.

Andrew Grant, President of Grant Associates, presented the stunning “Gardens by the Bay, Singapore,” another wow project.  Designed by Grant Associates and Wilkinson Eyre Architects, three distinct, orchid-shape (the country’s national flower) waterfront botanical gardens are being set here on 10 hectares.  Noted for its “Supertrees,” 18 vertical gardens rising from 25, 40 and 55 meters above ground will power the conservatories and act as energy centers for solar hot water heaters and solar panels, plus provide rainwater harvesting. This project was listed in our Top 10 List as an example of the #3 position,“Biomimicry as Eco-literacy and Holistic Design.”  Phase 1 of the Gardens is scheduled to be completed in November, 2011.

We visited the site – under construction above – on our tour (I took the photo from the SkyPark at the Marina Sands), and you can see how far they’ve come with the conservatories.  See all those columns?  Those will be the Supertrees, shown to the right in the photo above, and in the graphic below at night when the canopies will come alive in Marina South Gardens with lighting and projected media (also on the cover of our PowerPoint, above).  They will be planted with tropical climbers, epiphytes, and ferns and are sure to create quite a visually stunning display!

We also enjoyed hearing – and seeing once again – from perennial favorites Wolfgang Ansel, Director of IGRA (“Green Roof Policies – An International Review of Current Practices and Future Trends”); Susan Weiler, Landscape Architect with Olin Partnership (“A Land Ethic: Replenishing Our Diminishing Resources”); Sidonie Carpenter, President of Green Roofs Australia Inc. and Principal of Green Canopy Design, Australia (“Green Roof and Wall Trends and Projects in Australia”); Professor Hitesh Doshi of Ryerson University, in Toronto (“The Toronto Green Roof Bylaw and the Green Roof Construction Standard”) and Dr. Nigel Dunnett, Director of the Green Roof Centre at the University of Sheffield (“Integrating People and Nature: Sustainable Green Roofs and Roof Gardens”), seen at right.

It’s impossible to mention everyone, but you can see the Programme Details here to see all the wonderful presenters and their topics.  By the way, the sturdy Conference Programme was highly informative and is a great keepsake of the event, with biographies, many photos and resources.

On a related note, I was asked to write an article about Greenroofs.com, our company, philosophy and future plans for CITYGREEN, a bi-annual publication of CUGE.  The 1st issue was launched in April of 2010 and it’s described as “The latest interdisciplinary periodical on greening cities, CITYGREEN contains a selection of articles, written by professionals and specialists, on urban green projects, programs, research and technologies.”

The beautiful, full-color glossy 104-page Issue #2/2011 with The Solaris by Dr. Ken Yeang on the cover (and with my “The International Greenroof Industry’s Online Information Portal: Greenroofs.com” article inside) was included in all the registrants’ bags.

As I already mentioned, the Exhibitor Hall was arranged on the expansive ground floor of the National Library around the break area, and there were many people to visit, with lots of new products and companies.  Some were familiar, such as Elmich, below, where we reconnected with Victor Tan, but most were unfamiliar to us. But by the end of the conference, we had visited all of them.  Here are just a few shots:

In the Conference Closing, Friends of the High Line received the International Green Roof Association (IGRA) “Green Roof Leadership Award 2010,” presented to Dr. John H. Alschuler, Jr. of HR & A Advisors, Inc. (who also had an amazing, inspirational presentation on the subject), by IGRA President Roland Appl for the wonderful High Line project (see the 11.9.10 press release).

We all went on our way, and then the entire third day was devoted to the excellent bus tour, which I’ll talk about in detail at another time.

The day after the tour, Aramis and I hopped aboard the highly efficient public rail transit system, MRT, to explore the island a bit, and in particular my quest involved having to see the beautiful School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University – whose stunning photos have been circulating the Web now for a few years (and we had in the 2008 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof Design under “Cool Green Schools of Higher Education”).

It was a bit far out but easy to get to, involving only one transfer and a bit of walking.  Our first impression is seen below, its glass facade and embracing greenroof arms peeking out as we approached the campus (more later):

Next on our self-guided tour was the Suburu Showroom, which we had included in our very first Top 10 List in 2007, under the #9 category of “Sports & Recreation in Unexpected Places.”  Unexpected indeed, the rugged yet lushly planted intensive greenroof sits atop the dealership and is the area for test driving SUV’s and off-road vehicles!

We were extremely disappointed when we were not allowed access, but in fairness, we should have made prior arrangements.  So we took a few photos anyway from the street:

We concluded our long day of searching for greenroofs at the highly recommended Night Safari– a unique experience as the world’s first wildlife park built for night visits.  We rode through the park on a tram that took us through dark but scenic landscapes teeming with nocturnal animals – many of whom I’m sorry to say that you couldn’t see very well!  We saw more when we tracked back along the walking trails, though.  The Night Safari’s cultural performance was pretty spectacular, with lots of fire-breathing antics.  It was definitely worth the far-out visit.

I’ll briefly mention the fantastic Walking Tour that The International Skyrise Greenery Conference organizers put together (more later):  Thirteen really outstanding projects were mapped and routed for us, along with a brief description or each.  We only made it to about six or seven (two were included on the all day tour), and actually found a few more “random greenery” sites of our own along the way!

All in all, Singapore was a trip of a lifetime – of course, we are fortunate to travel extensively.  This world-class conference was one of those unique opportunities to combine a working vacation with a world-class city. Aramis and I have wonderful memories of the cosmopolitan city that is Singapore, and will surely return here, most probably when the incredibly stunning Gardens by the Bay at Marina South is finished.  And I want to fully explore the Singapore Botanic Gardens at my leisure, too!

Singapore is evolving from “The Garden City” into a “City Within a Garden,” much more a philosophy of a way of living as opposed to simply a coveted title.  I think it’s safe for me to say that urban greenery innovations are growing almost daily here, literally!  And their continued promotion of green initiatives will help strengthen Singapore’s distinct identity as a tropical City-in-a-Garden.

That’s it for now, I’ll be blogging about all our stops on the tour soon.

But for now, reflections on the cooler climate of the gorgeous city of Vancouver, B.C. are next!

~ Happy Greening, 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.