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.

The Inaugural CitiesAlive! – Seeds of Success

October 26, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Toronto City Hall

Aramis and I had a great time in Toronto last week for the inaugural 2009 CitiesAlive! World Green Roof Infrastructure Congress ~ what a  wonderful city!  It’s clean, green, and at the moment has the most progressive greenroof policy in North America.  From the airport we rode along the waterfront and were impressed on how green the city really is – we  enjoyed the many beautifully landscaped  parks with an abundance of trees in full autumn color, swaying grasses, and flowering perennials.  Tons of people were out enjoying the cool, crisp fall day with strollers, jogging, or just relaxing and taking in the views of Lake Ontario.  The  prominent Toronto Hydro/WindShare wind turbine, “North America’s first urban wind turbine,” was truly an impressive sight to see at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, a showcase for sustainability.  And the many architectural styles and hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto were a pleasure.

Friends

At the Congress we encountered many of the “usual greenroof suspects” we know from Canada, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.  We also met some very interesting new people, too, from South Korea and Spain (to name a couple) in the various speaker sessions, on the Toronto Sustainable Bus Tour sponsored by Tremco and Bioroof, and at the CitiesAlive! Closing Gala at the Toronto Botanical Garden where we all enjoyed a lively and tasty Mexican Fiesta celebration.

Spanish and Chilean Friends

The theme of the Congress  was “Green Roof Infrastructure: A Global Solution to Climate Change” and began on Monday, October 19 with a selection of tours and training sessions and the Canadian launch of the GRP exam, followed by the CitiesAlive! Opening Reception at Toronto City Hall, which we unfortunately missed due to a late flight.  Sponsored by The City of Toronto, attendees gathered on the City Hall Rotunda and were  treated to a ‘sneak peek preview tour’ of the new Toronto City Hall Green Roof, and heard from Mayor of Toronto David Miller, Manfred Köhler, President of the co-host World Green Roof Infrastructure Network (WGRIN), and Steven Peck, Executive Director of the co-host, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC).  The new greenroof is more expansive than the previous incarnation of  the 3,200 sf Toronto City Hall Green Roof Demonstration Project, which was dismantled and replaced with this larger living roof.   I’ll update the profile on The Greenroof Projects Database as soon as I get more info.

Tuesday morning, October 20 started bright and early with the CitiesAlive! Opening Plenary, where Steven welcomed everyone and stressed  the importance of the bigger picture and how green infrastructure options can secure a more sustainable and prosperous future for us all.  He talked about two main themes: Cities can and are leading on major environmental issues such as global warming and how the best solutions are those that are good for the environment and good for the economy.  The City of Toronto is leading by example in many areas; for example, it now has  a 40% reduction of greenhouse emissions based on 1990 levels and the #1 hybrid electric bus fleet  in Canada, which is #2 in North America behind New York City, saving significant operations costs.  And through partnering with local businesses and residents, Live Green Toronto has issued grants in excess of $10 million to Torontonians.

Mayor Miller presented the Opening Address “Towards a Green Toronto” spoke about Living Green here with projects such as their “Transit City” program, whose transit expansion  into underserved, poorer areas really equals social justice as light rail encourages better development and will better the lives of many.  New programs like Live Green Toronto and city-wide initiatives like Mayor’s Tower Renewal will revitalize communities.  For example, plans to add thermal over cladding and insulation (plus greenroofs and other eco- friendly building features) to the numerous city  concrete slab highrises will not only reduce energy but will cut citywide gas emissions by 3-5%.  These efforts  will help create local employment and result in an environmental success story for Toronto. The City’s overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone spoke about the evolution of the Toronto’s Eco-Roof Incentive Program (formerly the Green Roof Pilot Program).  For example, in 2006, 16 projects were funded, 30 in 2007, and 34 projects have been approved in 2009.  Approved by City Council in November 2008, the Eco-Roof Incentive Program is based on the successful Green Roof Pilot Program of 2006 and 2007 and includes both cool and eco-roofs.   In May, 2009 Toronto became the first City in North America to adopt a bylaw to require and govern the construction of greenroofs on new development.  The bylaw will apply to all new building permit applications made after January 31, 2010 (residential, commercial and institutional) and January 31, 2011 for all new industrial development, with a few exceptions. The new bylaw will be required on all new development above 2,000 m² (about 21,530 sf) of Gross Floor Area and have a graduated coverage requirement ranging from 20-60%.  (See more details at the City of Toronto website.)

Christine in TorontoThen the first round of speakers  started from each of the four concurrent tracks, which I felt was rather ambitious all in just one day –  I think we missed out on a lot of really pertinent info, and there was no conference CD like usual for later reference.  I remained for Track 2: Innovative Projects and Design from Around the World, and Aramis headed over to Track 3: Policies and Programmes Supporting Green Infrastructure Development with our Student Editor, Christine Thüring (who should be adding some commentary of her own soon).

Track 2: Don Delaney from Flynn Canada  started with details of the “Vancouver Convention Centre: 7 Acres of Green Roof in Downtown Vancouver” and went into detail about the trials and tribulations of Canada’s largest  greenroof to date, including solutions to stabilize the growing media on slopes up to 40° and planting the 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses.  Innovative features  include decorative runnels with perforations on the high side to retain water and runoff collection used for irrigation and in a blackwater system.  International Leak Detention was brought on board to test the integrity of the waterproofing membrane before and after the installation of the overburden with their Electric Field Vector Mapping (EFVM ®) system.  We were all very happy to have Andrea from N.A.T.S. Nursery in the audience to answer a lot of growing media and plant questions!  This project will be a highlight to our trip to Vancouver, B.C. next year for the 8th installment of the Greening  Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference.  The Vancouver Convention Centre will be home of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games media and broadcast centre.

Vancouver Convention Centre Living Roof

Prof. Dr. Eun-Heui Lee from Women’s University in Seoul, South Korea  impressed us with “Green Roof Policy and Projects to Expand Green Space in Seoul” with some key figures: From 2002 through 2008, 218 greenroofs equaling 104,403 m ² were constructed and in 2009 so far, 104 greenroofs totaling 41,000 m ² have been built or on the boards!  And perhaps more importantly, the Seoul Metro Government plans 600 new roofs to be greened by 2012.
The Biotope Area Factor for Seoul

Francois LaSalle of ADIVET in France addressed “Development of Green Roofs and Green Facades in France, and presented a history of greenroofs and walls in France.  Starting in the 1970’s, about 1 m² of roofs have been greened here, mostly intensive roof gardens, through the 1980’s.  By the end of the 1990’s, about 10 greenroof companies had emerged from the extensive market, and in 1994 Patrick Blanc unveiled his first green wall (Mur Vegetal) at the Garden Festival in Chaumont Sur Loire (although probably most famous for his Musée du quai Branly  vegetated wall in Paris, 2006).  Francois concluded with various French policies, subsidies, and bills to promote, and believe it not, prohibit opposition to planted roofs.  Currently, vegetated facades are in their infancy, but greenroofs have a firm hold in the marketplace.

Example of a French Greenroof

Ignacio Espoz Babul from LatinGreen in Santiago, Chile, presented “Living Walls for Better Indoor Climate in Subways,” an experimental green wall research program currently being implemented at two underground Metro stations in Santiago.  Ignacio believes that indoor air pollutant abatement with an improvement in air quality due to reductions of metals and volatile chemicals is possible along with noise reduction due to plant foliage and the associated natural processes – as long as there is sufficient light, air, and water.

Acoustic Benefits of Green Walls

The sessions ran a bit late, and the Networking Break on the Trade Show was only supposed to last 30 minutes, but we stayed  through lunch because we kept running into people we just had to talk to!  So we skipped the next round of speakers in between (sorry I missed Paul Kephart, Andrew Bowerbank, Dr. Nigel Dunnett, Jeff Bruce, and James Sable!).  The Networking Break on the Trade Show was very lively, and packed with people – I hope not too many missed those speakers, either.  Lunch was held on the Trade Show Floor, which is always a good thing for the exhibitors, who help foot the bill and provide us with so many varieties of products and services.  Here are a few:

The Tremco Booth

Bill Corrigan from Tremco Canada told us about some of their company’s 1 million sf of greenroofs in Canada.

The folks at International Leak Detention

International Leak Detection performs non-destructive integrity tests of waterproofing membranes utilizing their patented Electric Field Vector Mapping technology. Membrane defects are located with pin point accuracy.

The Green Living Technologies booth

Diane DiGregorio of GLT shows off the Green Living Technologies living wall.

The LiveRoof booth

Lots of people visited the LiveRoof booth to learn about the modular manufacturer’s Soil Elevator™ and Moisture Portal™ technology.

Soprema reps

Marie-Anne Boivin and fellow Soprema colleague told us about their many years of greenroof experience in the harsh Canadian climates.

The Trade Show was a good size and was heavily trafficked by all, especially since the refreshment break and newtworking lunch and cocktail were set here.   Other Greenroofs.com exhibitor friends included Xero Flor America and Xero Flor Canada, Motherplants, Hydrotech, Sika Sarnafil, and Nilex, where Janet Faust of JDR Enterprises was present.

After lunch, the next round of speakers in Track 2 included Peter Lowitt from Devens Enterprise Commission who spoke about “Green Infrastructure & Eco-Industrial Parks: Lessons Learned From Devens, Massachusetts,” a former military barracks now a 40-acre eco-  industrial park with an International Audubon Certified Sustainable Golf Course.  He spoke how green infrastructure must take a holistic approach and asked how can we make these projects sustainable?  By promoting social and environmental equity.

Peter and Friends

João Manuel Linck Feijó of the Associação de Telhados Verdes do Brazil presented “Innovative Projects & Green Roof Progress in Brazil” – introducing us to the relatively new greenroof market in Brazil and explaining a potential tax break for large citie  and various state proposals for living roofs.  He showed some beautiful greenroof projects throughout Brazil using a modular greenroof system from Ecotelhado.

Joao and Ecoltelhado

Dr. Karen Liu of Xero Flor Canada addressed “Special Green Roof Projects in B.C.”  Dr. Liu highlighted a couple of projects which presented opportunities for greenroof design and engineering creativity.  The Butchart Gardens Carousel Pavilion in Victoria, B.C. has slopes ranging from 14-44% and utilized a 2-ply modified bitumen, standing seam copper roof and the architects needed to capture 36 liters of rainwater.  Dr. Liu explained the steel grid system to retain the growing media and cautionary items to consider as  well.  The second project focused on Canada’s first  LEED Gold Community, the 2010 Olympic Village where all of the roofs will be either extensive or intensive greenroofs!  The extensive greenroofs will feature Xero Flor roofs with vegetated sports figures.  These athletic figures will be planted with red flowering annuals and set in red lava rock.

Michael Krause of Kandiyohi Development talked about “Urban Forests and Energy in Minnesota,” a different and very interesting topic.  Biomass energy is included in current U.S. energy legislation, and a biomass fuel energy strategy can be used as a small, community-based local climate change solution.  Fallen trees are viewed as a carbon sink and vast supplies of excess biomass are available – Michael believes that biomass can be used as an interim strategy for the next 30 years or so, and sees this as a way to democratize energy and bring energy to the community level, since there would be no importing fossil fuels from afar.

Biomass Slide

Toby Lennox from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority finished with “Industrial Ecology: Partners in Project Green,” Canada’s largest eco-business zone at 4,000 acres.  Toronto Pearson Airport manages one half of Canada’s commercial air traffic and 65,000 trips are made to the airport each day.  Project Green is bringing together common strategies in a new eco-model of development in a growing community of businesses working together to green facilities and the bottom line.

Afterwards we all convened for  the Cocktail Reception, once again on the Trade Show Floor, with spirits and snacks and an opportunity to unwind a bit, followed by the “Transforming the Face of Buildings” Student Design Challenge Awards, Poster Presentations and Networking Event at the Steam Whistle Brewing Roundhouse, a very funky locale and local brewery.  The quality of the student entries was superb and I’m sure that the judges had a hard time selecting the winners.  Congratulations to everyone who participated, and especially the First Place winner, “Cliffside Village” from students Dov Feinmesser, Yekaterina Mityuryayeva, Tommy Tso, and Aaron Hendershott form Ryerson University, Architectural Science!

Reception

We ended the evening with a spirited dinner compliments of George Irwin, our Green Wall Editor, and Diane DiGregorio of Green Living Technologies.  Christine took us to an artsy part of town that’s being refurbished where we had  awesome appetizers and organic pizza, incredible wine, and great conversation.

A close up of some of the flowers at Covenant House Toronto

I believe that the 2009 CitiesAlive! has indeed sown future seeds of success as WGRIN continues to bring together the international greenroof community of non-profit organizations to highlight  current and planned green infrastructure research, policy and projects.  Their first congress had some growing pains but I believe that overall it was important, fruitful, and promising with quite an international  flair – set in  a perfect international city with a very promising future of its own.

Next up I’ll wrap up our time in Toronto with some photos of our day on the Toronto Sustainable Bus Tour and evening at the lovely Toronto Botanical Garden.

Terry and friends at the Botanical Garden

~ Linda V.