GPW: Cuartel de Ballajá

November 8, 2011 at 1:24 am Project of the Week: 10/31/11
Cuartel de Ballajá
(Ballajá Infantry Barracks Building)
San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA
24,000 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2011
Owner: Oficina de Conservacion Historica
Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA
Building Type: Commercial
Type: Extensive & Intensive
System: Single Source Provider
Size: 24,000 sq. ft.
Slope: 2%
Access: Accessible, Open to Public

Project Description & Details

El Cuartel de Ballajá was constructed by the Spanish army between 1854 and 1864. The structure is one of the most impressive constructed by Spain in the New World and it stands as the last example of monumental military architecture by the Spanish Monarchy in the Americas. Today, the Ballajá Barracks houses several educational and cultural organizations, namely the Museo de Las Américas.

Designed by the architect Edmundo Colon with the help of GRP David Aponte, the green roof was part of several “green intervention” projects done to the Cuartel de Ballajá, including a 151.2 KW PV system with 720 solar panels. The project was built using a 60 mil PVC waterproofing system (Durolast), a 16 oz. protective mat, 2″ of rooflite drain w/ drain channels, filter fabric, 4″ average of rooflite growing medium and 60,000 plants that vary from plugs to 6″ pots. The green roof also has greenwalls and an artificial wetland to manage higher roof storm water amounts, which is used on a needed basis as the supplemental irrigation system.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Architect/Designer: Edmundo Colon, ECO Architecture
Green Roof Specialist: David Aponte, MSCE, GRP, PR Design Group, Inc.
General Contractor: Jorge Castellano, WTI Inc.
Waterproofing Contractor: WTI, Inc.
Waterproofing Material: Durolast
Green Roof Contractor: PR Design Group, Inc.
Green Roof System: rooflite Drainage w\ rooflite Growing Media
Plant Providers: Saul Nurseries, Palma Roja Nursery, EHR
Plant Consultants: Ed Snodgrass, David Aponte, Sigfredo Faria and Karen Amador
Structural Engineer: MFS Consulting Engineers

Additional Info

The  Cuartel de Ballajá is situated  on the northwestern-most point of the islet of San Juan, Puerto Rico in view of El Morro (1539), or the Fort San Felipe del Morro, also known as the Morro Castle.  In 1961, the United States Army officially retired from El Morro and the fort became a part of the National Park Service to be preserved as museums.  In 1983,  El Morro  and the city walls were declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.  The photo above by Kamran Saraf shows “a panoramic view of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico from atop Fort San Felipe del Morro.”

Located in the Old San Juan area on a lot of approximately three acres, the  Cuartel de Ballajá  lies between Morovis, Beneficencia and Norzagaray streets, and occupies six city blocks of the Ballaja community (Barrio Ballaja) that were expropriated and demolished in 1853.

“In 1976 the government of Puerto Rico acquired the Ballajá Infantry Barracks Building (Antiguo Cuartel de Ballajá) from the federal government of the United States of America by way of a transfer with a commitment to restore and use the building for cultural, educational and touristic purposes.

In 1986 the restoration of The Barracks began under the “Plan de Reforma Interior de la Zona Histórica de San Juan” (San Juan Interior Historic Zone Restoration Plan). The restoration work was realized from 1990 to 1993. Previously , in 1992 “El Museo de las Américas” (Museum of the Americas, second floor), was founded, with various exhibitions pertaining to the cultural history of Puerto Rico and the Americas. ” ~

Although this important historic resource was built for military purposes, El Cuartel de Ballajá  has evolved into a cultural center, rendering tribute to Puerto Rico’s rich cultural heritage.  Major community happenings are hosted here throughout the year including opera, concerts, festivals and artesan fairs.

The greenroof is just one of the numerous renovation projects here with sustainability in mind.  Due to the building’s age and historical status,  MFS Consulting Engineers provided the Oficina Estatal de Conservación Histórica with a structural analysis and structural investigation of the rooftop of the Cuartel de Ballajá for the proposed construction of the  wetland  greenroof.

With its large solar array, the Cuartel de Ballajá was included this year in the Puerto Rico Solar Tour 2011:

David Aponte of PR Design Group says the idea of introducing the wetland and greenwall on the roof came from the design/construction team (General Contractor, Green Roof Contractor and Architect), and the client agreed.  The  greenwall measures  6 x 80.  It’s a custom design, following the Patrick Blanc hydroponic greenwall technique of a soil-less system.  The wall has an internal dripline that is supplied with water from the wetland.

If you’re in San Juan, you must visit the historic El Morro, one of Puerto Rico’s most popular tourist attractions.  Then it’s a quick stop over to visit the beautiful  Cuartel de Ballajá and its wetland rooftop garden with greenwalls.

Did we miss something?  We’d love to hear from you!  Click  here to see more information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See how you can submit yours here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.

GPW: Southface Eco Office

June 2, 2011 at 6:21 pm Project of the Week: 5/31/11
Southface Eco Office
Atlanta, GA, USA
2,000 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2008
Owner: Southface Energy Institute
Location: Atlanta, GA, USA
Building Type: Commercial
Type: Extensive
System: Custom
Size: 2,000 sq.ft.
Slope: 4%
Access: Accessible, By Appointment

Google Map:

Project Description & Details

Southface is the U.S. Southeast’s non-profit leader in the promotion of sustainable homes, workplaces and communities. Built by a consortium of construction firms using widely available, off-the-shelf products, materials and technologies, the Platinum LEED Southface Eco Office is a three-story structure with a rooftop green roof open to the public for educational tours. Also holding an ENERGY STAR label and EarthCraft Light Commercial certification, as well as meeting The 2030 Challenge, the Eco Office is noted for its average energy cost of less than $25 per day.

The Turner Foundation Green Roof on top of the third floor expands the office space into a rooftop patio with a spectacular view of downtown Atlanta. The growing media is about 4″ deep, and was planted by staff and volunteers with a variety of Sedums, Delospermas, Talinums, and Hens and Chicks. It’s also home to a 6.4 kW photovoltaic array and a 1,750-gallon rainwater collection cistern. Waterproofing was supplied by American Hydrotech, J-DRain by JDR Enterprises, Mr. Natural growing media by ItSaul Natural, and plants by Saul Nurseries.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Architect: Lord, Aeck & Sargent
Landscape Architect: ECOS
Plant Supplier: Saul Nurseries
Growing Media: Mr. Natural, ItSaul Natural
Waterproofing & Green Roof System: American Hydrotech
Drainage: J-DRain by JDR Enterprises

Additional Info

For over 30 years, Southface Energy Institute has promoted sustainable homes, workplaces and communities through education, research, advocacy and technical assistance.  Driven by the Atlanta area’s growing need to save energy and water, and to preserve our natural resources, Southface proactively encourages responsible solutions for environmental living.  For example, all paved surfaces on the site are constructed of porous concrete to reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff, and the rooftop cistern below, collects rainwater from the building’s solar photovoltaic array.

I first visited Southface in the early ’00’s, when I was initially involved with the Atlanta City Hall Pilot Greenroof, and it was very green then.  They used to host the monthly Cool Communities meetings there with government, industry, academic and other non-profit stakeholders.  Then I became involved a bit with the volunteers who designed and provided materials and services for the new Eco Office.  It has always been an enlightening and rewarding place – they do great work!  Once the Eco Office was finished in 2008, it was over-the-top green!

Speaking of great work, for over 10 years now Southface has been involved with the Greenprints Conference and Trade Show.  Co-hosted by Southface and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA), Greenprints is a two-day, high-impact educational event that addresses forward-thinking strategies for sustainable planning, policy, design and construction.  Living here in the Atlanta area, I’ve been several years, and spoke there in 2009 – it’s extremely informative and interactive.

Below is a view of the Southface Energy Office seen from the south at dusk, 2009:

“The Eco Office presents a striking profile against the evening sky and provides an appealing location for an evening soiree. Greenroof on right, and adjacent is the Southface Resource Center which was completed in 1996 to show off the best of residential green building design,” ~ Photo Courtesy Southface, Photo By and Copyright Jonathan Hillyer Photography

At 10,100 sf, the Southface Eco Office is the same size as about 74% of all commercial buildings in the U.S., but it uses 84 percent less potable water, primarily by using captured rainwater for all sewage conveyance and irrigation therefore significantly reducing its need for municipally provided potable water.  It also uses 53 percent less energy than a comparable building!

Fully instrumented to measure its resources on a 24/7 basis, you can check out performance results in real time daily, while it stores historic data for later analysis.  You can do this online via Lucid Design Group’s Building Dashboard, screens above and below, or at the touch screen located at their office.

Some other cool features you can learn about online are the tubular skylights on the Eco Office’s greenroof that provide natural daylighting with minimal solar heat gain eliminating the need for artificial lighting during the day:

Southface has a redesigned website that’s pretty awesome, and have an amazing virtual tour showing features of the exterior, interior, and systems.  Make sure you visit it to learn more.  But if you’re in the area on Wednesdays, read here for real tours.

“The Eco Office proves that effective green building by firms like Lord, Aeck & Sargent can result in designing and constructing buildings that live up to energy efficiency expectations. The firm’s Director of Sustainability, Jim Nicolow, states “The green building movement needs to move beyond intuition to validation. A necessity of high-performance design is the use of quantitative analysis to inform design decisions.” ~ as seen in TriplePundit

In 2009, Southface received the Conserve Georgia Natural Leaders Award for Water Conservation for its LEED Platinum-certified Eco Office.  By the way, if you’re in the market, you can rent The Turner Foundation Green Roof, with its spectacular, panoramic city views and capacity for up to 50 people!

It’s a model of sustainability, new technologies, educational resources, and aesthetically striking – what more could you ask for from an eco-office?

Did we miss something?  We’d love to hear from you!  Click here to see more information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.  See how you can submit yours here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.


The 2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Calendar is Here!

November 20, 2010 at 7:11 pm

The 2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Calendar is ready for sale!   Download our Press Release here.

As you know if you’ve been following us for a while (this is our 4th year of printing), the Greenroofs & Walls of the World 2011 Calendar™ combines two of our most popular destinations on The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database and Upcoming Events.   It’s a great way to  showcase fabulous projects and our website Sponsors, our highest level of advertising.

Newly redesigned by Caroline Menetre, 2011 has a sleeker look ~ her years in graphic design have helped us  present a more streamlined calendar that is still bursting with colorful glossy photos of awesome projects plus all the international green events you could ever plan on attending in one year.

Also new for 2011 is the inclusion of greenwalls ~ the newest architectural darling in the living architecture world.   And as always, our Calendar is eco-friendly, printed on 50% recycled paper with 25% post consumer waste using soy inks.

Building types are represented  with projects from single and multi-family residences and the corporate world to an airport cargo facility,  botanical garden, hospital, community college, municipal,  federal research library, and even an elevated green street!

Check out  the projects highlighted for 2011:


Pricing: Only $12.95 which includes free shipping within the contiguous United States and Canada – and we have discounts for orders of 11 calendars and above.   Remember that shipping rates will vary with international destinations.   Visit our Calendar page for all the specifics and ordering information here.

If you’re attending the the 8th  Annual Green Roof and Green Wall Conference – CitiesAlive! in Vancouver, B.C. on November 30 – December 3, 2010, the first 50 visitors to stop by the booth (#416) will receive a free Calendar, so make sure to stop by early!   When we’re out we’ll be offering  them for sale at a  special Conference rate of only $10 – first come, first served.   Afterwards, of course, the Calendar will be available for purchase and shipping at any time.

Special thanks go to our participating Sponsors in the 2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Calendar:   Barrett Company, Express Blower, Green Living Technologies,  Green Roof Blocks, GreenGrid, LiveRoof, Roofscapes, Saul Nurseries, Tremco, Xero Flor America, and ZinCo-USA.



And thanks to all of the rest of’s Sponsors who weren’t featured this year, but whose support makes our website possible (along with all of you who are listed in The Greenroof Directory):

American Hydrotech, Conservation Technology,
and International Leak Detection

The 2011 Greenroofs & Walls of the World™ Calendar will make a perfect holiday gift for you, your staff,  and your green architecture like-minded friends and family, so order now in time for all the upcoming  holidays and the  new year.

Enjoy and happy greening!

~ Linda V.


A Historic Day in Atlanta: the First Greenroof Wedding!

May 31, 2010 at 9:46 am

On Saturday, May 22, 2010 we believe history was made in downtown ATL when Bill Brigham and Beate Allio took their wedding vows.   A traditional affair  with silk and lace, ribbons, flowers, and lovely music, this was still no ordinary wedding ceremony ~ we’ve all heard about going down to City Hall to get hitched, but our bride and groom were married in front of about 50 family and friends high above the city street on the Atlanta City Hall Pilot Greenroof!

We’re sure it was the first wedding on the Atlanta City Hall Greenroof, and believe it was the first on an ATL  living roof, maybe the southeast or even the   U.S. – if you know better, please let us know and we’ll blog about it, too.   But until then, Bill and Beate will claim the title.

I’ve known Bill Brigham, ASLA, Principal Landscape Architect/Project Manager, Bureau of Watershed Protection, Department of Watershed Management, City of Atlanta since 2001 when I was involved in the initial planning sessions for the greenroof on the Atlanta City Hall, back when then Environmental Manager Ben Taube and team were considering the old Atlanta City Hall East…   Bill eventually designed the greenroof on the new City Hall at 55 Trinity Avenue, and we’ve attended many meetings and conferences together, were on the Atlanta Local Host Committee for last year’s Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, plus we filmed him here last October (see Rooftop Hopping in Metro Atlanta, photo below), and anyone who knows Bill is immediately impressed by his extreme good nature and sense of humor (landscape architecture skills not withstanding!).Bill getting ready for his interview with Landon!Due to weight and space limitations, the guest list was very selective, so  Aramis and I  felt honored to have been included in the couple’s special day.   A second marriage for both, it was very touching to see the blended family together.   Bill’s son, Roland, was the Best Man, and Beate’s daughter, Nicole, was the Maid of Honor.   The bride’s two sons, Chris and Devon, were Groomsmen and both the Mother of the Bride, Mrs. Renate Freter, and the Mother of the Groom, Mrs. Charlotte Larsen, were part of the wedding party.

Scott Lubar was the Officiant uniting the couple, and we all enjoyed Bill Grabbe, the pianist, and Carol Smart, the soloist with their  delightful music and voice.

The colorful,  intimate setting was perfect for a man so instrumental in the design, ongoing research and maintenance of the greenroof, and fitting for a woman who was introduced to the future groom  by Lucy Smethurst, a conservationist, plantswoman, artist,  and neighbor of Saul Nurseries‘ “Swamp” location.   Bobby Saul donated all the plants for the project in 2001 along with the greenroof growing media from Ernie Higgins of ItSaul Natural – Mr. Natural  (both in attendance),  and Bobby had afterwards  introduced Bill to  Lucy, and then Lucy introduced the bride and groom!   So you could say  greenroofs and kismet played a part in the couple’s future.

“Plant love.   Leave no waste.”

That could have been the motto of the wedding.   The invitation was printed on 100% post consumer waste, on seeded, plantable paper – all we have to do now is plant the invitation in a sunny corner and  keep it moist, and we’ll have a mini wildflower field to remind us of the balmy late spring day.

And wait, it gets better!   Instead of throwing rice or bird seed during the recessional  -Bill  had said, “Heaven forbid!”   The couple opted for a safer alternative, both  environmentally conscious  and beneficial:

“We  will be using the green rice look-a-like”¦ sedum leaflets  stripped from the sedum species  already being used up on the existing roof.   (Another one of my crazy ideas.)   This way it keeps any “invasive” plant species from destroying the roof and will instead act as a “re-seed” to the existing roof’s sedums.” ~ Bill Brigham  

Regeneration at its best with pretty sedum packets  after the expression of vows, exchange of rings and announcement of marriage!   The reception followed at Lucy Smethurst’s estate, which is  nestled in a beautiful natural wooded area with  naturalistic plantings, trails and artist gallery.

Thanks to Bruce Morton of Exposure Media Photo  for sharing his photos with (which are available for purchase).  

Congratulations to  Bill and Beate and the new Brigham-Allio  family!   Perhaps  this will be just  the first of many more greenroof weddings to come  at Atlanta City Hall.

~ Linda V.