“Up on the Roof” with People Magazine – a numbers game

September 28, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Check out the September 29, 2008 issue of People Magazine, and turn to the next to the last page.  “Up on the Roof” are Troy Wagner and his wife Julie – center stage on the mostly graphic two-page spread, talking about  their 110-year old home in Tacoma, Washington.    Back  at the beginning of the year  Troy had shared his experience with us about building his two greenroofs  using a  rather unique method.   Based on traditional Scandinavian turf homes, one has a  12/12 pitch planted with sod, and he actually has a resident goat who provides a unique but sustainable form of maintenance from time to time!

The second  greenroof is  over his lesser pitched garage, which he actually mows.   On one side the couple  tends to vegetables while the other is a flower garden.   Troy told me that after having owned a roofing company for 15 years and looking at 20,000 roofs he felt it was time to set an ecological example, so in 2004 they built their living roofs.   Check out the  “Troy’s Green Roof”  profile in The Greenroof Projects Database. People also has photos of the Roofscapes’ Life Expression Wellness Center,  the California Academy of Sciences, and a private residence in Sunol, California.

Known for their spectacular coverage of celebrities as well as plain old regular folk, I was surprised when one of the  People article’s authors, Maureen Harrington, called me back in July to pick my  brain about “the phenomenon of greenroofs in the U.S.”  – I guess greenroofs really  are becoming mainstream!   She was looking for facts, and Ed Snodgrass of Green Roof Plants, who was interviewed,  referred Maureen to me.

Everyone wants hard statistics (I also recently fielded some from Bloomberg News and  Newsweek), and  we get  requests  from tons of  freelance writers all over the world – the UK, Chile, France, Poland…you name it.   The point is  our industry is still accumulating these figures since research and projects, at least in North America, are relatively new.   I say relatively because although we can been studying and building modern-day living roofs here since the 1990’s, the Germans have  figures from many types  of testing and  trials from the 1970’s.   The websites of both Green Roofs for Healthy Cities  (GRHC) and  us here at Greenroofs.com have been up since 1999 and in terms of facts, each  has a lot of specific data: GRHC in their Tree of Knowledge page and from  Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference proceedings (available for purchase if you didn’t get to each one), and  Greenroofs.com in FAQ’s, ResearchLinks, Industry Support, and The Greenroof Projects Database.

But getting back to the People article, I  suggested ranges rather than hard facts  for costs and energy savings because each greenroof project is unique, something we have all been harping on for years.   And in terms of numbers of projects, I gave my best guesstimate of “more than 500” based on what we do have listed in The Greenroof Projects Database, profiles waiting to be entered, plus approximate numbers for under represented U.S. cities, including the more traditional sod homes found across the northern states.   And they only wanted figures for residential projects, so that number includes not only Single-Family but also Multi-Family and Multi-Use profiles.

That’s why it’s so important to keep compiling case studies from across the globe to show  the world  that  greenroofs are viable, demand and  construction are thriving, and the market is here to stay.   Everyone wants to know where they are, what type they are, who designed them, how big they are, etc., and of course everyone wants to see photos, too!   The Greenroof Projects Database is meant to be a free international resource, so we encourage you to continue submitting profiles with as much information as you feel comfortable sharing, and we always send readers back to the original source for follow up.

Getting back to the article, Ed has a couple of quotes and referring to the added capital investment of greenroofs, he simply says:

“It’s like getting a Prius or solar panels…It costs more upfront but there are long-term savings.”

In addition to the obvious ecologocal, economic, and aesthetic benefits, we all know that greenroofs offer habitat for displaced birds, butterflies and other wildlife.   I don’t know that goats up on a roof  are the wave of the future, but I do believe that eco-friendly architecture is.   In today’s environmentally  conscious climate, eco-trends are here to stay and as these trends become the norm and turn mainstream, we’ll see costs driven down and then the vegetated roofing market will really take off.

And who knows, maybe in a few years’ time alongside perusing the Best & Worst Dressed People issue we’ll be also reading about the Best Sustainable Design  Trends in People –  perhaps even an article  behind the greening of the White House?   Now there’s a people story!

What I Did on My Summer Vacation…

August 25, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Gorgeous bridges, buildings, and people in Copenhagen!First of all, I have to say that  the title is  just quite not right  because 1):   Although most students are back in school, summer is not over yet; and 2):   I haven’t had a real vacation in a long time, let alone this particularly hectic summer!   Of course, recently I have been traveling  in my “other career” to some wonderful cities – Buenos Aires, Barcelona, Madrid,  and Copenhagen –  but with only 24 -36 hour layovers, these visits  can hardly be considered holidays.

But I liked the classic tone of  “What I did on My Summer Vacation” because it sounds like I actually did something productive,  and I felt like I needed an excuse to explain why I haven’t posted anything in three months…  Well, I’m back and now Sky Gardens ~ where cool green meets lofty blue will be populated not only by me but all of our contributing editors on a more regular basis.   So what have  we been doing on Greenroofs.com?

For one thing, we’ve been keeping our Student Intern, Caroline Menetre, very busy with hands on visits to The Greenroof Pavilion & Trial Gardens of Rock Mill Park documenting our plant trials and with The Greenroof Projects Database, where she has been entering case studies like crazy.   Her internship will be over soon, and we’ll need some extra hands for research and data entry, so if you’re interested, please let me know: linda@greenroofs.com.

Caroline with camera and field notebook in hand, August 2008

After the whirlwind filming of our little “Love the Earth: Plant A Roof!” video in May, we embarked on a much larger project, our brand new “Sky Gardens” WebTV series, at the beginning of June.   We begin our internet journey to explore the organic architecture of greenroofs and visit all kinds of different, exciting projects around the world, and I’ll be your host on Greenroofs.TV.   We’re initiating our series highlighting greenroofs in the U.S., starting with one of my own designs – you guessed it – the beautiful and award-winning Rock Mill Park.   The City of Alpharetta  received the 2008 Water Resources Project of Excellence award and Breedlove Land Planning, who  designed the park,  just won a Merit Award from the Georgia Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects – congratulations!

Each time I’ll take  you on a tour of one unique, stunning vegetative roof.   From planning through the design process, installation through completion,  we’ll share intimate stories from the stakeholders – government officials, designers, owners, product manufacturers and service providers.   Why was it built – what was the client’s intent or market driver?   Was it stormwater management, mitigation of the urban heat island, biodiversity, sexy aesthetics, or a combination?   What was the design philosophy and who was involved?   What were the site challenges, techniques used, and what were the lessons learned?   Bottom to top, we’ll show the materials used, culminating in the beautiful, living, breathing plant layer.   Each program will highlight the greenroof’s site specific benefits to the building’s ecology, the local environment, and the watershed at large.

Joey filming Bobby Saul at the Swamp, June, 2008

The Alpharetta project is unique for many reasons, especially because the entire property was originally owned by a full blood Cherokee and the site is located within the 100-year flood plain of Big Creek Watershed.   The Greenroof Pavilion is just one of the many low impact development techniques used to tread lighter on the environment and provide educational opportunties for visitors.   When is the air date?   We’ll keep you posted, but we’re planning on the end of September.

Visiting New Echota, GA, the former Cherokee Nation capital.

Speaking of September, are you going to the World Green Roof Congress in London?   The two day conference will discuss the challenges and opportunities faced when implementing green roofs, and will focus on the contributions that they can make to sustainable urban regeneration, climate change adaptation, sustainable storm water management as well as improvements to local biodiversity and quality of life within cities.   The conference will highlight latest innovations and research to support the effective promotion and delivery of green roof solutions as well as demonstrating examples of good practice from the UK and overseas.   We’re planning on going, but there may be a scheduling conflict with our second “Sky Gardens” WebTV episode – we’ll be filming in Manhattan atop a corporate headquarters, and the date hasn’t been confirmed yet!

Hopefully we can go and see Dusty Gedge of Livingroofs.org and all of our other friends from across the pond.   And it would be grand to go on one of the 6-day study tours from Green Roof Safari in Germany and Switzerland – we’ll see.   Green Roof Safari is a collaboration between Christine Thuring, our Student Editor, and Jörg Breuning of Green Roof Service, so I’m sure a lot of great vegetated roofs and fun will be involved.

I also  spent some  intense design time for a major greenroofing company on a potential  local commercial project – I delivered four conceptual illustrative designs and it would be just awesome if they decide to implement any of them!   Can’t tell you who it is, but it’s very exciting – let’s see what develops.

You know how last year we published our first Greenroofs of the World Calendar™?   Well, we’re currently gathering more stunning living roof projects for the 2009 Greenroofs of the World Calendar™, and this year  it will be available for purchase much earlier – in time for the holiday season!

So designing, writing, editing, and filming in 97 degree weather here in Georgia has taken up most of my summer, but don’t feel too badly for me.   Confession:   24 hours may not be enough to qualify as a vacation, but I have to admit that I always manage to have some fun on my (very) mini work-related holidays.   Sightseeing in a new city is always a must, as seen in these photos from Copenhagen earlier this month,  but I’m always looking for examples of green architecture, too.  

And to be honest,  it wasn’t really my first time in Denmark – my husband Aramis and I spent one day there in 2002 awaiting our return to the U.S., after I gave a greenroof presentation across the way in  Malmö, Sweden where we spent four wonderful days with our very gracious hosts, Peter and Violetta Lindhqvist, former directors of the Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden and the International Green Roof Institute, now the Scandinavian Green Roof Association.

But on this trip I was able to go on a  canal tour and it was beautiful!   The overcast skies opened up to a gorgeous day on the water.   And I even found a sustainable design  exhibition going on offered by the Danish Architects Center.

So there you have it!   My next blogging endeavors will include interviewing all of our contributing editors, starting with Ed Snodgrass, our Plant Editor.   And look for a new editor coming on board soon, too.

Happy Greening & Safe Travels!

~ Linda