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.

An Awesome World Green Roof Congress in London! Day 1

November 10, 2008 at 2:09 am

Jet lag a thing of the distant past, we’ve been  back here at Greenroofs.com for a few weeks after our extremely interesting and entertaining trip to the UK capitol and the 2008 World Green Roof Congress (WGRC).   Many of our readers expressed a lot of advance interest in attending  this particular conference because of  the location and their opportunity to do additional sightseeing in the beautiful English countryside and beyond.   In fact, most of our fellow participants did just that, adding vacation days to their trip across the pond to take full advantage of their stay.

Due to time constraints, we opted to arrive the morning of the first day of the Congress on Wednesday September 17 figuring (wrongly) we’d get there in plenty of time.  Manuevering  from Gatwick to our hotel was quite a workout with bags in tow (not to mention horrifically expensive at about $130 for two, round trip) – and I can honestly say that Grand Central Station in New York  doesn’t even come close to the hustle and bustle of Victoria Station! “Move It or Lose It” should be their motto.

We hadn’t seen Dusty Gedge of Livingroofs.org in a few years, and he welcomed us warmly and enthusiastically – in fact, both Aramis and I felt right at home among seasoned colleagues and new friends, too.   In particular, Paul Shaffer and Nipa Patel of CIRIA were just wonderful.   I’ve e-worked with Paul before,  having reviewed the successful “BUILDING GREENer – Guidance on the use of green roofs, green walls and complementary features on buildings (C644),” (by Paul Early, Dusty Gedge, John Newton, and Steve Wilson, 2007 from CIRIA,)  but meeting Nipa and Paul was very special – they’re really good people with not only great patience and organizational skills, but a great sense of humor, too.   All characteristics which must come in handy  while planning an international conference of this stature.

Delayed bags made us unfortunately miss the better portion of the Wednesday morning session: Jim McLelland, Editor of sustain’ magazine (and the Congress Media Partner), opened the Congress with the Chairman’s Introduction followed by the Keynote Address from Richard Blakeway, Advisor to the Mayor of London on environment issues.   The London Plan addresses sustainability from many aspects and incorporates green roofs and green walls.   London climate change partnerships were discussed along with achievements and plans for the future.   The North American and German perspectives were tackled by Peter Lowitt of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities and Wolfgang Ansel of the International Green Roof Association (IGRA), respectively, addressing the drivers for implementing greenroofs, the benefits and achievements of their approach, challenges faced and lessons learned, ending with future plans.

Speaking of the International Green Roof Association, make plans now to attend the International Green Roof Congress 2009 in Nuertingen, Germany on May 25-27, 2009.   Under the patronage of the German Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, the congress will be hosted by IGRA and the Deutscher Dachgärtner Verband e.V. (DDV).   Wolfgang is extremely excited about the program which will include the latest technological developments within our industry as well as detailed case studies of spectacular greenroof projects from renown international architects and designers.   Of course, there will be hands-on workshops and excursions to Stuttgart and Freiburg, too.

Edmund Maurer from Linz, Austria, gave “Green Roofs in Linz – A European municipality perspective on green roofs” including the history and development of the Linz Green Roof Policy, incentives, rationale, and barriers to implementation.   The City of Linz uses a combination of legal framework, financial grants, and policy incentives.   In 1985 legally binding development plans required greeenroofs, either extensive or intensive and a green roof subsidy was implemented in 1989, marking the first direct financial incentive in Austria.   At present, Linz has approximately 440 funded greenroofs with a total greened of about 500,000 m2 (5,381,955 sf), which includes the Bindermichl Landscape Park at 81,000 m2, designed with playgrounds above a motorway tunnel.

Paul Collins, Head of Design Environment at Nottingham Trent University followed with his presentation of “Green roofs:  British policy responses and practice.”   It was nice to finally meet Paul later, too, as we had been corresponding for many years.

We arrived at the beautiful glass  structure of One Bishops Square in Spitalfields, home to the London offices of Allen & Overy, the WGRC  host, close to noon and joined the other 300 attendees in time to hear Duncan Young of  Lend Lease, UK talk about “Commercial drivers for green roofs”  which was very heartening.   He talked about some of the amazing projects that Lend Lease is currently working on, both in the UK and Australia.   Lots of green buildings and greenroofs!   For example, one of the UK’s largest regeneration schemes is  Greenwich Peninsula which is being developed by a joint venture between Lend Lease and Quintain, working with English Partnerships.   Over the next 15 years, the £5 billion regeneration of Greenwich Peninsula will be transformed into a thriving riverside community with about 20,000 residents and 24,000 workers.   Upon completion, at 190 acres this extensive new quarter of London is expected to form Europe’s largest mass of greenroofs.   And we were told that approximately 70% of the 2012 London Olympic Games structures will be greenroofed!

Update of July, 2011: 70% was a bit optimistic back in 2008, but there will be greenroofs.  For example, to meet green building regulations, the International Broadcast Center will incorporate a ‘brown roof’ and recycling non-drinking water (via About.com).  Of course, a brown roof is very similar to a greenroof, but it more greatly encourages the creation of biodiversity because of the high rubble/mineral substrate and wide, open  sparsely  planted roof.  The gravel, moss, and other low nutrient  plant life  will encourage insects, invertebrates and habitats for  the reported 100 bird and bat boxes to be incorporated on site.

The morning  Question and Answer session  followed with many people asking about insurance issues, especially as recently raised by Swiss insurance giant Zurich Re – see the related article in Building.co.uk “Insurers warn of fire risk from green roofs” by Michael Willoughby of September 5, 2008.   People discussed how non-vegetated fire breaks are critical as well as setting a maintenance regime and having supplemental water available.   In terms of leaks, respondents said that just like in all of the roofing world, flat roofs, greened or not, are the problem.   And it was brought up that many European insurance giants actually have greenroofs on their own buildings, including Munich Re!   Austrian Edmund Maurer added that his country in general has problems related to greenroof maintenance, and several German delegates agreed that this issue was present in their homeland as well.   Also, with the current financial crisis in London (and elsewhere), it was asked how important is it to have incentives from government to promote further greenroof development.   As important as it is to have local and national governments behind the promotion of greenroofs, many people responded that we really need to  focus on  greenroofs as amenity driven, not policy driven.   Dusty said that after climate change, biodiversity is a major concern in the UK and that living roofs provide solutions for both.

Next we  enjoyed our lunch, and I have to say that overall the catering and service was excellent, which  can be  rare for these types of events.   The exhibitor booths  were arranged very smartly, in a U-shaped  embrace of sorts around the central hall and all refreshments, lunches and snacks were set on tables within the exhibitor rooms to make it very easy to flow through, visit and network with other attendees  and the greenroof trade show participants.

The afternoon session was also  lively and we heard from some real leaders and mavericks in the field of architecture and research.   Known for  his design of  visionary green “bioclimatic” skyscrapers, Dr. Ken Yeang of Llewelyn Davies Yeang offered “Designing for ecological sustainability” which talked about his philosophy of “mound to ground” and the need to connect greenroofs to the ground level through a series of corridors and fingers utilizing living walls and “landscaped skycourts.”   He showed innovative designs from Hong Kong, New Delhi, Istanbul, Macao and Singapore.   Dr. Yeang also stressed the importance of bio integration of the physical, systemic and temporal nature of each site, and that each project  needs to be  program-specific.

Another colleague of ours, Dr. Stephan Brenneisen of the University of Applied Sciences in Basel, followed with “Benefits for biodiversity” and the Swiss approach for creating higher biodiversity and cost effective greenroofs.   Stephan said the low biotic diversity of many greenroofs is due to a  very thin substrate layer, and using different types of local substrates and varying the depths ( 5, 8, and 12 cm, for example) creates various types of environments where a variety of flora and fauna may thrive.   Referring to the growing media mix, he added that the greater the water storing capacity, the more biomass you’ll get on  your roof which in turn creates greater opportunities for higher diversity.   He also presented case studies including the Basel Exhibition Centre; Klinikum 2, Cantonal Hospital of Basel and the new Monument Development in London, which features the greenroof as a combination of art, design, and nature conservation.

Our German friend Dr. Manfred Kohler from the University of Applied Sciences in Neubrandenburg and the President of the World Green Roof Network (WGRIN), spoke about “Benefits for sustainable water management”  and how it is possible to design zero runoff properties.  Greenroofs were discussed in relation to decentralized rainwater management with examples of research studies in Berlin.    Manfred also informed us that at present, the 2008 FLL Proceedings are being finished.

David Sailor from Portland State University presented “Energy and urban climate benefits of green roofs,” which could have been a boring, dry subject if that’s not your thing, but it wasn’t!   A very likable fellow, Dave talked about the solar radiation properties of greenroofs – they reflect 20% – and the thermal  variances between winter and summer.   For example, a greenroof is 10 degrees C cooler in the summer, which is pretty standard, although a greater than 30 degree C heat flux is possible.    Unfortunately, greenroofs can be warmer at night since they retain some of the day’s heat, but overall greenroofs reduce summer roof temperatures by 10 -30 degrees C.   He  gave examples of various energy studies including monitoring from ACROS in 1995 and the City of Portland, Oregon.   Dave told us the DOE EnergyPlus 2007 modeling software  incorporated his greenroof module which includes details of greenroof energy balance (see “A green roof model for building energy simulation programs” published in Energy and Buildings).

Dr. Nigel Dunnett of Sheffield University and The Green Roof Centre talked about “Landscape and Amenity: a UK Perspective.”   Nigel suggested we “liberate design opportunities in the UK horticultural tradition” and wants us designers to be more liberal overall, utilizing both native and non-native plant species  to  create dramatic visual impact.   His point was that we can design a living roof to be functional and attractive, and in fact the very important attribute of aesthetics will help promote the market.   The Sharrow School in Sheffield was highlighted as a case study, with greenroofs at three levels.   Modelled on the distinctive urban habitats  of the region,  its 8,000 m2 rooftop is a wildlife habitat of mounds and  valleys with areas of: a small wetland, an open brownfield / rubble section, birch forest, limestone grassland, wildflower meadow and a colorful annual meadow.

Closing the afternoon session was Robert Runcie of  Environment Agency from England and Wales – he presented “Partnership approach to implementing green roofs.”    Robert asked, “How do we use development as a stimulus?”   Environment Agency is a national body working with colleagues in government and industry with the capacity to roll this as a best practice policy out across England and Wales.    Over the past two years, they helped ensure that eight hectares of greenroofs were included in London.   As part of their Green Roof Toolkit, they recently launched “Environment Agency’s Building a better environment: A guide for developers – Environment Agency advice on adding value to your site,” a web-based resource for developers and planners for the Thames Region.

The pursuant Q & A session  caused quite a stir  and  some people were dubbed  “Native Plant Nazis”  putting forth  the classic argument of how we should be only using native plant species on our greenroofs.   Basically the questions asked were Are aesthetics important enough for us to  give up the biodiversity benefits that using native plants offer?   Is it really necessary to use introduced species just for the wow factor?   Many people responded that actually both natives and non-natives provide a multitude of benefits to wildlife, including valuable habitat, food and cover, and a variety of plants  can be used for seasonal color and interest.   A little tolerance, people!   Don’t get me started – I’d like to write much more about this topic, so look for it later.

After the close of this first day of the WGRC, the Congress Reception was held on the beautiful  10th floor intensive greenroof terrace of  Congress Supporter Allen & Overy where we were treated to a  lavish selection of tasty barbecue and lovely local UK wines and later, innovative lemon and chocolate mousse dessert shots.

The area encompasses three landscaped greenroof terraces, and a fourth terrace is covered with  photovoltaic cells.   The terrace layout offered intimate areas for reconnecting with far flung associates and social networking – who’s doing what and where, and what a view!   The ever expanding London skyline was beautiful in the rosy hues of dusk.

At the end of the  evening we  heard from Congress Sponsor The Wildlife Trusts who introduced their  Biodiversity Benchmark  for Green Roofs.   The Biodiversity Benchmark for Green Roofs  was created to support the increased development of  living roofs  in the UK and is the first standard to encourage excellence in design, implementation and management of green roofs for the benefit of wildlife.   It was set up to support the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) to help increase the contribution that businesses can make towards enhancing biodiversity, and guidance materials provide advice on how to integrate biodiversity with environmental management processes.

It was great just hanging out with friends who share the same passion as we do in a relaxing greenspace in a wonderful city.   Stay tuned for a little more about the 2008 World Green Roof Congress and beyond when I’ll talk a bit about Day 2 and then our whirlwind London greenroof tour with Dusty and about 25 of his visiting colleagues!

~ Linda

The World Green Roof Congress ’08: Innovation, Research & Friends

September 13, 2008 at 7:24 pm

My husband (and business partner) Aramis and I were lucky  to sidestep  our film  scheduling issue and we are very pleased to be able to go to The World Green Roof Congress in stately London this upcoming Wednesday and Thursday, September 17-18!   Presented by CIRIA in partnership with Livingroofs.org, this Congress promises to offer us greenroof aficionados an interesting mix of the latest in innovation and research progress  in the UK and around the world in addition to a great working vacation.  

In 2005 we attended the  Congress in Basel, Switzerland, where I presented my paper “An International Call for The Greenroof Projects Database.”   We enjoyed a wonderful conference spending time with many old colleagues and friends; from the jokes of the late Dr. Dave Beattie  and Dr. Rob Berghage to the wonderful hospitality of Dr. Stephan Brenneisen and staff to Trish and Kelly Luckett (our travel buddies from all the Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities conferences and the International Green Roof Congress in Nuertingen, Germany  back in 2004), we learned a lot and had a grand time.   And we fully expect the same with hosts the likes of Dusty Gedge, co founder of Livingroofs.org,  and company.

                                                           Christine and her advisors, Dave Beattie & Rob Berghage in Basel, Switzerland, 2005

I’ve known Dusty now for  six years, and for those of you unfortunate ones not to have met him (yet – he’s always making new friends), he’s quite a character – in a good way, of course!   I know everything is relative, but he has quite a thick accent, and when he gets really excited he speeds up, making it a real challenge to catch everything he’s saying.   In fact, Dusty recently told Aramis, “I am practising talking slowly!”

 Examing a bee high atop Canary Wharf; Photo by LSV      Canary Wharf Underground Station in 2003; Photo by LSV

We first started corresponding in 2002, when  he was the lead for the Black Redstart Action Plan for the London Biodiversity Partnership, and this was the topic of his first  2003 Guest Feature  article for Greenroofs.com.   In October, 2003 Dusty took me on a personal greenroof tour  of projects in Deptford Creek in the Thames corridor within inner London, and across several roofs within Canary Wharf, a huge and hugely successful urban regeneration development, and his enthusiasm and knowledge –  not to mention his energy, was intensive!   In November, 2004 he contributed “Livingroofs.org ~ A New Independent Green Roof Organisation for the UK” and through  all his hard  work he has become one of the leading campaigners in the UK on greenroofs.   His commitment to promoting living roofs is genuine and wholehearted and is only comparable to his passion for sustaining and mitigating biodiversity in the built environment by incorporating living architecture.

Back to the Congress – the Keynote address will be given by Richard Blakeway, adviser to the Mayor of London on environment issues; who else will be in attendance?   Many local UK and international professionals will be speaking, and including Dusty, to name but a few are: Dr. Nigel Dunnett, University of Sheffield, UK;  Dr. Ken Yeang, Llewelyn Davies Yeang, UK; Paul Collins, Nottingham Trent University, UK; Dr. Manfred Kohler, University of Applied Sciences, Neubrandenburg, Germany and WGRIN, President; Wolfgang Ansel, International Green Roof Association (IGRA), Germany; Dr. Stephan Brenneisen, Life Sciences and Facility Management, University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland; Kristin Getter & Dr. Brad Rowe, Michigan State University; Peter Lowitt, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, North America; Dr. Elizabeth Fassman, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Auckland, New Zealand; and Dr. Sam Hui, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Hong Kong, as well as couple of our own Greenroofs.com Contributing Editors:  Ed Snodgrass  of Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants  is presenting “Green roof plant selection and landscapes” and Christine Thuring of Green Roof Safari is just  “going for fun” – after six days from guiding her first Green Roof Safari tour.

                    Allen & Overy's London modern headquarters - venue to host the WGRC; Photo source: WGRC

I’m planning on blogging while in jolly old England, taking lots of photos and film of presenters, attendees, exhibitors, and local greenroof projects.   So if you can’t go, check back here for some casual interviews and discussions with friends and associates, old and new.     You know it won’t be all work – we fully expect to enjoy a few relaxed, informal evenings with a pint or two in  some lovely English pubs with lots of local character(s), too!

Learn more about The World Green Roof Congress 2008.