Green Roofs, a Civic Award of Excellence, and a Lifetime of Memories


By Kelly Luckett, LEED AP, GRP, The Green Roof Guy
The Green Roof Guy's Column
December 9, 2010
Photos Courtesy Kelly Luckett Unless Otherwise Noted





Hello once again, Green Roof Fans.  I write this as I sit on a plane, as I have so many times before; but this time itís different.  Rather than that usual trudge through security and hustle to my gate, I found myself sauntering a bit with my head still reeling from the events of the past few days.  As I do every year, I attended the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) annual conference, this year appropriately renamed CitiesAlive.

What made this year different was that I had been selected to receive the GRHC Civic Award of Excellence in recognition of my contribution to the green roof industry.  Now friends, if you would have told me ten years ago that if I had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to partner with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to do green roof research, spent tens of thousands more logging enough miles on airplanes to circle the globe to teach and promote the green roof concept, plus spent countless nights in hotel rooms in order to joust with the building code gladiators, and at the end of it all I would be presented with a piece of glass etched with my name - Iím not certain you could have made that sale.

However, as I sit here with my glass award buckled securely in the seat next to me, reflecting over past few days that have been filled with new friends thanking me for all of my hard work, old friends congratulating for the recognition, and just generally being given rock star treatment by everyone I came in contact with, I can honestly say that I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

My Civic Award of Excellence.

I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude and so honored to be included in the group of truly inspirational people who have received this award before me.  While my kids would tell you that I am overly sentimental and that all it takes bring a tear to my eye is a sappy greeting card or Hallmark movie, I will carry this experience with me for the rest of my life.

Now fans, the Green Roof Guy speaks in public often and is usually comfortable at the microphone.  However, I always get an adrenaline rush just as I get started that goes away five minutes or so into my speech.  I was told to keep my comments to less than a minute, which meant four minutes after I got back to my seat I would settle in.  I took a few big breaths as I was approaching the stage and had hoped to stave off the excitement long enough to thank some other people who have shared the heavy load.  About three or four sentences in, I felt the tingling starting to race up my spine, and my voice began to tremble a bit.  I decided to cut my remarks short and in doing so left out some people I really wanted to recognize.  So if you will indulge me here, I would like mention a few people.

Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

I've just accepted my award, December, 2010;
Left to Right: Steven Peck, me, and Jeff Bruce

Steven Peck and I have often not seen eye to eye.  In fact, I am on record being quite critical about some of these issues.  But, I have come to respect Steven as the tireless promoter of the cause.  It is difficult to approach a complete stranger and give the elevator speech.  Steven makes it seem effortless.

I remember speaking with him on the phone after every proposal we made at the ICC (International Code Council) hearings in Palm Springs was shot down in flames and telling him I didnít know if I was the right person for this.  Steven would hear none of it.  He told me I was the right guy for this job and convinced me that the war was larger than this battle.  I appreciate the flexibility I enjoyed to craft and re-craft the standards, knowing their effect would be felt industry wide.  Iíve enjoyed Stevenís support every step of the way.

I met Dr. Bill Retzlaff for the first time in the parking lot of a property I own in Pontoon Beach, IL just outside St. Louis.  I wanted to establish a green roof research program in the metro St. Louis area.  After many conversations with area universities, Dr. Retzlaff was the only academic I could get interested.  We set a time to meet, but it was going to be one of the last nice days of the year and my son, Jesse, and I wanted to get in some time riding our Sea Dooís.  So when I showed up I was towing them behind me in my pickup truck.  As if I needed to appear any more unprofessional, I had forgotten the keys to the building, so we had to look at my green roof photos on my laptop as we sat on the hood of the truck.

Dr. Bill, me, and Vic Jost on a Green Roof (2007).

Needless to say, it wasnít my most sparkling moment and I pulled out of the parking lot with little confidence I would hear from Dr. Retzlaff again.  However, we started communicating regularly and soon we had students conducting regionally specific green roof research.  We joke that every time we get together to find answers to our questions, we generate even more questions.  The investment I made in the G.R.E.E.N. (Green Roof Environmental Evaluation Network) is the largest expenditure in my companyís history and continues to be among my most rewarding endeavors.  The wind tunnel testing we conducted shifted the tide and provided that final push we needed to get the RP-14 Wind Design Guideline completed and approved through the ANSI process.  Through the years, Dr. Retzlaff and I have become good friends and fiercely competitive golf companions.  Through his work with each new class of students he continually spreads his passion for the green roof concept to future leaders and consumers.

While I sat in on the many meetings and conference calls where we would discuss each objection submitted to us by members of the canvass pool, Dave Roodvoets, Mike Ennis, and Linda King of SPRI (Single Ply Roofing Industry) made the countless edits to the documents and circulated each revision.  Mike traveled to the ICC hearings ahead of me and would scout out the schedule and try to pinpoint when our proposals would be heard in order to minimize my time on the road.  We could not have gotten this done without SPRIís leadership and experience in the building code arena.

I cannot say enough about the participation from the canvass pool.  They are the sole reason we have two completed ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards.  They came forward and tossed their hat in the ring and then took the time to go over each revision and weigh in. Itís easy to label someone voicing an opposing opinion as an adversary, when in reality, the healthy debate and exchange of ideas almost always results in a more favorable outcome.  We changed minds, compromised, and agreed to disagree.  At the end of the day, we managed to find the consensus of the group and push forward.  Thank you canvassers; you know who you are.

 Mark Graham, NRCA

That leads me to this next gentleman.  Early in the process, Mark Graham of the NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association) was labeled the enemy by many who felt there was no need for code enforcement to have any bearing on the green roof concept.  If you didnít know, I come from a family of roofers and spent most of my life working on the roof.  I worked for a past president of the NRCA and that gave Mark and I something in common.  We talked over breakfast the day we met and I liked him right away.

Mark and I often disagree; I think he can make things more complicated than necessary and I get the feeling he thinks I oversimplify everything.  We work well together and though we often find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, he has taught me a great deal about the process and the political pressures that sway it.  Mark, I appreciate your friendship and I look forward to jousting with you soon.

My wife and kids have spent many nights in the house without me.  When I get home, they help to celebrate the successes, and they make themselves scarce after the failures.  Just kidding, they actually attentively listen to me lament and allow me to vent as I slowly come around to remembering what is most important.  Striking the balance between work and family continues to be among my most difficult challenges.  To my lovely wife Trish, and my wonderful kids Jesse and Shannon, I love you most and thrive because of your love and support!

Aramis, Linda and me in Stuttgart,
with Trish taking the photo (2005).

I would not be able to come to you through this medium were it not for my family.  Linda and Aramis you are among our most treasured friends.  Your contribution to the green roof concept, which has long gone under noticed, is greatly appreciated.

Finally, my Green Roof Fans, without whom the green roof concept withers on the vine: You have made me feel so very fortunate.  As we head into this holiday season, from my family to yours, be well, be green, and have a wonderful holiday!

Happy Holidays from the Luckett Family!
Left to Right: Kelly, Trish, Shannon & Jesse, 2010

Kelly Luckett

Publisher's Note:  I have to say that Aramis and I feel honored to have the Lucketts as our friends and greenroof colleagues.  Kelly really is a tireless crusader and we have greatly enjoyed his contributions over the years here on  Congratulations, Green Roof Guy, on a well deserved award, and continued success!

Kelly Luckett is President of GREEN ROOF BLOCKS and Green Paks and a member of the USGBC.  Kelly has been involved in the industry since 1980, is a LEED Accredited Professional and also holds a GRP accreditation - Green Roof Professional.  In 2009, Kelly authored Green Roof Construction and Maintenance, published by McGraw-Hill's Greensource.

Contact Kelly at: 314.220.2113, or email him at either: or

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