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December 2010
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CitiesAlive! 2010

By Janet Faust, Environmental Horticulturist and Greenroof Product Manager, JDR Enterprises, Inc.
Photos by Janet Faust unless otherwise noted

This whole greenroof conference thing gets better every year.  Like a fine wine, they have gotten better with age.  I would evaluate this vintage as “Very attractive, full of body, deep flavor on the palette.  Very good - lively, well balanced with a hint of nuttiness.  Persistent and complex, finishing dry and crisp.”  Very impressive for an 8-year classic!

The iconic Vancouver Convention Centre by LMN architects, via ArchiThings.

Held on November 30 through December 3, 2010, the 8th Annual Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) Conference, now titled ‘Cities Alive,’ economy tattered, was still well-attended.  GRHC, headquartered in Toronto, selected a location this year on their side of the border, in the northern woods of Vancouver, Canada.  Yes, it was favorable to and I did notice a stronger than usual Canadian contingency; but impressively the usual U.S. suspects filled our pockets with loonies and twoonies and crossed the border to join them.

Having attended all previous seven conferences, I am appreciative that JDR once again allowed me to pack my bags, hop on a plane and cavort with like-minded people who think nothing of standing in 37-degree cold and rain; four-stories up on rooftops and ogle dormant Armeria 'Dusseldorf Pride.'  Hey, these are my peeps!  No other greenroof event is more anticipated and/or attended; this is THE greenroof event of the year.

Earlier years, JDR opted for a vendor booth and it was a no brainer last year too, held in our hometown, Atlanta.  However, learning from experience and this being the granddaddy of greenroof information, my badge of late reads ‘full delegate.’  Green Roof Professionals can relate, this is the only venue I know that we can amass greenroof related educational credentials, a requirement now to maintain our GRP status.

The stunning Vancouver Convention Centre with its six-acre living roof - Canada’s largest and the biggest non-industrial living roof in North America.  Photo Courtesy VCCEP.

A half-day ‘Habitat Havens Tour’ started my week on Tuesday at the Vancouver Convention Centre - the largest non-industrial green roof in North America.  Greenroof or not, this is the most stunning convention center ‘building’ I’ve ever had the pleasure to schlep crates, brochures and product samples through.  Its greenroof was icing on the cake.

Who could resist watching and taking photos of the seaplanes taking off and landing?  Photo left: Linda Velazquez.

Our inaugural ‘Introduction to Rooftop Urban Gardening’ class later in the week was here, too.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only student who struggled to maintain concentration and instead wandered to the expanse of window to admire mountains, waterfront and watch the seaplanes land and take off.  Kudos to the architects; the building and site is breathtaking.

Vancouver Convention Centre - Architects were successful in bringing outdoors, indoors.

The Vancouver Convention Centre was also ground control central for the media last February and March; TV, newspaper and radio people camped-out here during the XXI Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games.  Hundreds and thousands of media-types from all over the world experienced this greenroof firsthand and now have visions of greenroofs dancing in their heads with the capability to go forth and spread the gospel.

Fairmont Waterfront Hotel - Rooftop chef's garden, including blueberries, vegetables and many herbs.

Other greenroofs on our tour included the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel; a rooftop kitchen garden I have long admired from afar.  Third up, a unique new modular shade garden at Golden Properties greenroof, planted with Pacific Northwest native plants.  The rain never let up, temperatures never reached above 37-degrees - read into this - by that fourth and final greenroof, I could hear Gilligan’s Island theme song reverberating between buildings, a three hour tour, a three hour tour…

Golden Properties – Modular greenroof planted with Pacific Northwest natives.

The BMW Dealership rolled out the red-carpet and highlighted their initiatives through a brief PowerPoint.

Well, OK, we were wet and cold, and just feeling like the iconic, stupid sitcom.  Talk about greenroof champions; no complainers in our group, we trudge onward and upward.  “This last greenroof better be worth the hour drive,” I whispered to my bus collaborator.  It is now 4:15; you know it gets dark by 4:30?

We are just now pulling into the last and final stop - BMW Dealership in Richmond.  BMW quickly whisks us through their gleaming showroom; the new car smell permeates the air as we climb the perilously vertical ladder to their rooftop garden.  Not especially pretty this time of year, but I’ll be damned, we came this far…

OK, some of us did cut the time on this roof short and retreat to the warmth of their posh boardroom.  Hot coffee (I don’t even drink coffee but I was loving it) cookies, juices and chocolate truffles were laid out awaiting us while we basked in the red carpet extravagance and watched a PowerPoint proving to us that in other seasons the greenroof is happier.  Wow, talk about customer appreciation, we were sold, thank you BMW!  You made 30 soggy greenroofers from all points of the globe feel like family.  A survey of raised hands indicated none of us actually owns a BMW.  However, you can bet a new BMW is on the top of my Christmas wish list, ‘wish’ being key.

A winter view of the Auto West BMW greenroof; photo by Linda Velazquez.

After thawing, the next day I participated in the half-day and inaugural class: Introduction to Rooftop Urban Agriculture.  Of the 101, 201…classes, trust me, I’ve taken them all, I thought this was the most relevant, informative and interesting class…ever.  A young man, Keith Agoada, two years out of University of Wisconsin and founder of ‘Sky Vegetables,’ an urban agriculture business, adeptly taught the class.  Lookout greenroof professionals, this young man’s motto is ‘the sky is the limit’ and trust me, he is going places: up!

Keith’s background is business and appropriately he structured the class from an economic, let's make money, profit approach.  Smart move; we green and black art folks who know (or think we know) horticulture/roofing backwards and forwards came away with loads of applicable information and a class we could honestly say was well worth our time and money (or our bosses').

Stayed an extra day to take in Granville Island Public Market.

Conference sessions I attended during the week related to policy, standards, future direction/big picture, stormwater, green walls and maybe the most impassioned topic - GRHC’s recent announcement to explore developing a LEED-type rating system for greenroof projects.  With greenroofs coming of age, not so exclusive, the diversity of presenters and depth of topics, this year was exceptional.  My favorite presenter quote came from the very animated Dr. Katherine Dunster, BCIT-Centre for Architectural Ecology who said someone referred to her greenroof as building with ‘green algae smear!’

Local cuisine reflects culture of Vancouver.

Having been on the Atlanta greenroof tour committee last year and experienced firsthand how much work is involved in just the tour portion of a conference, I can only imagine the exhausting commitment it takes for an entire conference.

The mountains were a pleasant backdrop to the exceptional city of Vancouver, B.C.

GRHC, you outdid yourself this year, this was the most exceptional greenroof conference…ever. I came away optimistic, inspired and happy to be a part of the greenroof initiative.  For the last seven conferences, I’ve felt that we’ve been focused on the destination: getting green on the roof.

Revelation this year: we are at a certain comfort level where it’s not only about the destination, but the ride.  I for one am enjoying the ride.

See you all in Philadelphia!

Janet M. Faust
Greenroof Product Manager
JDR Enterprises, Inc.

Janet M. Faust is the Greenroof Product Manager for JDR Enterprises, Inc., a leading manufacturer of prefabricated drain components for greenroofs and other construction applications located in Alpharetta, Georgia.  In support of JDR’s commitment to greenroof initiatives, she provides technical support to architects, landscape architects, contractors and installers for successful greenroof projects.  As an environmental horticulturist, Ms. Faust researches updated information on greenroof applications and provides educational seminars and training at universities, colleges, conference seminars about the opportunities and benefits related to installing greenroofs in both new construction and retrofits on existing buildings.

She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Housing from Florida State University and an Environmental Horticulture Diploma, focused on greenroofs, from North Metro Technical College, Atlanta.  Janet is both a LEED and Green Roof Accredited Professional (LEED AP and GRP).  She is personally dedicated to environmental solutions and enjoys the opportunity to blend this personal commitment with her day-to-day profession at JDR providing services related to greenroofs.

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