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!).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.
Of course you passed, my friends said, you’ve been at this since the late 1990’s, been called the “Queen of Greenroofs,” the Audubon Society said I was the “Dean of Greenroofs” several years back, and Paul Kephart from Rana Creek once told an audience in San Francisco that I had a PhD in greenroofs! I quickly thanked him for the educational upgrade, but explained really I just have an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture…
Hold on, while it wasn’t that hard, it also wasn’t that easy – I didn’t quite ace it, and it took some studying of the four Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ courses – well, really three (I didn’t study Green Roofs 101 – I did teach it, though, for one stint during the introduction in Portland, OR, in 2004 along with Patrick Carey, Haven Kiers, and Wendy Wark, pictured at right). But that’s the point of the exam – to ensure a certain level of comprehension of the philosophy and application of greenroof methodology and technology, which also means to know your basic understanding of the combined black and green arts, and to know when to call in a seasoned professional in one of those particular halves when necessary.
Even though I’ve been at this for over ten years with several greenroofs designed under my belt (plus writing about them, speaking, compiling the Projects Database with 1,028 profiles so far, etc.), I felt it was very important to receive my GRP designation for many reasons. (I became a LEED AP in 2004 for similar reasonings.) I had planned to take it here in Atlanta last June, 2009 at the inaugural exam held during the 7th annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference (now Cities Alive) and said so when I interviewed Jeff Bruce, but didn’t because I missed the registration deadline!
In any case, I took a look at all the cities offering the GRP exam this year and jumped at taking it New York City on Friday, April 30 because it’s such a great town and we have friends there. Aramis and I had great hosts in Wendy and Chris Wark – Chris is our new “Energy Editor” and they’re long time greenroof compadres. To welcome us, we had dinner at their place the night before and since Wendy is now a director at Metro North Railroad, and she promised us a special late afternoon “insider” tour of Grand Central Station, after my morning GRP exam at Pace University.
There were about 30 of us taking the exam, and all went smoothly. Since we had the afternoon free, we roamed a bit, first exploring New York’s historic South Street Seaport next to the Brooklyn Bridge at the tip of Manhattan. Most important for us, though, was to visit the Ground Zero site, pay our respects, and see the construction progress. We started at the beautiful St. Paul’s Chapel. Opened in 1766, it’s Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use – a place where George Washington worshiped and 9/11 recovery workers received round-the-clock care, and lingered at each of the memorials to the victims of that horrific day – personal mementos, photos, and messages to lost ones. We also visited the Ground Zero Museum Workshop alongside a throng of international visitors, where we reflected at rare, heart-pulling images of the day and the models and plans of the new Freedom Tower and more.
Wendy then showed us the bustling, beautiful and massive Grand Central Terminal, revealing seven little know secrets about its Beaux-Arts architecture and past…Did you know that the four-sided brass clock in the center of the information booth in the main concourse holds the four largest opals in the world? Drinks at MAD46 were next – a trendy rooftop lounge (of course!) followed by dinner at Guantanamera, a wonderful Cuban restaurant.
On Saturday Wendy, Chris, Aramis, and I spent our last day in the Meatpacking District touring the much publicized 1.45-mile (2.33 km) High Line, which was packed with people sightseeing, pushing baby strollers and wheelchairs, and even some taking in the sun in the extremely hot sunshine. I found the High Line to be an extremely successful example of public space: interesting regenerative design in the form of ecological reuse of a former urban blight.
“The park welcomes visitors with naturalized plantings that are inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks and with new, often unexpected views of the city and the Hudson River. Pebble-dash concrete walkways unify the trail, which swells and constricts, swinging from side to side, and divides into concrete tines that meld the hardscape with the planting embedded in railroad gravel mulch. Stretches of track and ties recall the High Line’s former use. Most of the planting, which includes 210 species, is of rugged meadow plants, including clump-forming grasses, liatris and coneflowers, with scattered stands of sumac and smokebush, but not limited to American natives.” ~ Wikipedia
Although I found the site’s modernist hotel to border on hideous, I loved the High Line’s overall design – its honesty to its railroad past – and the planting flow of this linear park spanning 22 city blocks, which in effect is a very large greenroof!
Which brings me back to the reason for this post – to let you know I am a proud GRP, and if you are involved with our industry or are considering entering, I highly recommend you pursue this course of study and sit for the exam – even if you, too, have been doing this for over 10 years (or more!).
What an awesome concept the Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm project is! I first heard about this late last year but then about a week ago colleagues Bill Foley and Wendy Wark alerted me again, and so now I finally took action this afternoon by donating $50 to the cause. Not a lot of money, but enough to show Greenroofs.com‘s support for an extremely worthwhile undertaking.
As we all know in this green industry of ours, underutilized rooftop space is one of the greatest real estate potentials for greenroof implementation. In this age of trying to come together as a community, organic farming, and healthy food plus security issues, what better way to help mitigate the developmental woes of a building’s footprint that planting crops at rooftop level? And (hopefully) make a profit?
That’s exactly what Brooklyn Grange is doing for their own community – they’re in the process of starting a rooftop farm with a team of five partners and a whole bunch of friends, and the organizer, Ben Flanner, says it’s “A big project that requires a lot of hard work to say the least, and one that sets an example for using under-utilized rooftop space across this dense city to do something productive. There are many benefits to the city and community from such an operation.” Most certainly, and we can all help by donating even just $1 – by this Friday, May 28, 2010 – but $10 gets a bee named after you! Actually, for all donations of $10 or more, they will list you as a donor on their website and name one of their honeybees after you.
They’ve setup a campaign on an interesting new website called kickstarter, which is designed to help raise funds for enterprising people to start new projects – such as this one. Kickstarter has a unique platform where you set your goal at the onset of the campaign, and then you need to hit that goal from online pledges to receive funding, otherwise all of your pledges are simply returned to the pledgers. People can click on your project and pledge any amount during the course of the campaign.
So what is the project really all about? Their page on kickstarter says:
“Brooklyn Grange will be a 1 acre rooftop farm situated in New York City. Such a commercially-viable rooftop farm has yet to be realized in this country. We will use simple greenroof infrastructure to install over 1 million pounds of soil on the roof of an industrial building on which we will grow vegetables nine months of the year. Being in the country’s largest city, the farm will create a new system of providing local communities with access to fresh, seasonal produce. We plan to expand quickly in the first few years, covering multiple acres of New York City’s unused rooftops with vegetables. The business has many environmental and community benefits, and allows our city dwelling customers to know their farmer, learn where their food comes from, and become involved.”
Ironically, as it turns out, Brooklyn Grange’s first project isn’t in Brooklyn but on a 40,000 square foot, 6-story industrial rooftop in Queens! And the group is very happy to have the good fortune of this company’s backing, too, and they’ll be selling their produce in both boroughs as well, including tomatoes, eggplants, chilies, and various leafy greens. The farm will be run by Ben Flanner, who started and ran a proof of concept rooftop farm in the summer of 2009. The beyond-organic produce will be sold directly to the community at an onsite stand, affording shoppers a direct relationship with the farm and farmers. Additional produce will be sold to a small group of market-driven local restaurants. He explains the business philosophy:
“We are a for-profit business. We believe in adding fiscal sustainability to the sustainability rubric so that urban rooftop farms can expand across the city, the Northeast and even the world! Any profits we make will go towards paying our farmer a living wage and whatever remains will be reinvested in the business so we can keep growing.” ~ Ben Flanner
In what stage is the project now? In a newsletter today, May 25, 2010, Ben shares that “At this moment, we’ve installed about two-thirds of the rooftop soil, and we have about 110 sacks (~300,000 lbs) to lift yet with the crane, continuing tomorrow morning early.”
Brooklyn Grange needed to hit their goal of $20,000 by Friday, May 28, to get some important funds for the farm through kickstarter, and I’m pleased to report they have! As of right now, supporters and fans have pledged $20,740.50, but please consider contributing more to their entrepreneurial greening efforts. To pledge now, visit here, and they’d love it if you would also help spread the word! Read “High Above Queens, the Dirt Is Deep, and Good” by Diane Cardwell in the New York Times of May 13, 2010, see their profile on kickstarter.
As you know by now, ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky in Toronto, Canada is the winner in our first contest here at Greenroofs.com, the 2010 Love the Earth, Plant a Roof! Earth Day Photo Contest, and was featured as our Greenroof Project of the Week (GPW) from May 2, 2010 through May 9, 2010. Submitted by Josephine Chan, Public Relations Specialist, Marketing, with ESRI Canada, this project received a whopping 735 votes! Well, Josephine is a marketing specialist and should be commended on doing a great job of getting the word out to vote for her project!
Although this really was a popularity contest, nonetheless, this “Garden in the Sky” is a stunning example of collaboration, resulting in a thoughtful, peaceful, and inviting greenspace in an otherwise dreary, hot urban roofscape canyon typically found in our core downtown areas. I asked Josephine why she felt the ESRI Canada living roof was special:
“The green roof is a great project because it provides access to nature in an urban environment. It reflects the passion for the environment and collective creativity of ESRI Canada’s staff, who were consulted and encouraged to submit suggestions for the design of the green roof. The result is a colorful, accessible and functional rooftop garden that significantly enhances our workplace and the environment.” ~ Josephine Chan
ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) Canada is a geographic information systems software company who wanted an ecological roofing alternative for their ninth-story headquarters. According to an article in unlimited Magazine, company president Alex Miller saw big potential:
“We’re an environmental company. Our business is building geographic information systems for our customers. We wanted to set an example of what a company could do, for a relatively small amount of money overall, at improving the sustainability of our surrounding environment.” ~ Alex Miller
The greenroof was designed by Scott Torrance Landscape Architect of Toronto, who also conducted a Green Roof Feasibility Study for the ESRI Canada Head Office in 2007. The design encompasses several zones of outdoor rooms for circulation purposes, and also reflects the indoor plan.
The project was installed and is maintained by Gardens in the Sky, Flynn Canada. Not including the planters, the 7,500 sf installation is a pre-vegetated LiveRoof Hybrid greenroof system combining 4″ LiveRoof Standard and 6″ LiveRoof Deep modules. Josephine told us about several challenges that were encountered during the design and implementation of the roof garden. The first step was convincing the landlord, Crown Property Management, that it was an idea worth pursuing.
“Fortunately, they are committed to making their buildings more energy efficient and sustainable. They agreed that a green roof would be a valuable enhancement and covered the cost of re-roofing the structure on which the garden would be laid. Capital costs for the green roof were in the range of $25 to $35 per square foot. The investment the company allocated for the project was substantial. However, it knew the benefits would far outweigh the costs and proceeded with the project despite the severe economic downturn.”
ESRI Canada faced other challenges such as winds, loading capacity and logistics for a project located in a busy commercial area of east Toronto, and shares the following items that needed to be addressed:
“Wind velocity, particularly nine stories above ground, needed to be factored into plant selection and installation. An 85-ton crane was used to lift a total weight of 260,000 pounds of plant modules, including 100 yards of soil, 56 planter boxes and 4,000 individual modules of live root plants. Further complicating the process was logistics. Crane availability and other logistical considerations in a busy office building meant that work could only be done on Saturdays and Sundays. This was carried out with a crew of eight working 12-hour days for two weekends in early May 2009.” Another reason for doing the crane work over weekends was so that the fire routes were not blocked during working hours.
One other interesting challenge was the need to access window washing anchors set within the gravel, which was accomplished through Scott Torrance’s design (photo below from Treehugger). The landscape architect positioned the plantings “so that the lines for the window washers go between them. The gravel also keeps people on roof away from the glass.”
Kees Govers, BSc (Agr), of LiveRoof Ontario Inc. adds perspective from the installation process: “In May 2009, Gardens in the Sky devoted two consecutive weekends to the installation. On the first Saturday, all the planters and furniture were hoisted to the 8th floor balcony and positioned, and on the second Saturday the LiveRoof modules were craned up and installed along with the irrigation and the pathways.
“The pathways were all preloaded in LiveRoof modules and were simply installed as any other module. As a result, the entire green roof is truly portable. It would take approximately one day to completely remove the entire green roof without a trace, if and when the time came. Because LiveRoof utilizes patented “˜hoppits’ as conveyance for the modules to the rooftop, even grasses and perennials can be completely full grown ready for installation in the nursery and installed without any damage. As a result, the green roof is truly finished on the day it is installed rather than requiring another two to three years of growth.”
These two photos below were taken by Kees approximately two weeks after installation was completed (late-May, 2009):
Kees explains that unlike other modular systems, LiveRoof doesn’t stack their modules. “We also use only a minimal amount of stretch wrap to prevent overheating of the plants. As a result we can ship fully grown grasses, perennials and sedums without any shipping damage to the plants and without having to utilize refrigerated trailers. The elevators are removed during installation to create a monolithic green roof without visible modules.”
“We always utilize the living mulch principle when executing plant designs. No deciduous plants are used without an evergreen groundcover underplanted. Because everything is full grown and already maturing at the time of installation, there is never any exposed growing medium. As a result, wind erosion of the growing medium is virtually non-existent even when the deciduous plants have gone dormant.” ~ Kees Govers
Patrick Biller, Green Roof Maintenance & Installation with Flynn Canada, Gardens in the Sky, believes the ESRI is a unique project. “It has all the typical Sedums and grasses that other LiveRoof systems have, but it also has an area devoted to plants that are unique to green roofs. A lot of rock garden Sempervivums were used, as well as thyme and Nepeta. The sculpture in the center is unique and points in the direction of the city with the CN Tower in the background.” From a maintenance point of view, Patrick says that the LiveRoof system is quick to install, fills in quickly, and reduces the maintenance challenges, and that everything about the system is efficient. Other than a few select perennials such as coreopsis and evening primrose dying out, the greenroof has filled in very nicely. In early May Flynn Canada/Gardens in the Sky planted some more coreopsis and yarrow.
“I had the privilege of doing the spring clean-up on this site this spring, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. All the hustle and bustle of the city, with the Don Valley Parkway directly underneath and general road noise are masked up there, and it feels like an oasis. Not very often do we do projects that can actually separate you from your surroundings, offering a tranquil space for people to enjoy. I wish more projects were like this one!” ~ Patrick Biller
Despite the many site challenges, ESRI Canada believes the company was able to “transform a previously dreary concrete terrace into a lush green roof that provides important environmental and business benefits, including improved air quality, lower energy consumption for air conditioning and reduced stormwater runoff. Previously, you would be met by dust and highway noise when you stepped out onto the terrace. Now, employees and visitors can walk out to green outdoor space for formal meetings, corporate events and informal lunch breaks. They can enjoy the breathtaking view of perennials and tall grasses intermingled with sedums that can also be seen from inside and neighbouring buildings. Birds and butterflies have also become frequent visitors to the green roof. It has been transformed into a colourful, living garden enjoyed by many.”
Josephine gave us her personal reflections on the greenroof and its contribution to a healthier Earth: “It’s been almost a year since ESRI Canada’s green roof was installed. It was about the same time when I started with the company. I have never worked in an office with a green roof before so I was, and still am, extremely impressed with ESRI Canada’s environmental effort and proud to be part of a company that is committed to being green.
“From inside the offices, you get seamless views of the garden, which is broken into zones that extend the interior space. It’s a refreshing place to relax during breaks and provides a great venue for more formal corporate gatherings. It’s designed with several walkways, so you can tour the roof and look closely at the more than 50 varieties of shrubs, flowering plants, grasses and trees.
“We’ve hosted numerous tours for customers, partners, journalists, and tenants in the building and surrounding buildings who are curious to see the green roof. They are always amazed by how cool and quiet it is there, given that the busy Don Valley Parkway is just below. Birds and butterflies are also frequent visitors. It’s a living garden enjoyed by many. In addition to providing weather and noise insulation, it retains stormwater and delivers significant energy cost savings. It also serves as an excellent demonstration of and inspiration for preserving nature and caring for the environment. “
Kudos to all the stakeholders for a wonderful project and in particular to Josephine Chan of ESRI Canada, who says she’ll be donating the $100 prize to a local charity that protects migratory birds. Josephine adds, “I love seeing them on the green roof!”
Lloyd Alter from Treehugger.com created two videos about the project for his article “Prefab, Portable Green Roof Installed In Toronto” of October 5, 2009, where he interviewed ESRI General Manager John Kitchen and the landscape architect, Scott Torrance. Also read more from the project profile in the Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database, and watch a short video about ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky below:
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Headquarters in Washington, D.C. was our Greenroof Project of the Week (GPW) from April 25 through last Sunday, May 2, 2010. When I asked ASLA for some updates on the roof, they explained they were in the midst of midyear meetings, so I knew I would be a bit late reporting on this beautiful rooftop space, but here we go! I chose this particular project to end April, aptly befitting since it was Landscape Architecture Month. Founded in 1899, ASLA chose April because it is the birth month of the “Father of Landscape Architecture,” Frederick Law Olmsted, and in any case it’s certainly a perfect example of thoughtful, sustainable design to end Earth Month on a positive note, too.
Being an associate member of ASLA (I’m not full ASLA because although I have a degree in landscape architecture, I’m not licensed as a landscape architect – aka LA), I was very proud that our professional organization became a greenroofing pioneer when they decided to retrofit their headquarters with a living roof back in 2004. Under the leadership of landscape arcitechture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. (MVVA) and in typical LA fashion, a creative, design-focused team of practitioners was established to determine functionality and design intent with all the stakeholders. Multiple charrettes afforded an open invitation to collaborative feedback and re-design. One of the main priorities was for the roof to provide educational, viewing, and recreational opportunities to employees and visitors – in effect, a landmark demonstration project to showcase the many benefits of greenroofs and what landscape architects contribute to this project type.
Since weight was a potential issue on the older building as well as accessibility, the project began with a structural assessment to ensure that the roof could accommodate the additional load of a greenroof, around 40 lbs/sf for an extensive roof. Limitations became opportunities for creative design:
“The designers made maximum use of the structural capacity of the building, varying soil depths and plantings to take advantage of differing load capacities. For example, the elevator shaft has the greatest structural capacity and could accommodate 21 inches of soil; plantings on the elevator shaft include sumac trees, which may grow as tall as 30 feet at maturity.” ~ ASLA Green Roof Demonstration Project Fact Sheet
The ASLA greenroof is unique in so many ways! As stewards of the Earth, landscape architects promote native plants, which always positions a plantscape – whether on land or roof – to accurately portray its genius loci, or sense of place. And yet as we all know, greenroofs most certainly are not set in native environments – the “soil” is not native as it is a highly engineered growing medium designed to supply drainage and retain moisture, secure and anchor plant roots, and provide aeration and nutrients in a highly unnatural environment – a rooftop usually separated from the ground plane by many feet.
Balancing this responsibility, ASLA decided to inform the public regarding both options and the roof contains both native and introduced plant species – the more proven, non-native greenroof plant material, which for the most part has been the true survivors of the harsh effects of wind, frost, heat, and drought found on a roof, and various native selections researched to perform well under this stressful conditions. Here’s a look at the changing aesthetics of nature, even on designed spaces – the two photos above show the South Wave in bloom: the top photo is from early May, 2007, and the bottom from June, 2009, which sports its current look.
[The] “desire to make the green roof feel like a garden also guided MVVA’s approach to planting the space. The idea was to use the roof as a kind of laboratory for identifying species, beyond the typical green roof sedums, that could thrive in shallow soil, and under the harsh environmental conditions typical of many urban rooftops, without extensive maintenance or watering. We were particularly interested in plants that might offer increased environmental and experiential value.
“In addition to a variety of succulents, therefore, the plantings included flowering perennials like Goldenrod, Spiderwort, Black-eyed Susans, Artemesia, and Butterfly Milkweed, as well as a variety of grasses, including Blue Gamma Grass, and Virginia Wild Rye. For the first two years during the establishment of the plants, we had a member of our staff make periodic visits to evaluate the success of the planting, making adjustments to the plans based on our observations.” ~ Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.
So their design features two different but equally stunning elevated “waves” featuring a 6″ deep semi-extensive system with both native (flowering herbaceous perennials and grasses) and non-native plants on the North Wave, 6′ high, and non-native plants (mostly sedums) on the 4.5″ deep extensive South Wave system, 5′ high. From the central viewing platform, plants are brought up to eye level and an aluminum grating was added so sedum is literally blooming at visitors’ feet from another extensive greenroof system underneath.
The waves also act as noise insulators from the a/c units and the roof provides an urban habitat for birds, pollinating insects and butterflies. Completed in 2006 and open to the public almost five years now, visitors have come from around the world to view the 3,000 sf greenroof, including past First Lady Laura Bush.
MMVA provided the axonometric drawing (thumbnail) at left of the various layers of the greenroof which shows how the design uses typical green roof materials, but in a way that is layered and exaggerated to create a space that is visually engaging and multi-functional (originally posted in the April, 2006 USATODAY.com article “Green roofs swing temperatures in urban jungles” by April Holladay under “Anatomy of a Green Roof“). Rachel Gleeson, Senior Associate with MVVA, explains that the spatial innovation of the design is an extreme vertical exaggeration of the roof insulation (Styrofoam) to create the two large sloping landforms that are the “waves,” rising to heights up to six feet. Covered with only a thin soil profile, they create a rare kind of rooftop topography that has a profound influence on the space.
Yet the waves posed technical challenges. After the application of the Styrofoam, a perforated soil retention membrane was added to allow water to stream through but still hold the plants in place. A cable was then run through the system to prevent it from becoming airborne. Rachel continues: “Strong winds on the small roof threatened to shear the lightweight foam from its anchors, and the shape and angle of the landforms’ walls compounded this threat. Robert Sillman Associates, the structural engineer on the project, devised an ingenious solution that used the arcing steel frames of the landforms as armature. [The cable] elegantly secures the two foam objects to the roof trusses below, preventing the foam from blowing off the building.”
“One of the things that MVVA felt was important with the ASLA Green Roof was to establish a precedent for a hybrid green roof garden that celebrated the unique pleasure of an urban rooftop garden without sacrificing the utility and low weight of a typical green roof. Some of the most exciting aspects of the ASLA Green Roof are the ones that demonstrate ways that the human uses and the green roof functions could really support each other – most notably the “waves” of raised planting and also the grating that allowed for open walking surfaces above planted areas.” ~ MVVA
Each wave is distinct and beautiful at different times of the year and serves double-duty by not only offering all of the ecological, environmental, aesthetic and psychological benefits pertaining to greenroofing, but showing the public options for creating a living roof of their own. And the innovative metal grating walkway system over the middle greenroof plantings allowed ASLA to utilize 90% of the greenroof by planting sedum and other succulents below the grates!
“For the most part, sedum and green roof plants cannot be walked on, which often times creates a trade-off between having a green roof and creating an occupiable space for people. The experimental system used in the ASLA Green Roof floats a super lightweight aluminum grating, low in heat conductivity, 3″ over a thin green roof system of sedum. The sedum selected usually reaches about 6″ in height, so the plants are not hidden, but can poke up through the aluminum grating a bit. In the areas of high traffic the plants that emerge through the grate get trampled a little, but this results in regeneration, rather than destruction.” (MVVA)
One more unique feature of the project is the buy-in received from not only members of ASLA who contributed money, but also the greenroof industry – the majority of the products and services were donated. Major donors include: American Hydrotech and their Garden Roof Assembly; Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants for vegetation; and St. Louis Metal Works for edging and drains, to name a few (see the complete list here).
ASLA also received a $25,000 Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grant from the Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership between Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, and the federal government.
Keith Swann, Special Assistant to the Exec. VP, American Society of Landscape Architects, shares the following info with us:
The American Society of Landscape Architects Green Roof Five Years Later
The ASLA green roof still continues to amaze all who visit it. And those visitors have come from as far as the Middle East, Far East and Australia to witness its beauty. With its wide variety of soil depths and diverse plant selection, this green roof offers many microclimates for the plants to thrive. From the terrace level with three inches of growing medium, the sedums have thrived under the innovative grating system as well as the in the other areas. This grating, aluminum, light-weight and recyclable, allowed a maximum planting area and walkable space on the roof. The bonus is the sedums bloom at your feet in addition to on the “waves” bringing a wide abundance of plants and color to eye level for everyone to enjoy.
In addition to the terrace level and waves, the newly added staircase, which makes this a popular public project, has 12 inches of growing medium and flourishing shrubs of fragrant sumacs, Pasture rose, and New Jersey tea. The elevator shaft has 21 inches of growing medium and houses the Flame sumac and the trumpet vine that is covering the trellis for additional shade as you enter the green roof.
By using the Hobo temperature monitoring system, the green roof has shown a maximum temperature difference of 43.5 degrees lower than from a nearby tar roof. As the plants have matured, this temperature has risen from the initial reading of 39.5 degrees lower. The expectation is that as the plants mature even more over the years, the temperature difference between the two roofs would continue to increase. As a demonstration project, this type is data is very useful in determining the just one more attribute of how green roofs are healthier for the environment than conventional roofs.
The roof has been monitored for stormwater runoff, water quality (to determine the concentrations of contaminants of concern leaving the greenroof), and air temperature and is compared with data from the conventional roof on the building next door. See a synopsis of comprehensive water monitoring data from the first year of the ASLA Headquarters’ greenroof here or the full briefing report (both .doc files).
The ASLA is very committed to promoting the work of landscape architects and greenroofs, so much that they have a section of their website devoted to the subject – Green Roof Central, where you can learn all about greenroofs in general as well as their own. There’s a webcam showing the HQ greenroof and a page for educators and students – the ASLA Green Roof Education Program, The Roof is Growing! The program provides print and web-based educational materials geared to a middle-school age audience (grades 6 – 8) and their teachers. Key goals of the program are to raise awareness of environmental issues and the role green roofs can play in reducing storm water runoff, mitigating the urban heat island effect, improving air quality, and providing important biohabitat for birds and insects. (In 2007 I was one of the expert reviewers of the four segments of the “The Roof Is Growing!” web component.)
Advocacy is a also a big item for the ASLA – they focus on state and federal issues that impact the profession of landscape architecture. Advocacy efforts are organized around these key issues: economic recovery, transportation, sustainable design, livable communities, water & stormwater, and historic landscapes.
Greenroofs.com highlighted the ASLA HQ greenroof in our 2009 Greenroofs of the World™ Calendar for the month of August with the photo above (but we Photoshopped out the ad on the brick wall per their request), and as familiar as I am with this roof, I haven’t yet visited this lovely, warm green space created with humans and nature in mind – but I promise, I will! See a one and a half minute video of the ASLA Green Roof from the organization below for a quick visual of this beautifully designed, ecologically inspired, showcase of responsible architecture:
The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Headquarters is located at 636 Eye Street NW, Washington D.C. 20001. Tours of the ASLA greenroof are available for groups or individuals on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm by calling ASLA at 202.898.2444 or filling out a form.
We received 30 photos of international living roof projects representing seven countries, including the United States (18), Canada (6), UK (2), Japan (1), Singapore (1), Germany (1), and Sweden (1).
Without further ado, here are the top votes in descending order – click on hyperlinks to learn more about each project – if they don’t have one, that means we don’t have a profile yet in The Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database, but we will soon:
2010 “Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!” Earth Day Photo Contest
Top 10 List
#1) ESRI Canada’s Garden in the Sky, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – 735 votes
Overlooking one of Toronto’s busiest highways, this 7,500-sq-ft portable garden reduces urban heat, noise and stormwater runoff. It provides lush meeting space for staff and visitors, as well as habitat for birds and butterflies. It helps create a greener, healthier environment. Photo by Margaret Mulligan.
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#2) parc24, Vero Beach, Florida, USA – 190 votes
Parc24 is taking a stand, and directing Vero Beach into the future, where business can be smart by design and green by nature. Photo by Leah Campbell.
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#3) Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada – 158 votes
This green roof is the pinnacle of what a green roof should be. It combines Art, Architecture, Design, and Ingenuity, without sacrificing its Ecological Benefits. Photo by Patrick Biller.
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#4) Bellevue Towers, Bellevue, Washington, USA – 86 votes
At nearly an acre in size, the rooftop garden’s bold, modern geometry is informed by the curvilinear tower design, which includes 27,100 square feet of intensive roof garden planting area and 6,400 square feet of extensive ecoroof. The intensive gardens between towers provide a valuable, usable outdoor spaces for the residents and a visual asset to the condominium units above and adjacent office buildings. This project is certified LEED Gold. Photo by Ben Johnson.
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#5) Longdrive Residential green roof, Long Eddy, New York, USA – 85 votes
Located on 63 acres in upstate New York the house sits at the edge of the woods overlooking a meadow. The planted roof on three levels blends into the natural landscape and encourages the wildlife to creep in close to the house. Photo by Steve Chrostowski.
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#6) St. Louis Children’s Hospital Rooftop Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, USA – 71 votes
Just outside St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s eighth floor, patients have a unique setting to enjoy time with nature, a private walk or quiet reflection. The 8,000-square-foot Olson Family Garden , an interactive rooftop oasis designed expressly for children and families who want a place for privacy, solace and healing, is another reason why St. Louis Children’s Hospital is a special place for kids. Photo by Tom Tyler.
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#7) Trent University, Peterborough, ON Canada – 47 votes
Trent’s roof top garden sits on our Environmental Sciences Building providing learning and volunteer opportunities for students. In this garden we grow vegetables and herbs that are served in our organic campus cafe, the Seasoned Spoon! Photo by Leslie Menagh.
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#8) College of Law, Saskatoon, Canada – 36 votes
This 650 m2 green roof is thriving in an extreme climate. Pasture sage, a plant indigenous to the region, grows above the Native Law Centre. In late summer, the sage is harvested in a traditional manner by faculty of the NLC to use for smudging in ceremonies throughout the following year. Photo by Goya Ngan.
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#9) Greenroof Pavilion at Rock Mill Park, Alpharetta, Georgia, USA – 32 votes
The Greenroof Pavilion design honors the land and Cherokee heritage in this historically and environmentally sensitive Big Creek Watershed with The Greenroof Trial Gardens display; hands-on models and interpretive signage inform young and old alike. Photo by Caroline Menetre.
Note: FYI – Although I designed this, I did not vote for it, nor any other project for that matter. This entry was submitted by Caroline Menetre, our Student Intern, who has helped me with planting, plant trial record keeping, and weeding duties – I like how she didn’t even bother to come up with her own narrative, but felt comfortable just copying my own example above!
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#10) Miami Science Museum, Miami, Florida, USA – 21 votes
The Museum’s four green roof assemblies, each with varied depths and irrigation schedules, include interpretive signs and rain/ temperature sensors. They provide information for visitors and data for the designers of the Museum’s new building. Photo by Chris Trigg.
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See all the photo submittals here. In my eyes, everyone who entered a photo is a winner, and I know we all enjoyed seeing this wide assortment of greenroofs. Next year I promise to start earlier so you can have more time to get your “people” to vote for your favorite project – but it was fun, although a bit fast and furious!