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Final Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences: Vancouver, B.C., Part 3

on February 14, 2011 at 4:44 am under , , , , , , , ,
Final Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences Vancouver BC

Vancouver, B.C.

The stunning Vancouver, B.C. with its mix of rugged beauty, eclectic architecture, and progressive thinking was our last stop on our “international conference tour” at the end of last year – after previously having presented the Greenroofs.com2010 Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” in Mexico City and Singapore.

Aramis and I were excited to attend and exhibit at CitiesAlive!, the 8th Annual Green Roof and Wall Conference on November 30 through December 4, 2010 in this beautiful harbor city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, co-hosted by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) and the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). Neither of us had been here, and we really had been looking forward to seeing this naturally gorgeous city surrounded by majestic snow covered mountain peaks, and we weren’t disappointed!

Vancouver, B.C.

Celebrating its 125th Anniversary on April 6 of this year, Vancouver, B.C. is “Canada’s Cultural capital.”  Originally inhabited by the Coast Salish people – the ancestors of the Squamish, Burrard, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam (Xw’muthk’i’um), Tsawwassen, Coquitlam (Kwayhquitlam), Katzie and Semiahmoo Indian bands, Spanish explorers first “discovered” Canada’s west coast in the early 1590’s. Captain George Vancouver arrived 200 years later, and fur trading, gold mining, and tree logging soon followed by the mid 1800’s. Vancouver’s cultural diversity is reflected everywhere – you have a huge selection of shopping, restaurants, bars, pubs, and nightclubs in various locales throughout the city.

Vancouver also has professed a steadfast commitment to sustainability – their long term goal is to lead the world in green building design and construction, and it promises to be “the greenest city in the world” by 2020. Vancouver’s targets include requiring all buildings constructed from 2020 onward to be carbon neutral in operations and reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in existing buildings by 20% over 2007 levels. Reportedly, Vancouver has the greenest building code for new homes in North America, but they don’t plan to stop here  – they believe the technology already exists to support a more ambitious new construction requirement: net zero or carbon neutral new buildings.   Read the “GC 2020 Draft Green Building Action Plan” here.

“These green building innovations will create thousands of new jobs, create a significant economic stimulus, increase the value of buildings, reduce property owners’ operating costs, help Vancouver become more resilient to climate change and energy price fluctuations, and position Vancouver as a global leader in green building technologies and expertise.” ~ Talk Green Vancouver/ City of Vancouver

As you may know, Corporate Knights, Canada’s magazine for clean capitalism, recently ranked Victoria and Vancouver, B.C. at the top of the list of Canada’s most sustainable cities – see the 2.9.11 Press Release.

Our hotel and venue were both beautiful and green. The luxurious Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel is situated atop a pier at the magnificent Canada Place complex on Vancouver’s dramatic waterfront. And its iconic white sails have made it a prominent landmark for the city (currently being renovated).

Vancouver’s beautiful Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place. Photo Source:

Part of the Green key ECO – rating program (rated 4) itself, the Pan Pacific is conveniently located just a short walk above or below ground to the multiple award-winning venue, the LEED® Platinum certified for New Construction Vancouver Convention Centre. This expansion project is also known as the Vancouver Convention Centre West, and last year it served as the international broadcast and media center for the XXI Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games. (Haven and I included it in 2007’s Top 10 List under the #2 category, Bigger is Better – Mega Greenroofs.)

The stunning Vancouver Convention Centre. Photo from the VCC website

In addition to its massive 261,360 sf living roof – the largest in Canada – seawater heating and cooling, on-site water treatment, and fish habitat are built into the foundation of the Convention Centre’s West Building, making the expansion project one of the greenest convention centers in the world. Located both on land and in the water, the views were breathtaking and spectacular! The floor-to-ceiling glass allows for maximum viewing pleasure of the North Shore mountains and the harbor, its boats, and even sea planes landing at will.

A view of Vancouver mountains. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

It was kind of funny seeing a Chevron Gas Station in the middle of water… Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Seaplane just landed! Photo by Caroline Menetre

What a view! Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Inside the VCC looking out. Photo by Caroline Menetre

Planted with more than 400,000 indigenous plants and grasses from the Gulf Islands, the roof provides a beautiful flowering natural habitat to birds, insects and small mammals. Many people worked on this project- see this gorgeous video taken by David Buge with Bruce Hemstock of PWL Partnership Landscape Architects narrating on top of the Vancouver Convention Centre:

Although the greenroof is inaccessible to the public, the designers cleverly have allowed glimpses of the various angles and vegetated planes on two separate levels for visitors to enjoy, see below:

View of the December roof from inside. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

View of the Roof – looks like a barrel. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

And the interior is just as cool and eco-friendly as the massive six-acre native plant greenroof overhead. For example, a phenomenal mosaic of cedar and hemlock pieces covering the interior walls creates a warm glow and adds multi-dimension to the expansive space.

The beautiful wood walls of the VCC. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Kudos to GRHC and BCIT for securing this fabulous, uber-sustainably designed venue!

Vancouver Convention Center aerial

2010 CitiesAlive! Conference and Trade Show

Back to the CitiesAlive! Conference and Trade Show: We arrived on Tuesday, November 30 to make sure we were on time for the following day’s pre-conference activities (this was also the first day of tours, but we were too late to make it).

On Wednesday, GRHC offered five half-day education classes and one anticipated new one, the Introduction to Rooftop Agriculture – a topic that is really hot right now. Additionally, they had four 1.5 hour education sessions which all sounded interesting! But since I had to choose, I attended the 4-hour “Integrated Water Management for Buildings & Sites” seminar presented by Jeffrey Bruce, FASLA, GRP,  President of Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company (and Chair of GRHC), while Aramis set up our exhibitor booth and attended the Corporate Members Committee Meeting.

Jeff’s Class. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

I had heard mixed reviews about the course from its initial launch in Washington, D.C. last year, that it was certainly informative but a bit dry. But as someone with a degree in landscape architecture and a fairly good background in stormwater management, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t particularly dry, just quite technical and very in-depth in terms of definitions, policies, and procedures – although it said it was an introductory class, I would say it was definitely not for beginners! Developed by GRHC and the Association of Irrigation Consultants (ASIC), with leads Jeff Bruce and Lynda Wightman of Hunter, it embraces new approaches to design for Net Zero Water consumption.

The course covered water types and sources, and how we may manage water and energy resources more effectively including application and recapture methods. Jeff is a very good instructor – patient and extremely knowledgeable (his company also developed the course) – and the class was very interactive. We had some lively discussions from a really multi-disciplinary group of professionals from across Canada and the U.S., both from private practice and government at various levels. And the 98-page “Integrated Water Management for Buildings & Sites” Participant’s Manual  is a veritable Bible of Integrated Water Management  information.

Musqueam First Nation Elder Rose Point and Gary Oleman. Photo Source: BCIT was proud, once again, to be a Media Sponsor for the 8th year. The CitiesAlive! Opening Plenary on Wednesday night, sponsored by, was extremely interesting as we were greeted with a lovely traditional Coast Salish welcome from Elder Rose Point of the Musqueam First Nation and welcome song from Gerry Oleman.

GRHC Executive Director Steven Peck at the Opening Plenary. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

GRHC President Steven Peck was the Master of Ceremonies and he spoke about the many efforts and accomplishments of the industry association in the past year, including many firsts. We also heard from City of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who proclaimed his city would be the greenest in world, and from Rod Goy, the Acting Dean of the School of Construction and the Environment at BCIT, who spoke about their commitment to greening the built environment.

Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

The always popular Paul Kephart of Rana Creek Living Architecture was the eloquent keynote speaker and shared his vision as a restoration ecologist and designer of living architectural systems. He also spoke about several of his collaborations with unique and large scale projects including the Gap Headquarters, Transbay Terminal Bay, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Croton Water Treatment Plant (Mosholu Golf Course) in New York which, when completed, will be the largest continuous greenroof in North America at nine acres.

Paul Kephart and just some of his company’s projects. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Afterwards the Trade Show opened, the socializing started and didn’t stop until late. Thursday dawned overcast but the sessions started bright and early at 8:30 am. As usual, there was a huge number of expert international speakers in every track, with four tracks in all – Policy, Design, Research, and Expert Discussion Panels. In my opinion, it’s almost too massive a program, since it’s impossible to experience even a fraction of all the excellent presentations.

What most people did was jump from session speaker to another to ensure they could hear their favorites. I think the ideal would be to send four people from each company or organization to attend each and then get together and debrief, but, really,  who could afford that.

Collaborative Design Opportunities Panel; Photo byLinda S. Velazquez

I found that I ended up splitting the next two days worth of sessions between the Design Track and the Expert Discussions. I started off the first day, Thursday, December 2nd, with the Barriers and Opportunities to Advance Collaborative Design Practices panel and heard from Paul Kephart, landscape architect David Yocca of Conservation Design Forum, and environmental engineer Greg Allen from Sustainable Edge. Jeff Bruce moderated, and these four highly seasoned professionals provided an intense interplay of personal opinion and practical experience, with plenty of audience interaction adding to the pot of working with disparate professionals.

Ernie Webster and the Ted and Lois Hole Green Roof Healing Garden Plant Palette. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

The Temperate Green Roofs session followed and we learned about The Ted & Lois Hole Green Roof Healing Garden in Edmonton, Alberta. Designed by the wonderful Kerry Ross, Project Architect with IBI Group Architects and Ernie Webster, Landscape Architect with IBI/Landplan, this 22,500 sf hybrid extensive/intensive green roof is located at a new facility for holistic healing, the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Designed to commemorate Lois Hole, the former Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, and her husband Ted, it serves as a passive healing garden and visual amenity. The  trees, shrubs, tall grasses and flowers were selected to represent the natural flora of Alberta, and were supplied by the family nursery. Some of the beautiful features include lots of seating areas, a waterfall and reflecting pool, colorful glass screens, and places for art.      

I hopped over to  Expert Discussions – Standards Development for Green Roofs and Walls – Future Directions, Challenges and Needs with Mike Curry of Midwest Trading, Dr. Robert Berghage  of Penn State, Kelly Luckett of Green Roof Blocks, and Blair Bennett of Soprema. Moderated by Zachary Williams of Carlisle SynTec, it was pretty interesting. There was a lot of candid sentiment about the process and practical issues from from what appeared to be an audience of mostly engineers, architects, city planners and the likes. Everyone wanted to know how their product or system might fare and how to get involved, and maintenance issues and ensuring maintenance contracts were included in deliverables were also a hot topic.

Lincoln Center greenroof: Photo Copyright by Iwan Baan

But I hopped back after about 20 minutes because I didn’t want to miss Nate Griswold from American Hydrotech and his presentation about the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and some of their unusual challenges with this project shaped like a hyperbolic paraboloid. Problems arose with the varying slopes as well as the high amount foot traffic and as a result, a new steep slope product and assembly for this type of greenroof was developed.

Unfortunately, I missed out on most of The Hugh Garner Green Roof Project – an integrated process, presented by Monica Kuhn of Monica E. Kuhn Architect, Inc. and Carolyn Moss of Moss Sund Architects, Inc., but I learned more about it when we featured this great multi-unit residential Housing Co-operative in downtown Toronto as our first Greenroof Project of the Week for 2011:

The Hugh Garner Cooperative Greenroof. Photo by Kevin Konnyu, Courtesy of Moss Sund Architects

The GRHC 2010 Awards of Excellence Luncheon followed and twelve awards were given this year – eight for awesome buildings with greenroofs and greenwalls, including local favorite, the Vancouver Convention Centre West / Expansion Project. Below is Peter MacDonagh, one of the principals of The Kestrel Design Group, who received a Special Recognition Award of Excellence for their work with The City of Minneapolis Target Center Arena, which we featured in our 2010 Hot Trends Top 10 List in the  #9 category, “Green Sporting Venues.”

Peter MacDonagh. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

There were some other really cool projects, as well as four deserving individuals honored within our industry.

Aramis, Me, and Kelly. Photo by Caroline Menetre

One of these was Kelly Luckett, above, AKA The Green Roof Guy, who won a Civic Award of Excellence for his hard work on the RP-14 Wind Design Guideline (read his Green Roofs, a Civic Award of Excellence, and a Lifetime of Memories article). Talk about someone who really should have been recognized! He has put in years of his life (not to mention probably tens of thousands of dollars from his own pocket) to further this important issue for our industry. And he was really excited and humbled about receiving it, too. I can only say how humble and proud I felt when he acknowledged me for giving him a platform to write. Way to go, Kelly!

The Kaiser Center Roof Garden as seen in The Eichler Network:

The Lifetime Achievement Awards ceremony was truly poignant and inspiring as a special tribute was held for two legends of the roof garden/greenroofing industry. Author of “Roof Gardens, History, Design and Construction,” W.W. Norton, 1999, the late Theodore Osmundson, FASLA, was honored. Theodore Osmundson became a Fellow of the ASLA in 1963 and was ASLA president from 1967-1969. We heard about his lifelong passion for landscape architecture, and roof gardens in particular, from his son, Gordon.

“Ted” Osmundson in 1999 at the Kaiser Center Roof Garden. Photo Source:

Inspired by the Rockefeller Center Roof Gardens in New York City, industrialist Henry Kaiser hired Osmundson in 1958 to design the beautiful 3 and a half acre public park, the Kaiser Center Roof Garden in Oakland, CA, which became Osmundson’s best known work. Gordon Osmundson, also a successful landscape architect, has taken on the task of working on a second edition of his dad’s highly successful “Roof Gardens” book.

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander receiving her Lifetime Achievement Award. Photo by BCIT on Flickr

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, OC, FASLA, FCSLA, LMBCSLA then graced the stage and spoke about “Reflections of six decades designing natural sites.” Educated at Harvard University, she expressed her love and gratitude for landscape architecture where she has shone brilliantly as a leader in garden roofs, and spoke about her early work while raising a family. She shared the visions of some of her numerous important projects, including the stunning Visitor Centre Green Roof at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens.

Van Dusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre, Graphic by Busby Perkins + Will

Designed by Busby Perkins + Will and Cornelia with others, the center is slated to meet the Living Building Challenge 2.0 (as per the Cascadia Green Building Council) as well as LEED Platinum standards. To receive its Living Building certification, the center will have to operate for 12 months with net zero energy while providing all of its own water.

Thursday afternoon was spent in and out of our Exhibit Booth on the Trade Show Floor, popping into a variety of sessions, and simply catching up with lots of people!

The Trade Show floor had a good turnout, and most exhibitors we spoke to were pleased with the quality of visitors to their booths (meaning designers and specifiers). I have to say our booth was hopping most of the time, and we had tons of visitors – thanks to all of you who came by to say hello!

The Booth CitiesAlive! 2010; L to R: Caroline Menetre, Patrick Carey, Haven Kiers, Linda & Aramis Velazquez

This may have been due to our lively and lovely in-house booth mates, Contributing Editors Patrick Carey (and GRHC Trainer), Haven Kiers (also a GRHC Trainer), and Caroline Menetre, above, who camped out here off and on. We had some interesting booth neighbors, including the vivacious Kathy of BusyBee Gardening across from us, seen below, as well as neighbors Craig of MYKE® Pro Premier Tech Biotechnology and Geneviève Nöel of Mubi Regenerative Consulting.

Kathy of BusyBee Gardening. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Craig, Caroline, and me. Photo by Aramis Velazquez

Dr. Clayton Rugh of Xero Flor America. Photo by Aramis Velazquez

Dr. Clayton Rugh of Xero Flor America, above, and Xero Flor Canada were also close by and I have to say Thank you! to Joy Schmidt for giving me a copy of the lovely book “Vancouver 2010.” All about the 17 Olympic and 10 Paralympic Games days, it features stunning photos of Vancouver and their Xero Flor greenroof technology that covers approximately 56,000 sf of the Millennium Water Project – Vancouver’s Olympic Village. Here are more Trade Show pics:

Triton and AAMelters

ZinCo Canada

GreenGrid and Permaloc

rooflite and Grey Over Green

That evening, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities put on a really nice, invitation-only GRP Reception for the first year’s class (2009-2010) of graduating Green Roof Professionals. It was casually elegant and beautifully set up – the beverage and food selection was wonderful and the service was excellent.   Aramis and I saw a lot of our friends and colleagues here, and met quite a few new ones, too.

We heard Sara Loveland and Ashleigh Uiska (with Dusty Gedge) threw an awesome afterparty, but we had our own much smaller version with our band of Contributing Editors and colleagues. By the way, Sara won our free yearly Premium Listing in The Greenroof Directory.

The Friday sessions were just as bustling and varied. I sat through (and thoroughly enjoyed) Green Wall Case Studies II, starting with Interior Living Wall Biofilter Projects – Lessons Learned from Pioneering Experience from Dr. Alan Darlington of Nedlaw Living Walls and Birgit Siber of Diamond and Schmitt Architects.

They shared stories of years of research and project monitoring, and how living walls have the capacity to break down hundreds of different kinds of contaminants found in indoor air; they demonstrated how a biofilter can substantially reduce the need to bring in fresh air by generating its own clean air indoors.

Left: A cleansing living wall at the University of Guelph – Humber. Photo Source:

One of my favorite presentations was next, Innovative and Cost Effective Biofilters for Residential Applications from Robert Cameron and Dr. Robert Berghage from Penn State University.

They have an experimental site on campus as well as the one Rob Cameron built at his home using a combination of materials on site, some donated, and some leftover from experiments from other Penn State projects. They conducted studies showing that living systems do not need to be highly sophisticated to work beautifully.

Rob Cameron asks, How can we take wastewater and make it a resource? Using plants, from food crops to ornamentals, he showed us how the living wall with “Living Columns” – basically vertical plastic corrugated tubes – act like a constructed wetland and can filter out pollutants from an entire household. At his own residence he integrated these living columns with a greenroof for downspouts and rain water harvesting, and combined a living wall with an extensive greenroof to provide a vertical garden for tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and other veggies.

Right: Penn State horticulturist Robert Cameron in front of a biofilter that uses plants roots, waste materials and bacterial colonies to clean wastewater as it trickles down the pipes. Photo Credit: Amit Avasthi; Source: Penn State Live

By the way, George Irwin of Green Living Technologies (GLT) was scheduled to speak during this session, and was deemed a no-show. Since he’s a Contributing Editor here, Caroline texted him to see where he was – he answered that he had indeed let GRHC know early in the week that something major had come up and would not be able to make it.

That morning I also sat in on a couple of sessions from Local InterestFrom Barn Raisings to Green Roof Raisings: Community-Built Green Roof was presented by Bryce Gauthier, Director of the Projects In Place Society. What a great story! Projects In Place has taken the concept from the old community-based barn raisings and applied it to building sustainable projects. Using almost 100 volunteers including BCIT students, this small non-profit installed a 500 sf greenroof in two days on top of a business on the edge of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Projects In Place Society posted their CitiesAlive PowerPoint on their website, make sure to see it.

A Green Roof Raising in Vancouver; Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

I skipped Retrofitting Existing Buildings With Green Roofs by Dr. Karen Liu of Xero Flor International because I had already seen and loved her similar (I hope) presentation at 2009’s CitiesAlive! in Toronto.  Instead, I listened in on the Expert Discussion – How Green IS Your Green Roof: Devising a LEED Style Credit System for Green Roofs – Challenges and Opportunities with Steven Peck, Kerry Ross, Dr. Robert Berghage and Chuck Friedrich of Carolina Stalite.

Credit System Panel: Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Talk about a charged subject! Some argued that we should not create yet another rating system, but should rally to make the highly universally accepted (yet sometimes controversial) U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)’s LEED program work better for our industry in terms of rating greenroofs. Others argued that GRHC knows our subject best and that starting new made the most sense rather than trying to fix another existing product. Having both my LEED AP and GRP designations, I have opinions, but will share them in another post.

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander and Ken Larsson. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

So even though I was extremely interested in this subject, I returned to the Design Track and Local Interest to hear about The Visitor Centre Green Roof at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens from Ken Larsson of Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture and the lovely Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, which was a treat, indeed!

Cornelia is a force to be reckoned with, and her exuberance shone through the entire presentation. It is a fascinating project – 3/4 of the 20,000 sf roof is greened, while 1/4 is “blue;” the undulating roof is based upon the shape of a native orchid – this project would have fit nicely in our Top 10 List as an example of the #3 position,“Biomimicry as Eco-literacy and Holistic Design.” Maybe for 2011. Lunch on the Trade Show Floor followed, along with the Poster Sessions.

Argus and Carlisle SynTec


Next up was Haven’s and my session where we were right in the middle of The Big Picture View, and we were very pleased at the turnout.

Kerry Ross, left (Photo Source: Innovation Alberta), started with her extremely informative Nordic Adventures: a field study of green roofs in Norway.

She highlighted cold climate greenroofs from a recent Scandinavian trip; through her research and documentation of projects she has been able to better promote greenroof design and maintenance within Canada.

We followed with our Top 10 List presentation, and it was jam packed! This was the first time we had co-presented together, and Virginia (Jennie) Russell from the University of Cincinnati, our moderator extraordinaire, kept us in-line with methodical announcements for us to pick up the pace.

So, it was a bit rushed, but fun (see our PowerPoint here). So many great projects to show, so little time!

Haven and I fixing something last minute. Photo by Caroline Menetre

We were honored to be in the same session as Cornelia Oberlander, who followed us and presented along with Ross Dixon of Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg. They shared their experiences with the Rooftop Renewal – The Redevelopment of Robson Square – An Intensive Green Roof in Downtown Vancouver.

This iconic rooftop civic center courthouse complex and public plaza was originally completed in 1983 by Arthur Erickson Architects and landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander; replacement of the original waterproofing membrane and restoration of the plantings is currently underway, and is expected to be completed sometime within this year. Refurbishments included surveying to see which tree specimens would be saved and evaluating the best methods for removal, safe keeping during construction, and then replanting.

The Law Courts at Robson Square. Photo Source:

The Closing Plenary opened with its own lively Top 10 List invitation to join GRHC at the 9th Annual CitiesAlive 2011 in Philadelphia by members of the Philadelphia Local Host Committee. Co-hosted by the City of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the next Green Roof and Wall Conference will be held in the City of Brotherly Love from November 29 to December 3.

Philadelphia skyline via Wikipedia

The Panel Discussion Peak Oil, Urban Farming and the Roofs and Walls of Our Cities: Creating a Future We Desire wrapped up the Conference. Delivered by visionary yet practical Keynote Speaker Greg Allen, PE, LEEP AP of Sustainable Edge, the presentation was forward thinking but set in a very grim reality – we must release our bonds with oil and embrace sustainable energy strategies as well as develop local urban farming on our rooftops and walls to ensure food security – basically we need to explore alternative food options more intelligently.

Panelists included Thomas Mueller of the Canadian Green Building Council, Vancouver Councilor Andrea Reimer, Keith Agoada of Sky Vegetables, and Jeff Bruce, and a lot of people raised their own concerns about food supply and quality control, organics, and infrastructure  for urban agriculture in the sky. was definitely in sync, as Haven Kiers and I had Tower Oases as Skyrise Urban Ag in the 2010 #1 category for our Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof and Greenwall Design.

Habitat Havens Tour

Bird feeders atop the magnificent Fairmont Hotel. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

We enjoyed our Habitat Havens Tour the next day on Saturday, and especially our tour guide, the lively and informative Tyrel Sutton from Flynn Canada. We had a beautiful, clear day to roam around four rooftops (really three, more on that later) that were selected because they were designed to either replicate a specific ecosystem or to provide food for birds, butterflies, or bees. We were lucky because the tours on Tuesday were rainy – in fact, at least one was cancelled.

Our fearless tour leader, Tyrel Sutton

There are quite a few publicly accessible projects around Vancouver, and the Local Host Committee put together a 9-stop Self-Guided Green Roof and Wall Tour list that was included in the program. We didn’t see much, but Caroline Menetre did – this is her photo of the ING Green Wall, left, designed by CitiesAlive exhibitor Green over Grey – Living Walls and Design Inc.

I would say there were maybe 700 people at CitiesAlive. With the exception of a few hiccups – spotty snacks, flimsy conference program guide, tour time changes – overall, I felt that Steven Peck and Green Roofs for Healthy Cities did a fantastic job of planning and executing this first “international” conference.  Kind of funny since they’re Canadian, but this was the first time the conference was held outside of the U.S.  Plus, it was the first time under its new name – CitiesAlive. (As you’ll recall, the previous seven incarnations were titled “Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities.”)

And the Vancouver Local Host Committee (Rod Goy, Marita Luk, Andrea Martinello, Blair Bennett, Nicholas Rousseau, Dr. Katherine Dunster, Helen Goodland, Andrea Linsky, Andrea Kausel, and Lyn Ross) should be commended, too, for their outstanding accomplishments and participation in this successful conference! Visit Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ Acknowledgements page, where I borrowed this photo below:

Vancouver, B.C.’s Local Host Committee. Photo Source: BCIT

In general, people were very happy with everything, with minor grumblings about not enough food at the Opening Plenary and dessert on the Trade Show floor after the Awards of Excellence Luncheon. Also, for the first time, CDs of the conference proceedings were not available, but you can purchase video recordings of the over 60 speakers that go along with each’s PowerPoint presentation (“Full Compilation Streaming Media – Audio Synched to PPT”) from GRHC for $120.

In reflection, we should be happy the conference agenda is so big – I’m sure Greenbuild had similar growing pains, talk about a massive, multi-day, multi-track program! Or ASLA, or AIA, for that matter. It simply, very clearly, illustrates the tremendous growth of our greenroof and greenwall industry, and acceptance of building integrated greenery into mainstream design.

It is impossible to attend each presentation, so it’s great that GRHC developed the Living Architecture Academy – an online learning center with technical papers from all the past conferences and proceedings. Having such a resource at our fingertips is immeasurable.

Regarding the Trade Show, we’ve all noticed a trend of some past exhibitors not exhibiting lately, sometimes due to the challenging economy, scheduling conflicts, or feeling resources could be better used elsewhere. So, I would also just like to add that all of us who are members of GRHC should pay a big thanks to all of the companies who have exhibited in the past, and who faithfully continue to do so.

Being international for many of us, for Vancouver it was more cumbersome and expensive to ship everything, but conferences couldn’t be held without the support of exhibitors and sponsors. I would encourage everyone doing business within our industry to exhibit and work together to make our commitment and exposure even better. Here are a few more Trade Show pics I took:

Express Blower

ILD and Hydrotech on the Trade Show Floor

Greenscreen on the Trade Show Floor

Jakob and Advanced Building Products

Siplast and Southern Drip Irrigation

Crown Roofing & Drainage

Myke, Greenscreen, Hydrotech, and ILD

One of the very best things about all these conferences is the chance to meet new colleagues and see old friends from across the world and catch up on each other’s lives and happenings – we were happy to do this with the always effervescent  Dusty Gedge of, Kerry Ross and her husband Bob, Chuck Friedrich and Ernie Higgins of ItSaul Natural – Mr. Natural (also from Atlanta), Contributing Editor Dr. Bill Retzlaff of SIUe, and too many other folks to mention! Many of our “usual” German colleagues were missing (Manfred Köhler and Roland Appl, among others), probably due to the numerous previous international congresses where we saw them, but it was great seeing several folks from the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and lots of international students, too.

I wish I had had more time with a bunch of people – the always wonderful Maureen Connelly from BCIT, Jennie Russell, and Andrea Martinello of N.A.T.S., for example, but there will be other conferences!

I’m sorry I couldn’t attend Maureen’s panel session of Expert Discussion: Taking Green Roofs and Walls to the Next Level in British Columbia – A Pathway to the Future! because it conflicted with our Top 10 presentation session.

It included the fantastic Deputy City Manager of the City of Vancouver, Sadhu Johnston – previously Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Chief Environmental Officer and  Deputy Chief of Staff, where he headed up much of their greenroof program.

In my opinion, Maureen Connelly, right (Photo Source: BCIT), is the true greenroof champion in Vancouver, B.C. with her many years of dedication and research at British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Centre for the Advancement of Green Roof Technology, and should be commended for an outstanding job – keep up the great work, and thanks BCIT for all that you do!

Their Mission Statement:

“The mission of the BCIT Centre for Architectural Ecology – Collaborations in Green Roofs and Living Walls is to conduct world-class, innovative research on green roof and living wall systems and to provide research-based education across disciplines, to students and practitioners.”

BCIT Green Roof Research Facility; Image Courtesy of

The BCIT Centre is evaluating the function and performance of extensive greenroofs and living walls in the rainforest climate of coastal B.C. Through collaborations with industry, government, and academic partners, their vision is to help advance the widespread adoption of these technologies in this region. It would have been great to have visited the research facility, but, just like any working trip, there simply wasn’t enough time. Make sure to read BCIT’s “750 attend BCIT-co-hosted green roof conference” of December 13, 2010, where you can also see a huge gallery of photos.

Vancouver aerial photo by Caroline Menetre

We were here five nights and every day was devoted to conference events – although we didn’t get out to see the city and surroundings, many of our friends did (like Caroline and Janet Faust of JDR Enterprises).

Caroline was fortunate enough to go up on a seaplane and took this wonderful aerial photo of Vancouver, above. Like most people, she also visited Whistler Mountain, one of North America’s top ski and snowboard resorts (and snapped this fun snow picture, left).

The two greenroofed places I really wanted to visit but didn’t:

First was the awesome Vancouver Public Library (also known as Library Square Building) with its pioneering rooftop built in 1995; and second was the fantastic 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Olympic Village, also known as Southeast False Creek and Millennium Water, with about 287,000 sf total of greenroofs.

Aerial of 12.17.09. Photo Source: City of Vancouver

Read my 2.17.10 Sky Gardens post about it here. We featured Millennium Water in 2007’s Top 10 List in the #1 category – Visionary Proposed Projects since the City of Vancouver mandated that at least 50% of the buildings should be covered in green. Next time!

Not content to leave things alone, upon leaving the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), I had to take a bunch of photos of the 17-meter high YVR Canada Line Station 4 Living Wall, right, designed by the talented Randy Sharp of Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture.

As you may know, the Canada Line is Vancouver’s new rapid transit rail link connecting YVR to downtown Vancouver, and visitors are greeted by this beautiful greenwall of green and silver euonymus, mondo grass, and licorice fern. Read my 3.26.10 Sky Gardens post about it here.

We will definitely return to Vancouver, B.C. as a vacation destination, where we can take in all the sights and locations of this gorgeous city at our leisure! That’s it for now.

If you haven’t already, make sure to read our December, 2010 Guest Feature Article by Janet Faust of JDR Enterprises, “CitiesAlive! 2010,” where she did a great job in describing her reflections of this eighth yearly conference. Her account of compares the experience to a fine wine and Janet comments how these Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ conferences have gotten better with age!

If you’d like to present at the 9th Annual CitiesAlive! Green Roof and Wall Conference in Philadelphia, the Call for Paper Abstracts will be released in a few weeks.

VCC, Harbor, Mountains and Canada Place as seen from the Fairmont Hotel Greenroof. Photo by Linda S. Velazquez

Next up will be a series of posts about individual tour sites from each of these unique cities we had the pleasure of visiting last year: Mexico City, Singapore, and the lovely Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Happy Greening from Alpharetta, Georgia,

~ Linda V.



11 replies to "Final Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences: Vancouver, B.C., Part 3"

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heath Lackey and Helen Lowell, Vancouver News. Vancouver News said: Final Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences: Vancouver, BC, Part 3 – (blog) […]

  • Hey, Linda! I’m so grateful to you for documenting your trip and your photos are wonderful! I will keep this handy to remember that fabulous conference and my students will be given a link to this, too, because they tolerated my absence for a week. As always (and as you say in your notes) there’ never enough time to visit! I agree with you about Maureen C. and I want to be her when I grow up! Or Cornelia O.!
    It was a pleasure to share the stage with luminaries like you and Cornelia and Haven but an agony to rush your presentation. See you soon I hope, and if you are anywhere near Cincy this spring, come see us and come lecture to my green roofs class!

  • hi Linda,
    I learined a lot and ejoyed reading this and several other of your articles regarding Green Roof technology.
    John Riley

  • Dear Linda,
    It was very nice meeting you in Vancouver and traveling together on the Saturday tours.
    Thank you for this wonderful recap of the conference and the city with your fabulous pictures, made me revisit it one more time.

    Hanna Packer from New York

  • Gorgeous photos! Thanks for sharing and for posting the great info on the latest green tech!

  • […] FASLA, GRP, Chair of GRHC (and President of Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company) last December at the 2010 CitiesAlive! Green Roof & Wall Conference in gorgeous Vancouver, B.C.  I’m sure this $10,000 grant will go a […]

  • […] B.C. area and  last year, along with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, it co-hosted the eighth annual Cities Alive 2010 Conference.  Maureen led the expert panel session Taking Green Roofs and Walls to the Next Level in British […]

  • […] B.C. area and  last year, along with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, it co-hosted the eighth annual Cities Alive 2010 Conference.  Maureen led the expert panel session Taking Green Roofs and Walls to the Next Level in British […]

  • […] B.C. area and  last year, along with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, it co-hosted the eighth annual Cities Alive 2010 Conference.  Maureen led the expert panel session Taking Green Roofs and Walls to the Next Level in British […]

  • […] by Cornelia Oberlander’s firm.  Haven and I had the pleasure of meeting Cornelia at the 2010 CitiesAlive Conference and learning a bit about this wonderful […]

  • […] with their Civic Award of Excellence in 2010 (I wrote about it and much more at my post “Final Reflections of Fall 2010 Greenroof Conferences: Vancouver, B.C., Part 3“). Make sure to read Kelly’s own reflections at his December 9, 2010 “Green […]

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