Brooklyn Grange @ the Brooklyn Navy Yard at CitiesAlive 2018 NYC; photo: Linda S. Velazquez.
Aramis and I’ve been back from CitiesAlive 2018 NYC for almost two weeks, and I wanted to share some reflections of our lovely experience in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Kudos all around go to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), the Living Architecture Foundation, and the 2018 CitiesAlive NYC Local Host Committee for putting on a fantastic conference and events!
And congratulations to 2018’s winners of the GRHC Awards of Excellence, too.
It was quite the bittersweet moment when long-standing GRHC Board Chair Jeff Bruce stepped down after almost a decade of service during the Opening Plenary on Tuesday, September 25. His reflective commentary was heart-felt and genuine, and he received a standing ovation.
I interviewed Jeff way back in 2009 when the GRHC Green Roof Professional certification was just about to be inaugurated (I became one of the first-year alumni myself), and I can attest he is an extremely eloquent professional! Read my The GRP Accreditation: An Interview with Jeffrey L. Bruce.
And, we all welcome Matt Barmore, VP Greenrise Technologies, the incoming and new GRHC Board Chair!
Here are just 5 reasons that CitiesAlive 2018 NYC was memorable and successful to me:
Success Reason #1 @ CitiesAlive 2018 NYC: Social Events
First of all, the social events were great!
Let’s face it, with the explosion of the information highway and global resource sharing and networking, getting together in person is one of the main reasons for attending conferences. And with CitiesAlive now going to every other year programming, our next time to get together as a group will be in 2020.
Fun and sometimes goofy times were had by all:
And really, we all made anywhere outside of a presentation room a social event, lobbies, hallways, etc.!
CitiesAlive 2018 NYC Trade Show:
Not really meant to be a social event, but they always turn out to be one!
Emerging Professional Happy Hour at Kings Beer Hall hosted by LAND8:
What a fun beer hall, with great food and, what else? Beer!
Sightseeing Social on the Hudson organized by the 2018 CitiesAlive Local Host Committee:
Held on the off and on rainy Wednesday night, as we’re waiting to board we kept hearing songs from the Police and Sting and it was very enjoyable…then Andy Creath told us that Sting and Shaggy were actually performing adjacent to us! What a treat!
We were on this cruise at the 2015 CitiesAlive NYC, and seeing the majestic Statue of Liberty welcoming the huddled masses of new immigrants never loses its luster – nor its meaning in today’s lackluster national politics.
Sunset Sips: The Rooftop Farm Mixer @ Brooklyn Grange, CitiesAlive Closing Reception by GRHC in partnership with Agritecture:
Fresh food, lovely wine and beer, and happy, lively people on top of a gorgeous and bountiful rooftop farm on Thursday evening, September 27!
#2: Hearing from Excellent Speakers
Of course, having the opportunity to see some of your favorite thought leaders and exceptional industry experts is always an equally popular second argument.
I thoroughly appreciated the perspectives of all of the CitiesAlive 2018 keynotes. I really enjoyed Alan Steel, the Javits Center President & CEO and one of the Opening Plenary keynotes – he sure is personable! Very witty, Alan gave a fun and informative overview of current events happening at the Javits Convention in his “Return of the Javits.” Does it sound a bit Star-Wars-y? It should because it was!
Along with pre-renovation dark bird-killing glass comparisons to Darth Vader, Alan spoke about Javits’s new bird-friendly Chrystal Palace glass enclosure and its huge 6.75-ace greenroof. Studied by the NYC Audubon, did you know it nurtures 26 different species of bird life among other beneficial animals including bats and honeybees?
But my favorite opportunity was seeing Dr. Ken Yeang again! Ecologist, eco-architect, and eco-masterplanner, among other credits. Ken is Chairman and Design Director of Llewelyn Davies Yeang (UK) and principal of its sister company Hamzah & Yeang (Malaysia and China), an international architecture firm.
He’s best known for his work with bioclimatic architecture, and in fact Ken’s credited as the father of the bioclimatic skyscraper. Ken’s conceptual designs for his renown Ecological Design In The Tropics (EDITT) garnered much media attention and have resulted in some stunning built projects including National Library Singapore, Solaris, and his new Putrajaya 2C5 in Malaysia.
His keynote on Thursday, September 27th was inspiring, insightful, and lighthearted as usual. Generous of spirit, Ken has a wry sense of humor, and when he laughs, it really puts a smile on everyone’s face!
Following Ken’s keynote, I had the honor and pleasure of moderating his follow-up “In the Design Studio with Ken Yeang” session. Ken had asked Steven Peck if he could bring someone in to share thoughts along with him, and of course he agreed:
We were all thrilled that Ken brought in acclaimed eco-artist and eco-architect James Wines, currently a professor of architecture at Penn State University and founder and president of SITE. SITE is a New York City-based architecture and environmental arts organization. I have to say that the combo of Ken and James packed a mighty two-way punch of an intimate look back on ahead-of-their-times green design and thoughts on the future of environmental design!
The session was scheduled for 2 hours, and I had wondered about that length. We told Ken he only had to speak as long as he wanted, with no pressure to fill up the time. No problem! What a lively and interactive panel we had with great questions and commentary from the multi-generational audience!
CitiesAlive 2018 NYC had so many wonderful presentations and panels, and it’s truly hard to highlight the numerous outstanding sessions (plus, who could see them all anyway?). Aramis and I went to different ones to cover more bases, and some of our favorites were:
“Greener and Cleaner: Strategies for Mitigating Post-Industrial Landscapes of New York City” by Susannah Drake, founding principal of DLANDstudio Architecture + Landscape Architecture. In general Susannah was light-hearted and entertaining, and specifically it was extremely interesting to learn about her firm’s work with the Gowanus Canal Sponge Park™.
“Urban Jungle: The Case for Green Roofs in NYC” by New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal: It was refreshing to hear from a humble local politician with such enthusiasm for improving conditions for the people of his district! Rafael got his message across with humor, compassion, and a true dedication to creating healthier spaces with greenroofs and other green elements.
“Greener Cities – London, Europe and Beyond” from Dusty Gedge, President of the European Federation of Green Roof and Wall Associations (EFB): As usual, our favorite Englishman delivered his unique experience and perspectives in this Policy Track presentation.
“On the Roof With: Best Practices for Green Walls and Facades Maintenance” with Gennaro Brooks-Church of Eco Brooklyn Living Walls; Reuben Freed of greenscreen; Melissa Daniels of Plant Connection; Steve McIntyre of ANS Global; and Amber Ponce of LiveRoof/LiveWall: I came in a tad late on this one since our programming was on during the same block of time, but the back and forth between these greenwall experts was wonderful with tons of audience participation.
And I’ll end this portion with “Implementation of the Citizen-led 2017 Denver Green Roof Ordinance” with these amazing people: Jennifer Bousselot of Colorado State University; Andy Creath of Green Roofs of Colorado; and Brandon Rietheimer of the Denver Green Roof Initiative. Such passion & get-go from these leaders of education, implementation, and grass roots-led policy!
And, congrats to Brandon for all of his tireless work and leading the cause and for a well-deserved Civic Award of Excellence! Enjoy my short video of him accepting his award from the wonderful Jeff Joslin from the City and County of San Francisco with the equally awesome Blaine Stand of GRHC:
#3: Catching Up with Old Friends
It was wonderful to see our far-flung colleagues and friends and hang out a bit!
Namely, we had an awesome time with some of our usual suspects, including but certainly not limited to:
Dusty Gedge of the EFB and Livingroofs.org:
Chris and Wendy Wark of Ponix Urban Ag and Inclusion Strategy, respectively:
We’ve actually known Chris and Wendy since 2003 when we met at the very first CitiesAlive Conference in Chicago (then Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities)! Thanks, GRHC for the opportunity to make these wonderful life-long friends!
Eyal Mirelman of BLDVEG:
2018 Design Excellence Award winner Kerry Ross of Green-T Design:
Randy Sharp, formerly of Sharp Diamond Landscape Architecture (now Connect Landscape Architecture):
Amy Chomowicz of the City of Portland and Alan Proffitt (formerly of Multnomah County) now with Green Up Roofing:
And the fabulous Liz Hart Morris (formerly of Tremco) now of Green Up Roofing.
Hopefully we’ll get to see more of our international family of greenroof friends somewhere in the world at the next living architecture conference!
#4: Jacob K. Javits Convention Center of New York Tour
The Javits Center Tour on Friday was pretty cool. Beforehand I had someone ask me, “Why would you want to go up on a boring sedum mat roof? There’s nothing to see.” Wrong, feather breath! Tony Sclafani, Javits Center Senior Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, was a wonderful host, and the logistics alone of traversing through the breadth of the massive convention center was enough to pique my interest. We got our exercise finally reaching the two different access points!
The colorful vegetated mats provided a beautiful backdrop against the striking gray and drizzling Manhattan skyline. The living roof held sway with the buzzing of bees and fluttering of butterflies. Tony guided us across different areas of the north and south portions of the roof and talked about how the Javits Center is now a model of energy conservation and wildlife sanctuary with bird nesting and biodiversity monitoring areas. Currently, the greenroof is home to 26 bird species, five bat species and thousands of honey bees in hives. We also heard about the Javits’ exciting new greenroofed construction underway.
As you could imagine, the sights of New York City and the river were stunning! And we should applause the Javits Convention Center for incorporating so much interpretive signage of the greenroof and its benefits both inside its Chrystal Palace lobby and on top of the massive living roof.
In fact, one of their corporate goals is to continue offering tours to help inform the public of the myriad advantages of green infrastructure.
The High Line
After the Javits tour, a bunch of us walked across the street and rambled along the High Line’s Phase 3. We finished our last day at CitiesAlive 2018 NYC with a lovely lunch and then headed out to La Guardia for our return home.
#5: Learning Something New along the Way
On Tuesday afternoon I attended the Living Architecture Performance Tool (LAPT) Workshop, facilitated by the wonderful David Yocca of Biohabitats & Rohan Lilauwala of the Green Infrastructure Foundation.
Developed by GRHC and the Green Infrastructure Foundation, it’s “a rating system and resource, designed to certify that green roofs and walls are designed to achieve certain measurable and replicable performance benefits so that they can be funded, designed, installed, and maintained with a higher degree of confidence.”
While most attendees were members of the LAPT pilot project phase and eager to learn more about procedures, about a third of us, including myself, were there as designers to learn more about potential future collaboration.
Just kidding – of course I loved my own presentation! My “Greenroofs.com Top 10 List of Hot Trends in Greenroof & Greenwall Design” was a lot of fun, and I’m very happy it was well attended. I had been previously “harassed” by both Steven and Rohan about not going over my time limit (again), so at the last minute I took out a bunch of slides – and I was still a couple of minutes over!
As usual, lots of people asked if my presentation would be available for them to see more in detail (since I go about a hundred miles per hour).
So starting this Friday, I’ll be featuring one each of the 10 categories for the next 10 weeks, starting with #10: Client Specific ‘Boutique’ Greenroofs & Greenwalls.
The 16th Annual CitiesAlive 2018 NYC closed successfully, and now Green Roofs for Healthy Cities will focus on promoting regional living architecture events until CitiesAlive 2020.
Aramis and I had a fantastic time with our old friends and met quite a few new colleagues as well. Once again, we invite you to share your thoughts with us here at Greenroofs.com and become a contributor.
Hopefully I’ll see many of you before we meet in person again in 2020!
Thanks to Dusty Gedge for sharing his very fun selfies and other photos and Kerry Ross, too!
Love the Earth, Plant a Roof or Wall ~ Linda S. Velazquez, ASLA, LEED AP, GRP