Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Modern Green Roof Saves an Ancient Structure

What do you do when you find an ancient city (5000 years old) and need to protect it?

In the 1930s, after realizing the value of the Skara Brae site (found in 1850) put a glass roof over the best preserved structure. Thinking that glass would protect to carvings inside, as well as allow easy viewing actually led to more problems.

Historic Scotland
, the group that maintains Skara Brae as World Heritage Site, decided to take action. Working with Flat Roof Design & Technology (FDT), a 30 sq. meter green roof was built. A green roof was chosen because it prevented sunlight from entering the structure, as well as maintaining a fairly constant temperature and humidity. FDT's Rhepanol hg is the membrane that protects the inside of the buildings from water, sand, and other natural hazards.

In addition to the protection of the carvings and the structures themselves, the green roof also blends the site naturally into the surround landscape. This visual enhancement encourages tourists to visit not just for historic significance, but also for the surrounding beauty.

I would like to thank for writing the article this was base upon.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Green Roofs, French Style

The French have always been know for their keen style and sense of design. This also now extends to green roofs! Although I haven't spent much time researching the green roofs of France, this one in particular is quite striking. FREE SHIPPING on orders over $50.00 at

Historial de la Vendée, in Lucs-sur-Boulogne, is part of a larger estate, including a period home, gardens, and other structures.

The museum itself, pictured above, was completed in 2006 and houses exhibits detailing the history of Vendee from prehistoric times until the present. The museum is built of concrete, glass, and from the translated version of its website:
  • 8 000 m² green roof
  • 6 500 m² floor area
  • 1000 m² of windows
  • 464 tonnes of steel for the frame
  • 19 hectares of natural spaces
Below is my interpretation of the description of the roof itself, as the translation isn't quite clear. $20 Off AeroGardens

The roof is stainless steel, topped with triangular steel bed, filled with pre-grown plants from the Black Forest. The roof is composed of a mixture of plants which give the appearance of a prairie, thus integrating the building into the natural scenery.

This appears to be both a beautiful and functional structure that I would like to visit. The entrance fees are very reasonable. For 2008-2009, it is 8 euros per adult over 26, 5 euros for those under 26, and free for children under 18. More information can be found at their website:

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

London's Newest Green Building

World Architecture posted an editorial about a high-density, multi-use building. This building, called Vauxhall Sky Gardens, will house residential, retail, as well as business units.

From the article:

It is unique for its 2,500 sq m of communal ‘sky-gardens’, each being triple height and on a full floor plate. Shared by their surrounding apartments they expand opportunities and choice for social interaction allowing for the creation of micro-communities within such large and otherwise inherently anonymous blocks.

Another nifty innovation of this design is: "... 9 months of the year enough area to grow a weekly salad box for every household."

While the building doesn't have a green roof per se, it does work to bring the some of the value of green roofs indoors.

The gardens will provide air filtering, additional humidity, as well as increased oxygen in the spaces. Additionally, the green spaces themselves add peace and tranquility to an otherwise ordinary apartment complex.

The two designers were London based Amin Taha Architects with careyjones architects. The client for the building is Fraser Properties.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Green Roofs for Abu Dhabi

Who would have thought green roofs would work in a desert? Well, designer Llewelyn Davies Yeang did! Eco Bay Complex in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is a multi-story, multi-family, residential complex.

World Arab reports the following:

"This oasis is conceived as a network of passively-cooled gardens and public spaces beginning with a large plaza at ground level, which then winds its way up to the sky as a series of pocket gardens floating within each of the five towers."

Why are green roofs a plus for desert environments? Although storm water runoff management is a key feature of green roofs, desert environments tend to suffer from high concentrations of fine particulate matter air pollution, specifically sand. Additionally, as the Gulf states increase their industrial production, they also increase their CO2 emissions.

The other complimentary feature of this type of building with both green roofs and internal gardens provide cooling through the volume of plant life. What isn't discussed is where the necessary water will come. One hopes a gray water system will be put in place to reduce fresh water consumption.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Washington D.C.'s New Green Roof and Labyrinth

The World Resources Institute issued a press release on 08 October 2008 that the American Psychological Association (APA) has opened a green roof and labyrinth in Washington, DC.

From the press release:

This collaborative effort is part of our overall mission to create open spaces that heal the body, mind, and spirit,” said Mary Wyatt, executive director of TKF Foundation, the lead funder for the project.

The APA, in their decision to create the green roof and labyrinth, realized the benefits of green roofs, namely reduced air pollution and storm water runoff.

Green roofs are not new to Washington DC. The George Washington University put a green roof on one of its student centers. Additionally, Washington, DC city government has provided over $300,000 to reduce storm water runoff.

Organizations such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and World Resources Institute not only encourage the building of green roofs, but also help with funding and managing the projects. This involvement helps to raise awareness of the value of green roofs, as well their contribution to clean air and water.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Another Green City for China

In the 9/25/2008 issue of "China Daily," there is an article titled "China Singapore Team Up on Green City Project."

China, in cooperation with Singapore, is looking to build a new, green city on a piece of land that would otherwise be unsuitable for habitation.

From the article: "The eco city is located in Tianjin's Binhai New Area. It will cover a total of 30 sq km - 20 sq km in Hangu district and 10 sq km in Tanggu district. It is 15 km from the central part of the Binhai New Area, 45 km from downtown Tianjin, and 150 km from Beijing."

The planners are estimating a population of approximately 350,000 when complete in 10-15 years. Additionally, it will have five commercial centers.

From a sustainability point of view, "Clean energy and renewable energy resources - such as wind power, solar energy, underground heat pump and air source heat pump - will reduce carbon emissions in the city. All the buildings in the eco city will have to conform to green architectural design standards." Green roofs are included in the design.

This is the latest in a green building boom in China. Shanghai working on a green roof program, Dongtan is the green city in southern China, and Songjiang, the new green resort being built. In each of these cases, green roofs play a key role in reducing air pollution, the urban heat island effect, storm water runoff, as well as improved energy efficiency.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Interview with Atkins, Part II

This is the second part of the my interview with Atkins regarding the Songjiang resort complex, in Songjiang, China, near Shanghai. Read Part I here, and the original post ("China's Green Resort) here. Many thanks to Atkins for their time and cooperation with this interview.

Assuming the overall project is successful, does Atkins expect other Chinese hotels to use green roofs or event to remodel existing structures to promote cleaner air?
This depends on the context and location. Green roofs have their use and place but not in all situations. However it is our intention to promote green issues in hotel design in appropriate forms in all our projects.

What are the risks to this project? Specifically, are the current global credit situation or the cost of oil creating stress on the project?
Risks are that the budgets may be reduced and thus reduce the sustainability elements in this particular project. However certain features such as the green roof are an integral part of the design and cannot be omitted.

Outside of the Shimao, who are the key stakeholders in the project?
Shimao are the developers. They are currently negotiating with the prospective hotel operators. At the moment, the operator’s identity is confidential.

Has this project inspired inquiries by other hoteliers to create their own Songjiang-type hotels?
Yes we have had inquiries from a number of developers/operators in China as a result of this success. Some have specifically requested for sustainable content within their concepts.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Interview with Atkins, Songjiang's Architect

This article is the first of a two-part interview with Atkins, the architects of the Songjiang resort complex.

Many thanks to Atkins for their time and thoroughness in answering the following questions.

What were the motivations of Shimao to build Songjiang? In particular, why would they choose such a unique design?
The site is within a larger context of the ‘Shimao Wonderland’ development – a themed leisure/tourist destination. The challenge was to successfully develop such a difficult ‘brownfield’ site within this scheme.

What were the key differentiators between Atkins and its main competitors that ultimately led the Shimao to choose Atkins for the Songjiang project?
Our solution successfully integrated ‘green’ elements with the concept. The combination of the ‘green roof’, the’ hanging gardens’ and the underwater aquarium elements clearly expressed the client’s plan for the development. There is an ‘organic’ quality to the design which enables it to fit into the environment so effortlessly.

My readers are very interested in green roofs. What was the motivation to use such a large green roof?
It was the best way to integrate the building into such sensitive environment. The area is known for exceptional landscape and several green hills. This building was conceived as another ‘green hill’, and is meant to be a natural addition to the local landscape. Moreover, the environmental benefits in terms of biodiversity and the benefits to the building through the acoustic and thermal insulation lead to its utilisation.

In modern history, China has seen the natural environment as both a hindrance and a great resource. Is China trying to have both growth and environmental sensitivity with this project?
Yes, this project is intended to express the traditional and respectful attitude of the Chinese to nature. In all our architectural projects around the world we are specifically drawing attention to the importance of sustainability in building and harmony with natural environment.

Green Cincinnati

Cincinnati, Ohio, in the American heartland, is aiming to become a leader in both commercial and residential green roofs.

In an Associate Press story, found on CBS News,

"The City Council on Wednesday became the first in Ohio with a plan to channel grants and loans to residents and businesses to replace tar and shingles with vegetation."

The City Council has recognized the benefits of green roofs, namely storm water runoff management, reduced fine particulate matter air pollution, as well as reducing the urban heat island effect.

The article points out the "how" of how to manage the increased costs of green roofs. Specifically,

"About $5 million a year in below-market-rate loans through the U.S. EPA Clean Water State Revolving Fund will be available starting in 2009 for green roof projects, city officials estimate, along with an undetermined amount of grant money from other EPA funds."

Perhaps this project will be commercial focus on the benefits of green roofs and encourage interest. The key to green roof acceptability is commercial viability. Let's hope that increased visibility and proper marketing can drive demand and bring down prices.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

China's Green Resort

China is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and suffers the effects of that rapid growth. Air pollution and storm water runoff effect their major and minor cities.

The Chinese government has acknowledged these problems and has taken steps to improve the situation. One way is through green roofs.

Shanghai has defined targets for the number green roofs (details here) and design firms are lining up for cities' worth of opportunity.

Outside of Shanghai, in the Songjiang district, Atkins has designed the "Songjiang Garden City," with a resort as the focal point. According the

The innovative design of the 400-bed resort hotel stands two levels higher than the rock face of the 100 metre deep quarry and includes underwater public areas and guestrooms... Sustainability is integral to the design ranging from using green roofing for the structures above the ground level to geothermal energy extraction.

As this is part of a larger project, as mentioned above, I will be conducting an interview with Atkins Design to learn more. Until I publish the interview, and Atkins both have good articles about this project.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Greening Kuwait

Lest people believe that green roofs are only used in Mexico City, Shanghai, Dongtan, or Chicago, Atkins Design of Epsom, UK has "...recently received the honour of CNBC Arabian Property Award High Rise Architecture Award" for the Al Sharq Office Complex in Kuwait. This was reported in World Architecture

From the article:

"The Al Sharq office building quietly pursues a rigorous sustainability agenda. A shallow plan office floor plate with heavily shaded facades reduces the tower's environmental footprint... The 180m tower will cover an area of 56,400sq.m and ... offers a variety of scenarios for business within a sustainable and environmentally responsible design."

As one can see from the artist's rendition, there will be what are refered to as "roof gardens" to provide shade and fresh air. While not displayed, this author hopes some form of green roof will be available, though given the climate, watering would be required.

Although storm water runoff management is not as significant an issue in Kuwait as it would be in Chennai, the reduction of fine particulate air pollution is certainly a benefit.
provides this quotation from Nicholas Bailey of Atkins: "This is a green building - literally - because of its foliage camouflage. Vertical fins to the street elevation, formed in colored glass, are fitted with integrated solar panels that contribute to the building's energy needs."

One hopes that other countries such as the U.A.E., Qatar, and Saudi Arabia consider using green roofs and green building in their current and future construction.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not Just Any Green Roof

What interesting times we live in! I read an article in "The Economic Times," an Indian newspaper, titled "Green Roofs differ in Capacity to Cool Interiors." It discusses the green roof studies going on a the University of Texas.

At UT, there is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center that is hosting how different types of roofs impact temperature inside structures. In particular, they have built several identical steel structures and put different kinds of roofs on them and are measuring the temperatures and water retention.

Studies are clearly indicating that green roofs definitely reduce internal temperatures. From the article:

"During one 91-degree day, ... a black topped box without air conditioning reached 129º inside. Meanwhile, the green roof replicas produced indoor temperatures of 97 to 100 degrees F. "That's a huge difference to have a 20-or-so degree temperature drop," Simmons said, noting that green roofs' ... are also believed to double the lifespan of roofing material. "

However, in places like India and Texas, where flash flooding and storm water runoff are serious issues, different green roof materials perform better than others. Again, from the article, "Yet this feature varied the most among the six manufacturers. The better green roofs retained all of the water during a half-an-inch rainfall, and just under half the water when two inches of rain fell. "

Let's hope that the studies at UT, combined with the innovation in synthetic soil by Suntory, will spread the acceptance and use of green roofs world wide, as their ability to reduce air pollution and storm water runoff make a real difference!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Word about Copyrights

It has come to my attention that a person has stolen my material and claimed it as their own. All works found on this blog are copyrighted, which, from is: Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source - Share This
1.the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc.: works granted such right by law on or after January 1, 1978, are protected for the lifetime of the author or creator and for a period of 50 years after his or her death.
2.of or pertaining to copyrights.
3.Also, cop·y·right·ed. protected by copyright.
–verb (used with object) secure a copyright on.

[Origin: 1725–35; copy + right]

cop·y·right·a·ble, adjective
cop·y·right·er, noun Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

All of the work on this blog is original, and written by me. As this is my work, I guard it jealously, and will take all necessary actions to protect it. I attribute all source material. All pictures are the work of the artists.

If you wish to cite this blog, include the URL of the post, as well as the article name. Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Green Roof on Bus Shelters

In an article from triplepundit, the California Academy of Science is advertising its opening by putting green roofs on a number of bus shelters in the San Francisco area.

This is same museum that I wrote about in July, in a post titled, "California Academy of Science's 2.5 Acre Green Roof,"which discusses the museum and the enormous green roof.

What the triplepundit article doesn't mention is that this marketing scheme is actually a very good thing, for several reasons. First and foremost, air pollution from large diesel vehicles is greatest during acceleration. When the buses pull away from the shelter, those giant black clouds of soot and sulfur dioxide can be mitigated (at least a little) by the shelter green roof. Secondly, the green roof will help keep the shelter about 10% cooler. Finally, the green roof will help reduce runoff, while also capturing the fine particulate matter in the rain as it falls.

Perhaps green roofs on bus shelters is a idea who's time has come. If placed on every shelter in a major metropolitan area, the clean air benefits would likely exceed the cost of acquisition and installation, as well as providing a little bit of green in the urban jungle.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Suntory Creates Synthetic Soil

Suntory, the Japanese company better known for whiskey and other beverages, issued a press release announcing it had created a way to grow green roofs and green walls without soil.

From the press release: "Suntory brings its unique roof-greening system, Midori no Yane (literally, green roof), and wall-greening system, Hana no Kabe (literally, wall of flowers) onto market on March 3, 2008. "

The synthetic soil, known as Pafcal, is made from urethane and is far lighter than organic soil. notes: "It looks much like regular soil, and can be used for a variety of planting products. The material is meant to help meet new Tokyo building regulations, which insist that any new building over a certain size limit must have a roof garden to offset carbon dioxide production. "

Let's raise our glasses to Suntory for creating a lighter weight material for growing and promoting green roofs.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Shanghai Green Roofs Grow!

Shanghai gets it! In an article in China Daily, it was reported that "The Shanghai landscaping administration bureau said more than 95,000 sq m of rooftops have been covered in grass and shrubs, very close to the annual target of 100,000 sq m. The city's annual construction of green areas will be about 200,000 sq m this year, the bureau said."

This is fantastic news. Shanghai's air pollution is the third worst in China, only behind Guanzhou and Beijing. The overall commitment to improve the cityscape with green roofs is real, although annual budgets aren't very high. From the article, "The city will spend 5 million yuan ($710,000) this year on the campaign."

Like other government sponsored green roof projects, like those of Chicago, the focus is primarily on government buildings. What is positive to note is scale and commitment of putting green roofs in Shanghai. Again, from the article, "Since the campaign began in 2003, at total 500,000 sq m of Shanghai's rooftops have been covered, more than 80 times the size of Fuxing Park, a popular recreational area in downtown Shanghai."

Let's hope that with the rapid construction in Shanghai, builders and government can work together to get green roofs on as many buildings as possible.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A New Green City for China, Interview Part II

As I have written in the three previous articles (here, here, and here), Dongtan is going to be "...a city powered by local, renewable energy, with super-efficient buildings clustered in dense, walkable neighborhoods; a recycling scheme that re-purposes 90 percent of all waste; a network of high tech organic farms; and a ban on any vehicle that emits CO2."
To get more information about the project, I have conducted an interview with Arup, the city designer. This is the second of two articles with details from the interview.

So, how does this type of dream city actually get built? The simple answer is money. HSBC and Sustainable Development Capital LLP (SDCL) are going to provide the majority of financing for the development. Both of these companies are natural contributors for this project.

From the HSBC website, "The HSBC Group is named after its founding member, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, which was established in 1865 to finance the growing trade between China and Europe." SDCL, from its site, "SDCL has an exclusive focus on projects which it considers: Have a positive environmental and social impact; Can create attractive levels of return on investment (commercial sustainability); and Are potentially transformational."

Continuing with the theme of balance between sustainability and Chinese design, it also helps to consider the philosophy of Mao Tse-tung, which considered nature an obstacle, and that of Hu Jin Tao, which declared the necessity for ecological balance and sustainability. In both cases, Dongtan will be the area to find that balance, both to sustain a growing population, as well as maintaining the highest ecological standards possible.

The final question I asked was whether Arup was persuing other similar projects? They highlighted two projects, Wanzhuang, in China and Treasure Island Community Development (TICD) in San Francisco. In both cases, sustainability, renewable energy, and ecological protection are the main drivers in the development.

I congratulate all of the parties involved in the Dongtan project and give my best wishes for their success. Further, I would like to thank Arup and its Press Office for being so generous with their time. As the project progresses, it is my intent to provide updates. Additionally, I will do the same for Wanzhuang and Treasure Island.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A New Green City for China, Interview Part I

As I have written in two previous articles (here and here), Dongtan is going to be "...a city powered by local, renewable energy, with super-efficient buildings clustered in dense, walkable neighborhoods; a recycling scheme that re-purposes 90 percent of all waste; a network of high tech organic farms; and a ban on any vehicle that emits CO2."
To get more information about the project, I have conducted an interview with Arup, the city designer. This is the first of two articles with details from the interview.

As previously mentioned, the development is being led by the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC). My first question was why China wants to build a "green" city, with all of the sustainable elements. The answer can be found in a speech by Chinese President Hu Jintao, at the 17th National Congress. While I am not fond of communist propaganda, he does mention several times the need to improve environmental conditions and reduce pollution.

The second question was why Arup was chosen. While the SIIC didn't comment specifically, Arup has over 30 years experience working in China and also uses a system called Integrated Resource Management (IRM), which is a tool to optimize land use. This tool accounts for water, waste, energy, and living space necessary on a given piece of land. In this case, Dongtan is projected to hold 500,000 people at capacity.

One item that will make this city unique is that Arup has provided a design specification for types of buildings. The specifications allow designers, architects, and developers to provide structures that reflect the Chinese character of Dongtan, while creating a sustainable, green living space. Many of these buildings will also have green roofs! Green roofs reduce utility costs, storm water runoff, as well as CO2 and air pollution. Green roofs also can provide aesthetic benefits for those living in and around the buildings. Since no building will be much over eight stories, these roofs should be visible from street level.

The next article will cover questions regarding financing partners, the potential for similar projects, as well as the public response. Many thanks to Arup for participating in the interview process.

Click here to read the second part of the interview.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A New Green City for China, Dongtan Videos

Below, you will find a three videos about Dongtan, the city in the previous post, "A New Green City for China." Don't forget to also read the interview articles either (Part I, Part II)!

The first video is part one of Alejandro Gutierrez, Program Designer at Arup, talking about Dongtan. The second video is the second half. They are a little hard to hear, but worth the effort.

The third video is a fly-over video, providing an artists impression of what the city will look like.

Please note that I am working on a series of interviews with Arup to further explain the project.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A New Green City for China

**Be sure to read the update with Interview 1, Interview 2, and videos. **
Shanghai has a growing population, heavily polluted air, dirty water, and power shortages. But just a short ferry ride away is a wild-life preserve that will soon become its first green city.

Dongtan, which according to Business Week, "About the size of Manhattan, Dongtan aims to be energy self-sufficient using a combination of wind, solar power, and biofuels." The design is being done by Arup Group, out of London, with Alejandro Gutierrez as the Project Designer. Peter Head is the Project Director, and Roger Wood is the Project Manager. The final customer is Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC), and they will be making the final decisions. Cheap? No. 100% Free. Trade stocks for free on The Free Trading Community.

According to Gutierrez, as quoted in Wired Magazine, Dongtan will be "...a city powered by local, renewable energy, with super-efficient buildings clustered in dense, walkable neighborhoods; a recycling scheme that re-purposes 90 percent of all waste; a network of high tech organic farms; and a ban on any vehicle that emits CO2." Of course, many of these buildings will have green roofs! Water Barrels and Storage

Because this is such an interesting topic, Arup has agreed to be interviewed about the Dongtan project. My goal is to bring you the details of this emerging and fascinating story! Green roofs are going to be a part of this major endeavor, and I predict it will only help their popularity.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Mexico's First LEED Gold has a Green Roof!

The first building in Latin America to be LEED Gold Certified is the HSBC building in Mexico City. This is quite a point of pride for Mexico, as the building is the first in Latin America, and it is also good for the people of the city. FREE SHIPPING on orders over $50.00 at

Green roofs help reduce CO2, storm water runoff, the heat island effect, as well as reducing fine particulate air pollution. Additionally, the green roof on this building is the largest in Latin America, helps reduce utility costs by up to 25%. $20 Off AeroGardens

For HSBC, this building is not a one-trick pony. According to the HSBC 2007 Sustainability Report, "The Group seeks to achieve, by 2011, a minimum of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental
Design) gold certification or the equivalent for 50 of its major buildings."

Congratulations to HSBC for their commitment to LEED, green roofs, and sustainable building.

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Beijing is Trying to Control Pollution with Green Buildings

In a previous post titled, "Bejiing Worst Smog in a Month - Green Roofs Can Help!" I wrote how the Chinese government is concerned that the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be spoiled by air pollution.

That concern is becoming a reality, with the government expanding its restrictions to a broader geographic surrounding Beijing. Aside from these restrictions, the government is taking positive steps to improve air quality through green buildings.

National Public Radio (NPR) did a story about green buildings and green roofs in Beijing. You can listen to the story here. It outlines that China surpassed the US in becoming the world's single largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2) and "The government has set ambitious goals for reducing emissions and increasing energy efficiency by 2010."

To that end, the Chinese government is focusing on its buildings, as they consume half of the electricity in China. It is well known that green roofs can aid this effort by reducing utility costs by up to 25%. Additionally, the green roofs on these buildings well help reduce fine particulate air pollution and reduce CO2 levels in the city.

These steps toward energy efficiency and pollution control are noteworthy. In addition to green roofs and green buildings, China would do well to improve the pollution controls on their factories and power plants.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bejiing Worst Smog in a Month - Green Roofs Can Help!

In an article in July 28th, This is London, about air pollution in China, states that despite its best efforts, "The grayish haze was one of the worst seen in Beijing in the past month despite tough traffic restrictions imposed a week ago to help reduce pollution."

Green roofs are known to reduce not only CO2, but also fine particulate matter air pollution. These benefits are especially important given the amount of power generated by coal, lax (by Western standards) industrial emissions standards, as well as the lack of pollution controls on vehicles.

To China's credit they have done the following:

"...include pulling half of Beijing's 3.3 million vehicles off the roads, closing factories in the city and in a half dozen surrounding provinces, and halting most construction in the capital. Some 300,000 heavily polluting vehicles, such as aging industrial trucks, have been banned since July 1."

Let's hope that the conditions improve so that the 2008 Beijing Olympics can be a successful display of peaceful competition.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Green Roofs Help India

Without a doubt, India is one of the fastest growing economies and populations in the world. However, India suffers many of the same problems as the rest of the developing world, namely, air pollution, a shortage of regular power, as well as storm water management issues.

To help combat these problems and provide a better life for all Indians, green roofs are beginning to appear. In an article found on India Together, the author spells out how the building boom in India mirrors Western, upscale properties. He also mentions that all of the luxury amenities in these buildings consume more and more power. Not to be left behind government buildings are also energy hogs.

This is where green building and green roofs come in. Green roofs will help reduce cooling costs for the new buildings by about 20%. Additionally, less strain will be put on the water system by the effective storm water runoff management that the green roofs supply. Were that not enough, the green roofs will also help filter fine particulate matter air pollution out of the air, making the area more livable.

Green roofs are a cost effective solution to many of India's, and the developing world's problems. As the word spreads that green buildings produce great benefits, hopefully, more countries will have them.

Green Roofs Control Storm Water Runoff

As I have mentioned in previous posts, the benefits of green roofs include reduced utility costs, reduced heat island effect, reduced air pollution, and reduced storm water runoff. In cities close to major bodies of water where storm water runoff is a major concern, green roofs can be used to help mitigate that concern.

In an article in Environmental Health Perspectives, Washington DC was sued to reduce storm water runoff in 2002. As part of the settlement, "...the DC Water and Sewer Authority provided $300,000 for green roof development....Those funds, managed by the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, seeded a program of incentive grants that encouraged eight builders to choose green roofs over other traditional devices as their primary stormwater control device (stormwater control plans are required for any new construction or redevelopment of more than 5,000 square feet in the District)."

Clearly, the District takes this issue very seriously. Green roofs are becoming more popular in Washington, DC. Hopefully, more federal buildings will look like Chicago's City Hall.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green Roof Plant Suppliers

What makes a green roof green? Plants, of course! So where do these plants come from and what are some of the choices? I have been looking into this and am going to discuss three suppliers: Green Roof Blocks, Live Roof, and Green Grid.

Green Roof Blocks provides blocks of both planting materials and planting materials with the plants in them. They are convenient because the can be placed directly on the waterproof membrane, thus reducing the time to install the green roof. The offer various kinds of blocks, whether they are needed for flat green roofs, or to create a green roof on an existing sloped roof. The company is in Missouri and sells directly or through Saint Louis Metal Works Company.

Live Roof is a subsidiary of Hortech Inc., located in Springlake, MI. Like Green Roof Blocks, they create self-contained plants and growing medium. Additionally, the plants come fully-grown, thus reducing an installation step and providing all of the green roof benefits once installed. They also have a fairly robust site, providing a good Q&A section.

Green Grid is a collaboration of Weston Solutions and ABC Supply. As both Green Roof Blocks and Live Roof were modular systems, Green Grid is more of a full service supplier of plants, growing media, and several other products. The variety would appeal to commercial customers, particularly those looking for intensive and complex designs. The most unique feature of their site is the live temperature feed.

"For over 3 years, GreenGrid® has been collecting temperature data .... Data have been collected for the temperatures of black roof membranes, white roof membranes, underneath the 4-inch and 8-inch depth modules (between the modules and the membrane beneath them), ambient conditions, as well as for other permutations and products. The data are fed live to our Internet site, which is updated every hour..."

While this has not been an exhaustive look at vegetation suppliers, I think it served to demonstrate that there is variety in the marketplace. Future posts will highlight other types of green roof suppliers, such as membranes as well as architects and designers.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

LEED With Green Roofs

Green roofs help builders and buildings get Platinum LEED certification. The picture, above, is the Northern Arizona University Applied Research and Development building, located in Flagstaff, AZ.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is trademarked by the US Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC defines LEED as:

LEED is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

The certification and rating system is done by consensus of the various LEED committees.

Relative to building, a flat green roof helps to meet LEED standards for energy consumption, carbon footprint reduction, and storm water runoff reductions. Additionally, flat green roofs reduce fine particulate matter air pollution. While LEED recognizes the building as a system, a flat green roof is a great addition to improve both the building and its certification.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

George Washington University Gets a Green Roof

Green roofs can improve air pollution, reduce fine particulate matter, and reduce storm water runoff. Additionally, flat green roofs reduce heating and cooling cost, thus reducing energy consumption.

George Washington University's School of Business is putting a flat green roof at the Elliott School of International Affairs City View Room Terrace this summer (2008). This news was reported in the GWSB newsletter.

GWSB M.B.A. student Brett Kaplan, helped secure funding for GW’s first-ever campus flat green roof. "This project is important to GW because it a major step forward in terms of enhancing the school’s sustainability profile. Aside from the environmental benefits, the green roof is designed to stand as a visual symbol of GW’s commitment to sustainability. The roof is meant to be a stepping stone for other green campus initiatives. If students, for instance, see that it’s possible to get this particular initiative passed, they will feel like their own campus greening ideas can also be brought to life, Kaplan said."

Not only is the building a commitment to sustainability, but it also will be used for educational purposes. The University is also going to use it as a show piece demonstrate its commitment to green technology and sustainability.

The 2,000 square foot roof is estimated to cost $25,000, 70% of which will be provided by the university. Grants and support from the student environmental association will provide the other 30%.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chicago Museum Showcases Green Roof Home

The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry are holding an exhibit of a "green" home, complete with a flat green roof! The exhibit runs through January 04, 2009 and highlights not just the green roof, but photovalic film for solar electricity, and sustainable landscaping, just to name a few items.

The home is 2500 square feet, and three stories high. It was built by Michelle Kaufmann Designs of Oakland, California, and builder, All American Homes of Decatur, Indiana.

These types of exhibits will hopefully demonstrate to the viewing public the viability of flat green roofs not just for commercial structures, but also for homes.

This Old House Green Roof

As I mentioned in an earlier post, flat green roofs aren't just for commercial buildings, they are for homes also! While there are companies and architects and engineers willing to set you up with a very beautiful, but expensive, flat green roof, This Old House has an article.

This Old House used a product called GreenGrid, which has been available to pros, and is now available to regular folks. While this sounds wonderful, there is a catch (isn't there always?)" arid climes, tar roofs , or slopes sharper than 15 percent. $10-$15 a square foot..."

What is good to know, is that green roofs are starting to catch on. Now even the average home owner can put one on!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Green Roofs for Homes

Green roofs aren't just for commercial buildings, but rather for every building that can sustain one. The really good things about green roofs apply to homes, just as they do to other buildings. They reduce heating and cooling costs, reduce storm water runoff, and also reduce air pollution.

I found some basic instructions and images at Natural Life Network

Here they are:

Simple Design Overview

The basic design and construction of a green roof can be quite simple and inexpensive. Given the additional loads that a green roof requires engineering will be required to ensure the correct level of support structure. The basic design of a green roof is as follows:

  1. Plywood layer on top of roof trusses or joists (some slope is required for drainage, too much slope may be difficult to cultivate due to erosion).
  2. Apply a synthetic rubber membrane on top of the plywood roofing structure. Up to this point you have basically created a common industrial roof.
  3. In order to retain the soil the roof must provide a containing edge from four to eight inches high, also covered by synthetic rubber. Don't forget to leave some drainage scuppers.
  4. Once the base roof water proofing system is in place the additional green roof components can be added when ready.
  5. The first layer of the green roof is typically a foundation membrane (a dimpled "Delta" membrane or something similar that can catch and retain some water in the little cups.
  6. Add a landscaping root barrier membrane. Apply the all membranes from bottom to top and ensure layers overlap with upper (higher) layers on top of lower layers. (The same way you shingle a house).
  7. Around the drainage zones create a drainage area as you would around the foundations of a house, with gravel and drainage tubing.
  8. Fill in with soil from four to six inches.
  9. Use straw mats tucked under the soil to reduce erosion as the soil begins to grow plants in it.

Check out

Well Done!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Gets Green Roof!

Kuala Lumpur, one the leading cities in South East Asia, is working to increase the amount of "green" buildings, including those with flat green roofs. Some exist today, though they don't meet LEED standard.

According to Yap Yew Jin, in his article, "City & Country: Moving in the green direction" Kuala Lumpur is set to have a new green building with:

The building will have energy-efficient glass for its window panes and will rely mainly on natural daylight to reduce usage of artificial light," Soon tells City & Country. Other unique features include a green roof design (podium top and roof top gardens), solar cell street lights, and rain water harvesting and water-efficient toilet fittings.

While many developing countries struggle to balance the need to improve environmental quality with the costs of doing so, many find that the investment is worth it. The savings are found in both energy savings, as well as improved resale value that flat green roofs bring.

WTW Bovis' Soon says green buildings are considered market differentiators with their lower staff turnover and lower energy consumption. "In fact, green buildings are said to be able to save up to 30% in energy consumption and reduce carbon footprint by about 30% to 40%." He adds that green buildings with integrated designs are slightly cheaper, with the cost increasing as it goes up the value chain. "However, the returns on investment would be quite significant," he says.

Kuala Lumpur should be proud of this new building, as it will serve as a beacon for others to build energy efficient buildings with flat green roofs.

Data Centers Need Green Roofs!

In a recent article in Business Week, titled "Going Green is Good for Your Wallet," the author wrote about two studies that indicate that buildings built to LEED specifications are commanding higher prices as well as higher resale.

While this is good news, particularly for flat green roofs, the article also relates that there are gaps. In particular:

Surprisingly, the actual EUI performance for LEED-certified, high-energy-use buildings, such as laboratories and data centers, was nearly two-and-a-half times higher than what was predicted during their design. ...Projects that were supposed to see energy savings of up to 40 percent actually “underperformed code by 60 percent.” “The NBI study provides a much-needed comparison of energy models to reality,” he says (Andrew McNamara, director of new construction services at Bright Power, a New York-based energy consultancy).

Relative to data centers, the leader in the "greening" of data centers is (Affordable Internet Services Online, Inc.). According to their site and what others have written about them, AISO is building a flat green roof for their data center.

The new green roof can reduce our cooling requirements by up to 50%. When finished, AISO will be the first and only public data center in North America with a green roof.

It would be quite a site to see all of the flat roof data centers, become flat green roofs! I bet the owners would also be happy with the reduced utility costs. Considering the competitive nature of data centers and hosting, this is a great opportunity to create a competitive advantage.

Here's to for the commitment to flat green roofs and green building!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

India Uses Green Roof at New Chennai Airport

India, with its ever growing population and expanding economy is no stranger to air pollution.

In its many great cities, the air is heavy with fine particulate matter and the storm water runoff is polluted. However, flat green roof technology is being used to help remedy these issues!

For its new airport in Chennai, their will be several green features, including a very large indoor garden.

Additionally, according to Architectural Record,

"A parking garage with a green roof will create what the designers describe as a “green gate” to the terminal. “The folding geometry of the green roof captures and directs rain water during the rain season to the elliptical openings in the roof, creating shimmering ‘rain curtains’ as the water falls through the garage to cisterns below. This stored water is later used during the dry season to irrigate the green roof and maximize the site’s sustainable resources.”

This is certainly a good thing for the city of Chennai, as well as the air around the airport. Flat green roofs will improve the aesthetic of the city, as well as the quality of the air.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Air Pollution Detector

Wouldn't it be nice to measure the effects of a flat green roof other than the cost savings? Sure, it is nice to see the monthly utility bill lower than without a flat green roof. Additionally, the storm-water runoff tax is less also, but what about actually lowering air pollution?

Through the use of small, radio-controlled planes, air pollution can be tested and measured.

Here is a short story about the up and coming technology.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

California Academy of Science's 2.5 Acre Green Roof

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities awarded the California Academy of Science its 2008 Award of Excellence, in the category of Extensive Institutional, for its 2.5 acre green roof. The award narrative can be found here.

From the citation:

"In the heart of San Francisco’s beloved Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences’ new LEED® Platinum-rated museum now hosts the largest green roof of any natural history museum in the world. ... For San Francisco, the green roof creates the most concentrated area of native wildflowers within the city."

The design was done by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, who is noted for achievement in the field of green roofs.

To drum up positive press for this effort, San Francisco put green roofs on bus shelters! Click here to read about it!

Germans Love Green Roofs!

According to Michigan State University, Germany has the highest density of flat green roofs. As the picture demonstrates, flat green roofs can be simple in design, and can easily fit into both the man-made and natural landscape.

If one googles "green roof Germany," one will find article upon article about the rise of flat green roofs in the 1970s in Germany to combat storm water runoff. Having had friends in Germany, they told me how expensive water was and how the government was trying ways to capture water from roadways and other sources.

Hat's off to Germany and their flat green roofs! Notice there were no David Hasselhoff jokes?

2009 World Green Roof Congress Set for Toronto

For anybody that loves flat green roofs and is in the business of building or promoting them, the 2009 World Green Roof Congress is going to be held in Toronto.

According to Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, "The Congress will bring more than 1,000 delegates to Toronto from around the world to discuss the latest research, policy and technical advances in the rapidly growing green roof industry."

Toronto was chosen, in part, to its 2006 "Making Green Roofs Happen" report that "...will advance the use of green roof technology among City buildings and in the private sector." This commitment to green roofs ranks Toronto with Chicago, Washington, and New York as cities that are committed to green roofs and cleaner air.

More details can be found in a press release found here.

Singapore's Coolest Green Roof

Without exception, this has to be one of the most elegant, simple, and beautiful green roofs I have ever. It is the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and is on 5 acres. I found this at Inhabitat ( and was blown away.

The design not only makes the building part of the landscape, but creates the landscape itself. In addition to the green roof, the building also uses simple interior construction with concrete walls and large spaces for artwork.

My hat is off to CPG Consultants and the Nanyang Technical University.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Green Roofs in China, Helping Beijing Breathe

The greatest inspiration for me to blog about green roofs was my trip to Shanghai, China in January of 2008. There I saw incredible air pollution, which literally was choking.

While I sat in several different office buildings, many stories into the skyline, I observed huge swaths of flat roofs, mostly black, sitting idle. Additionally, I remembered the discussion about how energy starved Shanghai is, as well as concerns about water.

As one of my meetings ran long, and somewhat boring, I began to map out a strategy of how Shanghai could adopt flat green roofs, reduce air pollution, and minimize storm water runoff. I admit, the plan was grandiose, so that's why I settled on a blog instead.

It turns out that in 2006, several stories ran about green roofs in Beijing, where, according to the US embassy, has worse air pollution than Shanghai. Here are some quotes from articles at that time. There is also a nice mention of LEED in there.

"The Beijing Linked Hybrid project, a self-contained city of linked vertical buildings designed by Holl, includes hundreds of apartments as well as stores and schools, and every roof is green. Storm water collected in rooftops will help feed a self-sustaining water system to protect the buildings against water shortages in Beijing, Holl explained.

"They want it and they're willing to pay for it," Holl said of his Chinese clients.

China launched a nationwide drive last month to make energy-saving buildings that help ease fuel shortages and reduce greenhouse gases. The country has also signed an agreement with the United Nations to promote environmentally friendly practices in staging the 2008 Beijing Olympics."
from "Landscape architects tend to a green roof" found at

From the Christian Science Monitor:

""There isn't much pressure for us to promote the green concept," said science ministry official Yang Guoxiong at last week's green inauguration.

"The national government has incredible intentions for a green future." says Mr. Mars. "Really mind-boggling. But we are in an interesting paradox, and I am asking, 'Is it better to have high ambitions, or to be realistic?' "

Let's hope the rest of China can catch the green roof wave and bring clean air to their cities and citizens.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Atlanta High Museum of Art's Green Roof 
CNN did a video report on the green roof at the Atlanta High Museum of Art. The story highlights not only the heating and cooling benefits, but also how the roof will collect storm water runoff. The city of Atlanta believes that the roof system will absorb 60-90% of the storm-water runoff, thus lessening the load on the sewer system, as well as reducing the tax paid by the building owner.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Green Roofs are Old School
As I mention in the introductory post, green roofs have been around for quite a long time. In many cases, using grass or other vegetation for roofing was out of necessity.

In this video from National Geographic, we learn that the ancient settlers of the Faroe Islands used green roofs, and that tradition has continued through today.

While I may repeat this in many if not all of my articles, one of the best reasons for green roofs is that they are cost effective and energy efficient. While it is also good that green roofs remove carbon dioxide and filter fine particulate matter, as well as reduce storm water runoff, if something isn't cost effective, it won't be widely accepted.