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.