Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Green Roofs and Customer Relationships

I subscribe to few newsletters mostly because I don't have much excess time.

But I always look forward to the Daily Feed - now rebranded the Weekly Feed, put out by Mark Maunder of Feedjit (the company who provides the blog visitor software here on my blog).

Mark's free newsletter has really helped me with my blog.  As a botanist and lawyer, my IT skills earlier this year were the not so good to say the least.  In fact - over the holiday season I will be redoing our website as it is not very user friendly right now.

However with Mark's advice my green roof blog went from 4 visitors per week to over 100 per day in less than 3 months.  But that is not the reason I am posting an article from his newsletter today.

I have read and re-read Marks latest newsletter article about customer service because it is so true.

As with newsletters, I am also choosy about the stores I go into and can relate to what Mark says.  So here is the excerpt - enjoy!  Kevin

Happy Holidays and Happy Green Roofing!

Welcome to Issue #52 of The Weekly Feed. If this email was forwarded to you by a friend, you can subscribe on this page. The Weekly Feed is published once a week when we have news, information and helpful tips to share. Unsubscribe instructions are at the end of this message. You can read previous editions of The Weekly Feed on our blog but note that posts to our blog are delayed 24 hours or more.

We have rebranded The Daily Feed to The Weekly Feed. We'll be publishing the newsletter once a week from now on usually at the beginning of the week.

If you, like me, have left your holiday shopping until the last minute, you've probably paid a visit to the Apple store recently. I'm in Colorado right now and paid a visit to the Park Meadows Apple store to get something I didn't really need but that made a good excuse to give Steve more of my money.

A few minutes later I walked into the Microsoft store. I've managed to get over the fact that they cloned Apple the same way I don't mind that Pepsi cloned Coke. Hey, competition is good for all of us. The experience was basically the same but the details were different and there were so many of them it was startling:

The store employees weren't smiling, there were less of them and it was hard to get their attention. I wanted to buy Windows 7 and the price was $200 and the sales guy told me that "sorry, but that's what it costs" even though I bought a new licensed copy (also the full install) on eBay this morning for $117. When the attendant swiped my card for my PC game he had to reach under a table and use a non-portable swiper. They didn't offer me an email receipt or even take my email address. They assumed I wanted a paper receipt so that's what I got. The guy who helped us had this look on his face like we weren't supposed to be there.

The Apple store on the other hand was friendly, portable card swipes, email receipts, the store was packed and about 1 in 5 people were super helpful Apple employees. I stood in the wrong line (for the genius bar) and a guy came up to me and offered a checkout without making me feel like I'd screwed up. It was awesome and it's the reason we own more Apples at Feedjit than PC's for the first time this year.

Apple is big on the details of the impression they leave you with. Note the Apple Keynote Cutdown video. Not a single cut is repeated in that video. Business insider has a blog entry today about how Apple refers to it's products grammatically as person's and not as objects.

All these little touches add up to a whole that has far more marketing power than the sum of it's parts. When you are thinking about your blog or website, take note of the details. Load times, color scheme, unpleasant distractions, how long you take to reply to your comments or respond to customer requests, the tone and language you use, how you moderate your comments, forums or wiki. All these details add up into a complete user experience and they all matter a whole lot.

Our news roundup for today:

Royal Pingdom published some revealing data today. They did a survey of a handlful of popular blogging platforms over 2 months to see which provide the best uptime. Blogger, Wordpress and Typepad came up on top with Tumblr performing terribly. Tumblr had a total of 47 hours of down-time over a 2 month period. You can read the full report here.

Thomas Weber has a guide in The Daily Beast today that shares how he cracked the New York Times "Most Emailed" story list and got his story to #3 on the list. Thomas and his team figured out that the TImes counts individual senders per story. After 1,270 individual (volunteer) senders had emailed a story they made it to number 3 on the overall list. The times gets roughly 30 million visitors per month, and it takes around 1 in every 25,000 readers to email a story to get that story on to the top 10 most emailed story list.

And finally, if you're in the Northern Hemisphere tonight at 12:41 Mountain Standard Time, enjoy the Lunar Eclipse. The Feedjit founders will be watching it at 7000 ft from Colorado.

Happy Holidays!!

Mark Maunder
Feedjit Founder & CEO

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Green Roofs for Birdhouses, Doghouses and Every Conceivable Roof We Can Find...

Green roofs are found on a wide variety of structures and not just commercial, institutional or residential buildings.

Cedar Roof Decking - Birdhouse Green Roof
Included are several DIY photos of how to put a green roof on a birdhouse and more of a LEED Platinum Doghouse (we won 1st place in AIA Barkitecture competition)!

Birdhouse Green Roof - Double Sided Roofing Tape

First photo is of the birdhouse roof decking.

Green Roof Birdhouse - Membrane Installation

Next photos is the double sided tape allied to the cedar decking.

Third is the waterproofing membrance serving also as a root barrier.

Green Roof Birdhouse - Grow Weave Mat

Fourth is the grow weave mat, then the ridge cap (made from recycled copper flashing) and trim work.

Green ROof Birdhouse - Copper Ridge Cap

Agaves and succulents are added, along with a mixture of drought resilient wildflower seed.

Green Roof Birdhouse - Plants and seed added...

The concept here is exactly the same process we use on large, large green roofs.  This type of system is called an extensive green roof and on the sloped birdhouse roof the soil is stabilized with a natural stabilizer such as agar (you can use flour also if you cannot find agar)...

For other unique holiday gift suggestions - how about a LEED Platinum qualifying doghouse with a green roof!

Green Roof Doghouse

Green Roof Doghouse

This doghouse won the AIA Barkitecture contest!  We used a variety of succulents and perennial peanut.  Rainwater is cleaned through the special roof soil media and then recycled into the stainless steel watering bowl.

Happy Holidays and Happy Green Roofing!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Green Roof DIY Plant Starter Greenhouse - On the Cheap

Green roofs are harsh mini-eco-climates and may not always be the best place to germinate seeds.

So if you have a seed source for a particular plant you want to use on your green roof - or elsewhere in your permaculture gardens - a seed starting greenhouse or hothouse may be helpful.

Greenhouse for Green Roof Plants - Cheapo but Works!
Yet in today's economy many of us do not have the extra dollars or euros to spend on a hothouse or greenhouse.

The photos here and sketch are of a very nice greenhouse we recently built out of scraps.  Our total out-of-pocket cost was about US $20!

The greenhouse is 12' wide by 18' long by 8' tall - 3.7M wide x 4.5M long  x 2.4M tall (approximate dimensions).

Green Roof Plant Seedlings
Surprisingly, this week as the temperatures outside dropped to around 20F  -6.7C  ice formed on the inner portion of the pastic however the jugs of water we had sitting in the greenhouse did not freeze.

All the seedlings were cold but fine - not frozen.

The greenhouse's performance pointed to two important facts - 1. you can build a great little greenhouse out of scrap and, 2. by adding jugs of water to the inside of the greenhouse you can keep the hothouse warm enough to protect plants.

Water Jugs Store Heat - Keeps Greenhouse Warm
Water has a high specific heat value and stores heat absorbed during the day from sunshine, releasing the heat back into the greenhouse at night when the temperatures are cooler.

To build the hothouse, first find 6 lengths of scrap pipe.  We used metal fence posts we had found in a scrap pile where someone was remodeling a house.  Take a big hammer - we used a sledge hammer and drive the pipe into the ground spacing them about eight or nine feet apart (2.5M).  Make 2 parallel rows of these installed pipes - see the sketch.

DIY Hothouse by Kevin
To the pipes we added flexible 1/2" electrical conduit we had left over from a construction job.  This conduit is very inexpensive to buy at the hardware store - about US$1.50 each - you need 7 total.

Attach one side with a ZipTie (WireTie) of the conduit to a pipe in the ground and then easily bend the other side over to the opposing pipe.  Proceed to attach, bend and attach all the conduit to the pipes to make the hoops.

We then covered the hoops with a piece of left over greenhouse plastic and attached the plastic to the hoops and pipes with Big Office Paper Clips - they work great.

Presto - the greenhouse was built!  Green Roof Seedlings are now growing!

Good luck with yours and as always - Happy Green Roofing....Kevin

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Green Roof Ethnobotany - Chinese Tallow, Sapium sebiferum (Triadica sebifera)

Chinese Tallow tree, also known as Popcorn Tree (due to seeds that resemble popped Jiffy Popcorn), Sapium sebiferum (Triadica sebifera), is one of the most persistent invasive species affecting green roofs in Florida and across the southeastern US.

Chinese Tallow Green Roof Exotic Plant
Benjamin Franklin introduced Chinese Tallow to the US East Coast.

With beautiful fall color, Chinese Tallow was originally brought from Asia.  The tree has rapidly spread across the Gulf Coast region.  According to Wikipedia, 25% of all trees in Houston are Chinese Tallow.

Chinese Tallow is the third most important vegetable oil crop, ranking only behind algae and palm oil.

Bees love the plant and the tree produces larges amounts of nectar.  Beekeepers seek out groves of Chinese Tallow for their colonies.

Chinese Tallow is listed as a Class 1 Invasive plant in Florida by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FLEPPC).

Birds love the seeds of this plant and we find Chinese Tallow plants sprouting across green roofs each spring.

Understanding the types of local plants is key to maintaining a successful green roof long term.

As always, email your comments or questions!

Happy Green Roofing!


Green Roof Design - New Years Resolution - Back to Green Roof Basics!

The copper and net dew catchers are coming down from green roofs today and we making a Green Roof New Years Resolution and concerted effort to 'Get Back To Basics" on Green Roofs.

Technology can be alluring and distracting.

Sometimes alluring technology can unintentionally shift core focuses.

 Development of metal and plastic dew and fog catching apparatus based on biomimicry is just 'that' - biomimicry.  The biomimicry approach of copying nature's solutions can be successfully substituted with nature's back-to-basics on Green Roofs  - simply use plants with dew and fog catching characteristics rather than mechanical  contraptions.

In fact advantages of alluring technology can be so great we sometimes tend to gloss over the downside, or disadvantages or serious problems.


(Advantage)  Copper dew catchers shine brightly in the afternoon sunlight and the plastic netting does a great job of harvesting air moisture.  Aesthetically pleasing.

(Disadvantage)  The metal and plastic dew catchers and fog harvesters may become launched projectiles, hurled dangerously through the air in hurricane force winds.  Something not normally considered on a day to day basis.

(Solution) Use plants nature has perfected to capture dew and fog - there are many.  Growing plants is what green roofs are all about anyway.

Solutions like the above are often over-shadowed by the alluring glow of technology.

Another technology with an alluring name is "Pollution Control Media".  Pollution Control Media is now required to be embedded in Florida green roofs under the drafted State of Florida Stormwater Quality Applicant's Handbook to receive stormwater credit.

The handbook begins with a short-sighted approach to green roofs by allowing for only stormwater volume credit for green roofs.   No allowance for water quality improvements is given.   Unfortunately, this may be due to the misconception that nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides are necessary for successful green roofs.

Even the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) has questioned the approach and intent of the handbook's unusual requirements for green roofs and cisterns design.

Apparently, the Pollution Control Media is supposed to capture the nitrogen and phosphorous from the fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides applied to and sprayed on the green roof - from entering stormwater runoff.  In fact, according to the handbook, all green roof runoff should be captured by the cistern and then recycled back to the roof for irrigation on dryer days.  The green roof plants would then evaporate off the water through normal transpiration, leaving the nitrogen, phosphorous, herbicides and pesticides to accumulate in the closed loop system over time.  We wonder at what point the accumulating slurry of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides would become a hazardous green roof waste.

A topic for another article - green roofs can and do actually clean stormwater.  Green Roofs do not have to be considered just another stormwater volume retention system. In fact, by allowing stormwater credit only for rooftop systems that have the structural capability of supporting deeper amounts of stormwater, incentive disappears for other types of green roofs.

But what is Pollution Control Media?

Pollution Control Media is primarily a blend of sand, crushed limestone, sawdust and mostly crushed or ground up rubber automotive and construction vehicle tires.

Pollution Control Media has shown promising results in removing nitrogen and phosphorous from spetic tank systems and other waste cleaning applications (Pollution Control Media was originally proposed to be installed under certain types of newly constructed stormwater ponds in an early handbook draft but was removed).

Therein lies the alluring technology scenario referred to earlier.  If fertilizers and herbicides and pesticides are to be used on green roofs (there are other more eco-friendly approaches) then why not add Pollution Control Media to keep the fertilizers and organo-herbicides and pesticides on the roof and out of the stormwater.

Studies even referenced a few bio-assay toxicity tests conducted around 2003 showing acceptable mortality levels.

A short-term acute bio-assay is one measure of safety but long term chronic exposure is an all together different issue, one acknowledged not to be answered about tire crumb in the supporting studies.

In fact EPA has changed their stance from recommendation of recycled tire products to one of - further study is now required - and listed the following substances as existing on ground recycled tires:

  • acetone
  • aniline
  • arsenic
  • barium
  • benzene
  • benzothiazole
  • cadmium
  • chloroethane
  • chromium
  • cobalt
  • copper
  • halogenated flame retardants
  • isoprene
  • latex
  • lead
  • manganese
  • mercury
  • methyl ethyl ketone
  • methyl isobutyl ketone
  • naphthalene
  • nickel
  • nylon
  • phenol
  • pigments
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • polyester
  • rayon
  • styrene‑butadiene
  • toluene
  • trichloroethylene
Click here for more details.

For an interesting EPA memo about the questions on recycled tire products click here.

So by the State of Florida requiring an alluring technology to be a part of Florida green roofs for stormwater credit, we may be missing the more important issue of the potential wide-spread and long-term leaching of the above substances while nitrogen and phosphorous are kept in check.

While there has already been numerous installations in Florida of the Pollution Control Media, a pause in its use - until EPA completes their studies - may be a good idea.

Certainly the requirement for Pollution Control Media should be removed from the State of Florida Stormwater Quality Applicant's Handbook's requirement for green roofs to receive stormwater credit.

Efforts to recycle used tires are noble.  Applying ground up tires to green roofs is not an appropriate recommendation the State of Florida should be making until all questions about the long-term toxicity of zinc pollution, aromatic hydrocarbon pollution and the above substances are answered.

In fact - some studies are showing that though ground up tires may be safe for children playground exposure, recycled tire products do exhibit levels of bio-assay toxicity to wildlife in stormwater run-off.

So let's all get back to basics on green roof design.  Let's keep a wary eye on all the shiny dew catchers that may become projectiles during a hurricane and let's certainly not require use of Pollution Control Media that may contain substances no one wants on a green roof or in stormwater.

As always, email your comments and questions.

Happy Green Roofing!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Green Roof Fertilizer, Irrigation with Potable Water, Invasive Species and Mark Madoff

Mark Madoff's death is a tragedy no doubt, but no more so than any of the other countless lives lost to the end result of another  Ponzi Scheme - the use of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) - and the associated denial of silent environmental and health impacts.

Having read the article posted by @psustentavel on Twitter - click here for the article about Persistent Organic Pollutants - the imagery of 'inorganic chemical 'fertilizers across countless green roofs,  the use of drinking water for irrigation - even backup irrigation - and the reckless abandon with which we use non-native species for landscapes, including those on rooftops, made me think - in our rush to install green roofs atop buildings, are we too creating a Ponzi Scheme someone else will have to pay for?

The value of green roofs is unquestionable.  There is solid scientific data to back up claimed benefits of habitat creation, carbon sequestration, oxygen production. greenhouse gas reduction, heat island effect tempering, cleaning of stormwater, integrated pest management and so much more.

Florida Extensive Green Roof Nature Irrigated

There is no doubt about the value properly designed and maintained green roofs can bring to the Urban Core.

Green roofs can be used to support Urban Permaculture - small scale, individualized rooftop farming operations providing food, fiber and medicine to city residents.

And many urban areas around the world are moving ahead with plans to increase urban agriculture.  Singapore, for example, produces 25% of the entire city's vegetable crop within the city limits. For a fascinating look at the importance of urban permaculture  read's white paper entitled Urban Agriculture and Community Food Security in the United States; Farming From the City Center to the Urban Fringe.

Rooftops are the new frontier of real estate in many urban areas.  Cities with limited available ground level real estate have acres of open rooftops.

Vegetated and green roofs are increasing in popularity, showing an impressive growth rate trend over the past decade.  According to, public awareness of and interest in green roofs is steadily growing.

Yet we must learn from the Madoff venture's collapse, the immense loss incurred by investors and also those innocent persons affected worldwide by careless and widespread use of persistent organic pollutants commonly associated with some inorganic fertilizers.

In our noble rush to restore volumetric green to the urban core we hopefully will recognize the potential environmental costs associated with mass production of green roofs.  The 'One Size Fits All' approach to green rooftops will not work for the worlds vastly different ecosystems.  Sadly and reminiscent of mega-agriculture's damaging past practices, we as an industry turn to potent chemicals to fertilize, control pests and then use much needed drinking water to either irrigate or serve as backup irrigation.

Independent and craftsman-like green roof design and construction could disappear.

As with the POPs causing health issues in Pakistan and other places, our indiscriminate use of hardy invasive species, potentially toxic chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on green roofs is a Ponzi Scheme our children too will pay for.

Importantly, we as an industry have already moved far in the direction of ecologically inappropriate and environmentally dangerous green roof design.  Florida's FDEP green roof in Pensacola, Florida possesses a large drip irrigation system, backed up with potable drinking water and planted with slow-release fertilizer compounds and soil amendments.

As in Ponzi Schemes, denial of reality is the basis of success.  Though the 'green' benefits of the FDEP green roof are often touted in the media - the fact that chemical fertilizers are applied and potentially damaging to Escambia Bay's ecosystem are hidden.

Yet FDEP is fully aware of the environmental problems resulting from POPs, fertilization and pesticide use on green roofs.  In the proposed, new State of Florida Stormwater Applicant's Handbook,   FDEP allows green roof credit for volume retention of stormwater only (no water quality credit),  and recognizes fertilizers and pesticides will be used on green roofs (why no water quality credit is given), an approach we must reject.  Moreover, FDEP is requiring the purchase and use of a 'pollution control media' made from ground up automobile tires under the green roof soil media to keep the fertilizer's nutrients on the roof. 

Over time and as water evaporates, added pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers will concentrate back into the surface waters and become an issue for our children.

In the rush to add volumetric green to the Urban Core, the Ponzi Scheme could easily go unnoticed.

Temper the hurry to install a green roof with the knowledge of a local native species botanist and a soils expert.  Rather than ordering large amounts of hothouse pampered plant material, find a local nursery with individual plants acclimated to the climate.

Green roofs can be crafted to add artistic, educational, ecological and ethnobotanical value.

But we must first reject the Ponzi Scheme that green roofs must be fertilized, irrigated with drinking water and doused in pesticides.

As always, email your questions here!

Happy Green Roofing...


Monday, December 13, 2010

Green Roof Plants - Thermogenesis and Plants With Heating and Cooling Properties

All plants possess biological systems that directly impact our ecology and the immediate environment surrounding our day to day activities.

After purchasing a truck load of plants on Saturday we unloaded most, however forgot to remove all of the plants from the cab.

Though the night air was cold (4C) when I opened the truck door and climbed in to drive to the market yesterday evening, after dark, I was enveloped with warm, moist air and confused as to why - with the cold dry air outside - the truck windows were fogged over with moisture.  Then I realized the plants were still in the truck, taking in CO2 and pumping moist O2 back into the air.

After spending much of Saturday evening outside taking temperatures with the ExTech IR thermometer, the oxygen and moisture filled truck cab emphasized what I already knew - plant's biological process are complex and have definite effects on their surroundings.

Sometimes we forget just how much plants impact our environment.

However in addition to the wonderful visual greenery (again we sometimes take for granted), plants sequester CO2, produce O2, provide habitat for wildlife in the Urban Core, provide food, fiber and medicine, clean stormwater and provide a myriad of other functions.

All of these factors and processes impact green roofs.  Understanding how these factors interact with the building is important.

This weekend I wanted to gather additional data on heat and green roofs.  My questions were many and included;

* Do green roofs really act as insulation?
* Do green roofs act as a heat sink - storing heat - instead of being an insulator?
* Does green roof plant selection impact the energy efficiency of green roofs?
* Does green roof soil composition impact energy efficiencies of green roofs - and if so, how?
* and a host of other questions.

After spending several hours with the IR, examining plants and green roof systems after dark - and in 4C ambient air, I can say much data needs to be collected, many studies completed and analysis done before we really understand the dynamics of green roofs.

Just as with the fertilizer and irrigation issues (I am always amazed at how some promote green roofs as ecologically friendly and important yet insist for the inclusion of potable water irrigation systems and fertilizer applications), the insulation or heat sink issues just don't seem to be adequately answered.

After collecting temperature data from under green roofs we see a green roof behavioral trend pointing to a heat sink rather than an insulator type system.  In other words, green roofs may tend to absorb heat during the day and then slowly release it back into the atmosphere and building during cooler evening hours.

Yet the complexities of plant species, plant growth characteristics, root systems, stomata to leaf surface area ratios, soil media specific heat qualities and other issues all contribute towards a complex model.

Getting back to the IR thermometer field  foray, some of the more interesting observations we noted were;

* Night time green roof plant leaf temperatures were approximately the same as ambient air temperatures,
* There were variable levels of warmer temperature readings found in the air space under the green roof plant leaves and above the green roof soil media, depending on the time of night and wind exposure - suggesting a level of insulation occurring as a result of leave structure
* The underside of an extensive green roof (3" soil media) stayed 10F warmer than a similar roof with no green roof system - and stayed warmer all night -- up until 5am the next morning,
* Banana plants stayed considerably warmer than ambient air for up to three hours after dark - unlike other plants,
* and other observations.

The banana plant elevated temperatures pointed us in the direction of thermogenesis in plants.  Thermogenic plants are those plants that can generate heat as a result of biological processes. The voodoo lily, Sauromatum guttatum, can generate temperatures of up to 110F - 32C!

There is a great video on thermogenic plants here.

However, the banana plant is not a thermogenic plant and the reason the banana plant stayed warmer than ambient air for several hours after sunset was the plant's high water content.  Water has one of the highest specific heat values of any compound or substance - four times than of limestone for instance.  Because the banana tree was full of water, the solar heat gain experienced during the day only slowly dissipated after nightfall.  Banana trees stayed warmer than most plants after dark because of the heat stored in the large volume if interstitial water within the plant.

It is possible the succulent filled extensive green roofs we are studying that emanate heat throughout the night are behaving like the banana plants.  The combination of green roof soil media and the water therein is absorbing heat during the day - maybe quite a bit of heat - then slowly releasing the heat at night.

The factors involved in modeling this complex heating and cooling dynamic are many and not well documented today.

We think the heating behavior of the extensive green roof is due to water in the extensive green roof plant root systems.  Because the system studied was non-irrigated (nature only irrigation), the soil media was rather dry.  However for heat to continue to be released for long hours, the heat source probably was water - and probably water stored in the underground parts of plants.

We ask ourselves many questions - if water is a significant heat sink and heat source, then do green roofs really act as insulating systems?

If green roofs are heat sinks then how much heat do they dissipate back into a building at night?

Are irrigated green roof systems actually hotter than non-irrigated vegetated roofs or reflective white roofs?  If so by how much?  How much cooling does plant transpiration and evapo-transpiration on irrigated green roofs?

There are many questions to be answered.

As an industry we need to sponsor and encourage more study of green roof thermodynamics.

I'm sure that over time a design model will be developed and accepted by the industry.  in the meantime - data sharing is crucial and important.

As always, feel free to leave comments or send us an email here.

Happy Green Roofing!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Importance of Green Roofs for Endangered Species and Wildlife

Both wildlife and plant species struggle to compete with humankind for survival.  As a top level predator, humans possess a distinct advantage over most plants and species of the animal kingdom.  Scientists say 98% of all documented species ever to have lived on our planet are now extinct.

Fueled with the explosive energies of petroleum, humans have developed machines that can level vast expanses of forests with quick efficiencies.

Once the land is cleared of trees, natural hydrology, plants and wildlife, then the soil is chopped and leveled to make way for imprevious roads of asphalt and concrete.

Buildings rise where trees once stood.  Greenhouse gasses capture solar heat and along with the concrete and asphalt structures, cities and surrounding landscapes become increasingly hot and hostile to plants and wildlife.

Trees and plants, the most important primary producers of life sustaining oxygen, fade to the outskirts.

The lone endangered reptile, bird or butterfly, making their way across the vast expanse of now unrecognizable terrain, faces a number of exotic, invasive species and lack of habitat protection to escape to.

No place to mate, no place to feed, no place to hide.

Except for those Urban Core Green areas such as parks, conservation areas and especially green roofs.

Green roofs offer volumetric green - green with an altitude.  Volumetric green is an important component for survival with many species.

For example, the Florida anole requires greenery above 2 meters to escape the larger, more aggressive Cuban anole.

Green roofs, be they on a shed, garage, house, commercial building, apartment complex or bus stop - can make the difference between death and survival for wildlife.

Green Roofs & Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae
Importantly, wildlife will seek out and utilize green roofs, very quickly.  We have seen the progression, time after time, of - after installation of a vegetated roof - the arrival of the first wave of smaller creatures - lizards, anoles, frogs and tree frogs, insects and crickets, june bugs and dragonflies, butterflies and moths - each vying for their own space within the vegetation of the green roof.

Night pollinators, especially are drawn to the vertical greenery.

With the arrival of the first group of wildlife species comes an unexpected benefit - an Integrated Pest Management System.

Anoles and tree frogs devour large amounts of  mosquitoes, flies, roaches and termites, adding fertilizer to the green roof plants and keeping plant pests such as aphids under control.

We have witnessed areas that have always been subject to house fly infestations become virtually fly-free with the installation of a nearby green roof.

As the first generation of smaller wildlife species becomes established on the green roof the next populations of larger birds and reptiles begin to appear.

Witnessing black racer snakes and other beneficial snakes and reptiles inhabit the green roof is like watching a Discovery Channel Video.  The snakes forage across the green roof plants for lizards and frogs, maintaining population control.

Following the snakes are the raptors - birds of prey tracking snakes and smaller birds (Mourning Doves), squirrels and other green roof species.

Owls, red-tailed hawks, peregrine falcons, swallow-tail kites, osprey and a pair of eagles regularly visit nearby green roofs, choosing perches in nearby trees - and taking the opportunity to feed on the occasional ground mouse running through the neighborhood.

To borrow a phrase from a popular movie, - You build it and they will come...

Green roofs are important sanctuaries in the concrete jungle for wildlife, especially those species endangered because of habitat loss.

Build a green roof and they will come.  Save a species from extinction.

Happy Green Roofing and Happy Friday Afternoon!


Garinesville Regional Utilities (GRU) Proactive Approach to Invasive Species

We posted an article a week ago about the inclusion of a Class 1 FLEPPC (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council) on the proposed planting schedule for the Gainesville Regional utilities (GRU) Green Roof.  The design called for use of Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina domestica.  Nandina domestica is listed by FLEPPC as an invasive plant.

Responding proactively, GRU has posted a comment informing the removal of Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina domestica from the GRU green roof plant species list - and is reviewing additional landscape requirements to ensure avoidance of use of any FLEPPC invasive plants.

We applaud GRU's approach and concern about the Central Florida ecological systems and the relationship exotic invasive species may have.

Providing educational information and data is essential in assisting efforts of ecological organizations such as FLEPPC.

Thanks are in order to the University of Florida's (IFAS) Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and their efforts to promote understanding of the issues associated with landscape plants with aggressive growth patterns and few or no natural predators.

As always, feel free to submit questions and comments here.

Happy Green Roofing!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lightweight Nature-Irrigated Extensive Green Roof Florida

Photos here are of an extensive green roof in Jacksonville, Florida.

33kg per M2 - 8 lbs per SF lightweight green roof
One of the important requirements for the roof was the weight restrictions.  Because the existing roof was flat and the center distance the existing rafters were placed on, the architect specified a green roof system weighing less than 8 lbs/SF - 39.2 kg/M2 live load saturated with water.

Insulation and TPO were added per the design and the green roof system installed.

Non-irrigated - nature based irrigation for green roofs
The green roof system is a woven polyethylene (UV resilient) mat with a soil media especially designed to move water off the roof.

Metroverde Extensive Green Roof Florida
Existing roof contours create a slight swale or low spot where stormwater runoff would accumulate during large rain events.  Certain green roof plants where chosen for the areas where rainwater might be expected to accumulate.  These plants were chosen based on their ability to survive on natural rainfall, dew and fog.  Additional considerations factoring into plant choice were: the ability to grow under both extended wet and extended dry conditions; wildlife value, evergreen color, simplicity in form and root systems that would adapt to growing horizontally rather than vertically.

The Yucca filamentosa is an excellent shallow soil plant because of the roots habit of growing horizontally.  Many times this plant can be seen growing in natural areas with very shallow or rocky soils.  Click here for a Floridata plant sheet describing Yucca filamentosa, also know as Adam's Needle.

Yucca filamentosa will grow upright when provided with adequate soil depth.  The plant is ideally suited for green roofs because it also possesses the ability to acclimate its habit and height to a more "bonsai" form when limited by shallow or rockier soils.

Another excellent green roof trait the Yucca filamentosa possesses is the low stomata to leaf surface ratio - the S/LSR ratio equation we typically use in green roof plant suitability determinations.

Average soil media depth of the green roof is approximately 1".

The roof is subject to moderate shade, especially on the southern end.  Sunlight exposure is greatest between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 PM.

After seventeen months in the field the roof is looking good and the plants are well established.

As always, feel free to email us with your questions and comments here.

Happy Green Roofing!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Green Roofs and Exotic Invasive Species - Koelreuteria elegans

Koelreuteria elegans is a species we see sprout across Florida green roofs on a regular basis.

The plant was first brought to the USA from Taiwan as a landscape plant.

Koelreuteria elegans is also know as the Golden Rain Tree and offers bright, stunning colors in the fall and winter months.

Each tree produces numerous seeds during the year.  Seeds are then quickly spread by both birds and water - stormwater runoff.

Once the seeds find organic material, dirt or sand they quickly sprout and send out agressive roots.

The plant is now classified as a Class Two Exotic Invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council.

According to the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, the species is difficult to eradicate and has no know biological control mechanism.

The important factor for green roof designers and owners is realizing this species spreads quickly and should not be used as a green roof plant.  Green roof maintenance procedures should identify juvenile sprout appearances so that they may quickly be removed from the green roofs.

Water and Wind Spread Invasive Plant Seeds
It is probably safe to say that it is not 'If" a Florida Green Roof will sprout a volunteer Golden Rain Tree but "When".

The photo here is of a mature Koelreuteria elegans growing on the bank of a creek in Jacksonville, Florida.  Each year thousands of seeds are dropped and picked up by the flowing water and carried about a half mile to Pottsburg Creek and then the St. Johns River.  Over time this one tree has probably contributed tens of thousands of new Golden Rain Trees along the banks of the St. Johns River - each themselves contributing tens of thousands more.

Green Roofs are situated high in the air, and poised much like the tree in the photo here to spread plant genetic matter across a wide geographic range.

Is is therefore important for the green roof designer and the green roof maintenance staff to understand the ecological implications of the "Right Plant Right Place' concept.

As always, email us with your questions or comments here.

Happy Green Roofing!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rooftop Ethnobotany - Serenoa repens - Tropical, Native, Medicinal Green Roof Plant!

Serenoa repens - Cemetery Green Roof Ethnobotany
Green Roofs in a cemetery!  Tomb it may concern - check out the Serenoa repens atop the mausoleums in NOLA.

Serenoa repens, also know as saw palmetto is a tough plant - resilient to drought, flooding, hurricanes and possesses an extremely tough root system.

Wikipedia has an informative webpage about Serenoa - click here and the Wikipedia page will open in a new window. 

Serenoa repens - Cemetery Green Roof Ethnobotany  
Serenoa is one of the most prolific native plant species found across the southeastern US. 

A wonderful medicinal plant, the Serenoa berries have been used for centuries to help reduce prostate inflammation and urinary tract infections due to the content of fatty acids and phytosterols found in the fruit.

Consider using Serenoa repens on your next nature-irrigated vegetated roof...

Happy Green Roofing!

Serenoa repens - Cemetery Green Roof Ethnobotany

Green Roofs - Slow Absorption & Release Heat Sinks

We've compiled data over the last year on how an Extensive Vegetated Roof absorbed and released solar energy (heat) over a twenty four hour cycle.

The roof under study is not insulated.  It has a tongue and groove pine deck with asphalt roll paper and asphalt shingles.  The interior was non-temperature (no heat or HVAC) controlled during the study periods.

The temperature measuring points were the exposed roof tongue and groove decking surfaces and consisted of multiple point averages.  Readings were taken with an EXTECH IR AN200 Unit.

The following illustrations depict a trend we've seen over and over.

The extensive vegetated roof systems absorb solar heat slower than asphalt roofing.  The extensive vegetated roof systems also retain the heat longer and then release the absorbed solar heat slower than asphalt roofing.

The linear trendlines for the temperature curves tell an important story also.  The ambient air temperature and the decking under the non-insulated asphalt shingle roof temperature possess more significant vertical trendline movements.

The temperature swings of the decking under the green roof are much more linear - showing a narrower range in temperature swings.

The data shown here is representative of spring, summer, autumn and winter with summer and winter having the more pronounced curves.

Importantly, we believe extensive green roofs, such as the one we are studying in this case, moderate temperature swings.

The data also points to the fact that green roofs serve as a heat sink, slowly absorbing solar heat during the daylight hours then slowly releasing the heat during the evening dark periods.

During the winter, green roofs may help by moderating cold temperatures at night by releasing heat back into the structure.  However if insulation separated the green roof from the structure then little or no heat would be recaptured unless a heat capture coil or other mechanism existed.

The inverse holds true for the summer.  During the day the green roof would moderate the solar heat gain to the structure by intercepting the solar radiation and absorbing it.  However at night, the green roof would radiate heat back into the structure, slowing the cooling process.

Again, if the roofs are insulated from the green roofs then there is no real benefit from a linear trendline perspective of sink and release.

We believe maybe this data points to the need for a method of harvesting the solar heat captured in the green roof during the day.  Potential capture processes could include water or silicon filled coils or tubes interwoven into the vegetated roof or other similar mechanical systems.

Harvesting the absorbed heat would allow for a more managed use of the solar heat resource.

We do believe that the notion of green roofs working to cool buildings should be more appropriately described as a moderating effect of absorption and slow release of solar heat.

Check out the range bars on the temperature curve chart to the left.

The green roof decking temperature has a much narrower temperature range.

Data points to the fact that green roofs absorb heat and quite a bit of it.

We always welcome your comments - feel free to email us anytime here.

Green roofs offer the potential to collect and harvest solar energy.  They may not be the cooling system we sometimes represent them to be.

Happy Green Roofing!


Monday, December 6, 2010

Rooftop Permaculture - Bulbine - Medicinal Plant Also!

Green roof plants can provide many benefits.

Earlier today we posted a photo of a group of Bulbines making up a small green roof.

The green roof was constructed as an erosion control feature.  Prior to the green roof installation, roof stormwater runoff would collect on higher adjacent roofs and then flow down the shingles at high speeds and hit a section of the front porch roof.

The cumulative effect of stormwater hitting the porch roof resulted in chronic erosion of the asphalt shingles and roofing - allowing for eventual leaks.

Once the 1 meter by 1 meter vegetated roofing mat, comprised of a woven synthetic mat, a low VOC adhesive, a waterproofing membrane, engineered soils and the plants, was installed, the Bulbines grew quickly to form an extensive root mat.

The engineered soil layer was less than 1" average depth.

Amazingly, all of the Bulbine root system have interwoven radially into other Bulbines, forming a thick, almost impervious root mat.

The stormwater flows into the Bulbine planting where the water speed and velocity is reduced and calmed.

Finally, in addition to the erosion control benfits of the Bulbine-based green roof - there are many ethnobotanical and medicinal traditions related to bulbines.  Click here for an amazing website detailing Bulbines many medicinal uses.

Happy Green Roofing!


Green Roofs - Erosion Control - Nature Irrigated

The vegetated roof system here was installed in a roof corner receiving significant amounts of runoff from other sections of the existing roof.

The volume and velocity of the roof runoff was significant, high enough in-fact to consistently erode and wear out the asphalt roll roofing originally installed.

Rob O's Erosion Control Green Roof
The vegetated roof mat is small - only 1 meter by 1 meter, however it is positioned in the location where the most erosion occurs.

Several plant species were chosen for the April 2009 trial installation.

These plants were selected on their ability to withstand large sheet water flows, flowering characteristics and their ability to survive with nature-based irrigation (precipitation, fog and dew).

After 21 months of field testing the Bulbine frutescens flourished more so than any other species.

We are somewhat amazed that the Bulbine frutescens survived better than the allium species for several reasons, including;

1. Bulbine frutescens is more tender to frost and freezing than alliums and during the trial period, Jacksonville endured several straight weeks of sub-freezing temperatures. We assume the particular spot of the roof is a micro-climate, protected somewhat from freezes.

2. The Bulbine frutescens is exposed to significant sunlight intensity during the afternoon hours, with little or no shade, and

3. The application soil depth was shallow, less than 1" - 26 mm and Bulbine frutescens prefers deeper soils.

Interestingly, the Bulbine frutescens survived without additional irrigation. The plants thrived on nature-based irrigation, including extended periods of drought.

Moreover, Bulbine frutescens acted as an excellent water-break and erosion control BMP - effectively stopping unchecked sheet flow during rain events from cascading off the upper roof.

As always - email us with your questions here.

Happy Green Roofing!


Friday, December 3, 2010

Green Roof Plants - Acclimation Video - Allium Species

We've spoke about how we acclimate green roof plants, preparing the juveniles for the harsh exposure to weather and climate on Green Roofs.

By raising the plugs in a "Nature Only Irrigation" process - this refers to irrigation from dew, fog and rainfall only - they are trained for what they will experience on the Green Roof.

Those plants with the strongest traits will survive and proliferate across green roofs.

The video here shows how two year old juvenile Allium plugs are removed from the plug tray, divided and readied for green roof planting.

There are approximately 10,000 individual plants stacked on the table - enough to do a large commercial building when planted one per square foot.  Growing rapidly they will cover the roof with brilliant white flower spikes in the late summer.

As always, email your questions or comments here.

And happy green roofing!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Green Roof Plant Extraordinaire! Butterflyweed, Orange Milkweed - Aclepias Tuberosa

Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly weed - Florida Green Roof Plant
Green roofs benefit greatly from the color, food resource, pollen supply and longevity of Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa.

On a personal level, Butterflyweed is special, being one of the very first plants catching my eye to work with and my daughter Dana's eye with her colored pencils.

Adapted to tolerate long periods of drought and frequently seen growing along desolate roadside stretches, Asclepias tuberosa provides essential food for many butterfly larvae, especially the amazing Monarch butterfly.

The plant tends to become dormant in cold seasons, disappearing until spring reemerges.

Butterflyweed likes full sun and does best in southern exposures.

Consider adding Asclepias tuberosa to your Green Roof planting schedule.

As always, email us with your questions and comments here.

Happy Green Roofing!


Vegetated Roof Installation for 4:12 Standing Seam Metal Roof

Vegetated Roof systems can easily be adapted to metal standing seam roofs.

Because the vegetated mats are monolithic - an integral unit - and not comprised of individualized smaller modules, the system offers considerable "uni-body type" strength.

Vegetated mat systems are attached to the standing seam metal roof with roofing screws and washers.

MetroVerde Vegetated Mat Design for Standing Metal Seam Roof
Included here is a typical design sheet for a standing seam metal roof with a vegetated mat overlay component - designed for Florida's 5 H's - Hurricanes, High Humidity, heat, Hard Freezes and High Winds!

A membrane/liner is used to separate the vegetated roof system from the standing seam roof panels.

Low VOC adhesives are used when necessary and the standing seam roof ridge-cap and end trim cover any loose mat ends.

Finally, as the plants grow - the plant root systems criss-cross through the mat, interweaving themselves into the mat and with other roots, creating a strong panel of plants and locked into place soil.

As always, Florida Friendly plants or native species are recommended for planting - and in particular - Carbon Pirate plants by MetroVerde are also recommended.

Email us with your questions or comments and Happy Green Roofing!

P.S.  Stay warm today!  Brrr.. it is 30 degrees F here in Jacksonville, Florida (USA) this morning - a chilling negative 1 degrees Celsius.

On a side note - we have come up with a nice, computerized and remote type temperature and humidity data sensing and logging system at a very cost-effective price.  These weather and climate data logging systems will become part of new installations on an ongoing basis.

We hope over time to be able to provide data demonstrating exactly what effects the lightweight MetroVerde vegetated roofs have on building systems.  So if the air temperature is a  chilling 30 degrees F (-1 C) we will be able to tell how much warmer (or colder) the underlying roof system is.

Same holds true for the summer.  If the surface temperature of the roof is 120 F (49 C) then how much warmer or cooler is the underlying roof system.  We expect these values to also change with climatic and weather changes.

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Florida Green Roofs...Cold Weather Impacts on Florida Extensive Green Roof Plants

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Here in Jacksonville we are supposed to experience our first frost-freeze of the year tonight - so I am posting a previous post about green roof plants in Florida and frosts. Enjoy and Happy Green Roofing!

The past week, January 5th through January 12th, 2010 has been one of the coldest weeks on record here in Jacksonville, Florida.  Hard freeze warnings have been issued every day.  Temperatures have dipped into the mid to upper teens many nights - - I even had an outside water line burst - my main supply line.

So how did the green roofs fare?  As expected, some of the plants weathered the cold just fine while others sustained slight to severe damage.

In addition to the freeze damage to the leaves and tender stem parts, there appears to be frost damage - due to epiphytic bacteria growth of Pseudomonas bacteria, a gram negative bacteria that also acts as an ice nucelator. From the available literature it seems that the presence of ice-positive Pseudomonas can actually cause ice/frost to form on the plant surface. Frost damages the epithelial layer, in many instances killing the plant.  See the Monday, December 22, 2008 blog about Pseudomonas and green roofs by clicking here.

The plants sustaining the most damage were the Sedums and Aptenias.  Aptenia cordifolia, a South African native is one of the most reliable spring, summer and fall plants for Green Roofs in Florida.  Between the freeze and the Pseudomonas the plants have repeatedly died over the past years on our trials.  A wonderful, thick and glossy low grower, Aptenia shrivels and turns brown in the severe cold, the stems separating from the roots.  I have not seen Aptenia reappear during the spring fresh growth spurts as I have with other species - especially the cacti.

So our data gathering continues and our knowledge of what works and what does not work in Florida's unique environment, grows with time and experience.

One of the surprising victims of the cold were many of the Sedums.  Sedum pachyphytumappears to have sustained significant freeze damage to the leaf structure.  I'll report back on what happens over the next couple weeks.

Happy Green Roofing!

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Sustainability - A Recycled Roof - Up on the Roof 1962 The Drifters

OK - A little humor this morning.  A must read on Ron's Green and Sustainable Roofing Website - check out the post about the roof roofed with old vinyl records by clicking here.

And for a truly great song - along with inspiration to get Up on the Roof - Listen to the Drifter's song below...