Friday, April 1, 2011

Cradle to Cradle Biodiversity, Green Roofs, Rooftop Permaculture

Cradle to Cradle is a popular term in Green Building circles, encompassing the concept of recycling, reuse and elimination of unnecessary waste.  Many times though, the 'Cradle to Cradle' concept is forgotten about and simply over-looked with respect to site landscaping.  Although certainly an integral part of any site development or redevelopment project, landscaping is typically not considered a part of a building and as such is often ignored when building sustainability is discussed.
Biodiversity efforts include saving existing plant material
The other day I received an email from Catherine Burkee, Breaking Ground Contracting's Education Director discussing the green roof component of the project.  Catherine used the term 'plant rescue' in a conversation about site biodiversity preservation and the living walls and green roof.  A portion of the BGC green roof project would serve to house a representative sample of the existing flora on the site, affording the site's original plant genetic material an opportunity to continue growing, existing into the future rather than being destroyed during new landscape preparations.

The continuance and preservation of original site biodiversity may be more critical than most first think.  The most humble appearing plant may provide a critical function to the health of our world.  The Breaking Ground green roof project looks to greatly improve site biodiversity, encouraging all plants - food, native wildflowers and Florida friendly landscaping plants, an opportunity to thrive.  Importantly the team has recognized the ecological value of existing plants.  Through plant harvesting and replanting on the green roof, the area wildlife (insects and other pollinators) will not be loosing specific plant types they have come to expect and be dependent on across the lot.

Recall the small Taraxacum plant and the honey bee post of last week.  The specific plant mentioned in the post was harvested and replanted for use in the green roof.  Ideally, site plant material should be harvested for preservation during the dormant season or during a rainy period to reduce plant stress.

Jacksonville has received the first significant rainfall of 2011 this past week and the soil was wet from the precipitation.  Site plant's vascular systems were saturated with water and photosynthesis processes going strong when we went to the site to collect the specimens to be relocated.

Collections were made of all the herbaceous plants we identified during our site bio-assessment plus an additional  eight species.  Specimens were dug using a shovel, tagged and placed into a bag for transport tot he nursery.  Once in then nursery they were potted up into shallow containers to acclimate them to green roof living.

Certainly the plants collected are considered by many to be simply 'weeds', not readily available for purchase at the local nursery or even native plant nurseries.  Many are those plants who are routinely saturated with herbicides and other poisons because they do not fit the definition of a culturally accepted landscape plant.

Yet if we are to take cradle to cradle concepts seriously we must look at our site's existing plants with new perspective.

Benefits of site plant material preservation and adaptation into a small section of the green roof are many.  The overall number of site species will be increased.  Native seed source will be preserved.  Nectar and pollen sources will remain and supplement those additional and new nectar sources brought to the site with the new green roof, living wall and landscape plants.

Biodiversity increases exponentially with increased plant diversity.

In keeping with the 'Cradle to Cradle' sustainability model, the Breaking Ground Project incorporates a continuance of native plant genetic material into the building's living roof.  True sustainability looks beyond just the building structure.   Harvesting site flora for reuse and 'plant rescue' is an excellent example of comprehensive 'Cradle to Cradle' sustainability put to action.

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