Saturday, October 30, 2010

Photos of What Hurricane Force Winds (120 MPH) Do To a Green Roof Plant

The photos included here are from wind uplift testing yesterday at UF. Notice the moderate damage to the plant leaf epidermis and underlying palisade layer (dessication).

Observations and photos of recovery will be posted over the next couple months to see how quickly the plants heal from the damage and regrow.

Not only do the plants suffer dessication and structural damage from 120 MPH winds, but the leaves and stems are bombarded with high speed grit from dust and the roofs soil itself.

The woven mat provides significant support to the root system and stem and in my opinion is the reason the plants did not fly off the roof immediately.

Green Roof Plant Before Hurricane Testing

Green Roof Plant after 120 MPH winds for 3 minutes

We are analyzing what the test results and observations and will be providing additional comments.

More soon!

Happy green roofing and as always - email me with our questions.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Green Roof Hurricane Uplift Testing 120 MPH for 3 Long Minutes

We started off today referring to the Green Roof Wind Uplift Test duration as "until failure".

At least it looked as though the test would proceed until the mat failed.

After all, the MetroVerde Green Roof had been sitting in the hot Florida sun, non-irrigated, 1" thick layer of engineered soil for 18 months at the University of Florida.

We are going into our fifth week of zero precipitation (no rain).

The plants looked brown.

The panel was fixed at a 3/12 slope just feet away from the large hurricane simulator.

The plants looked vulnerable.  The engineered soil just waiting to be blown off the mat along with plants.

The large diesel engines fired up and the turbines spun.

50 MPH for one minute - a little dust blew off the roof.

70 MPH for a minute plus - not much happened.

90 MPH and the dust around the base of the testing platform flew and the plants bent backwards - almost parallel to the roof slope.  Shingles on a shed 300' away began flapping.

We were all amazed, having seen other green roofs under hurricane tests blow away, soil and plants...

We took a break and looked at the panel.  A small amount of the engineered soil had blown off the mat.

The 120 MPH for over three minutes.

The dead, brown material blew off the plants - like a good pruning.  Even the large, tender Echeveria was still there, albeit leaning a little.

The nodding garlic - Allium canadense was beautiful.

The plant roots were so intertwined in the mat that 80% of the engineered soil remained.

Successful.  The first Florida Designed Green Roof Panel to pass the 120 MPH wind uplift test.

Lots learned -

Will be working with UF more in the future!

Enjoy the video - I'll post the link as soon as YouTube finishes processing it - in the meantime here are a couple pics and happy Green Roofing!

MetroVerde Green Roof Passes 120 MPH Hurricane Testing
120 MPH Winds on Green Roof - Hurricane Testing

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Green Roofs and Hurricanes - Miami Dade Uplift Testing Issues - Sustainable Green Roofs

Welcome Back!  I've been busy putting my thoughts down on Tom Cooper's comments.  We addressed the first couple - about Sustainability and Irrigation in the last post and I thought I could whip out an answer to his Miami-Dade Uplift Requirement comment.  However as I started writing I quickly realized I am a Green Roof Systems Expert and not a Roofing Expert or not even a licensed roofer.

I always work with a licensed roofer on the install.  I've said it before and I'll quickly say it again - as a lawyer by graduate education I am always 'Tort Aware'!  Florida law is very specific about roofing requirements and contractors and who can do what.  Research the law and code requirements and your life will always be easier.

So I called Robert Solomon.  I've known Robert for quite some time now - he is the go to guy if you have a question about sustainable roofs in Florida (the non-vegetated type - white TPO et al).  Robert is all for breaking our dependence on foreign oil - and doing so quickly by eliminating asphalt roof use and design.

Robert writes a blog called Wiki Roof and can I ever say it is enlightening.  He has served multiple times on the Florida Governor's Green and Sustainable School Competition Judging Board and well I could go on but won't.

So feeling a little uncomfortable about commenting on roofing issues that impact green roofing but are actually more of a roofing issue, I emailed Mr. Solomon and asked him to think about Tom Cooper's comments and offer his advice.

Mr. Solomon graciously agreed, even though he is a busy person.  Thanks Robert!

My thoughts in this post article are in black, Tom Cooper's questions and comments are in red, and Mr. Solomon's comments are in dark blue.

Again, Mr. Cooper is CEO of Green Roof Solutions, Inc. in Chicago

Robert's Blog Wiki Roof is a must Read - click here for the blog in a new window - but finish this post first.

OK - Tom's question -

I do have a question for you. How do you propose the State of Florida address codes for the:

1.) Components of green roofing under wind uplift requires such as those for Dade County?

My comment first - then Robert's thoughts.  Two things enter my mind when I think of tropical winds and vegetated roofs.

First a quick background.  I grew up in Hialeah (great black beans, yellow rice and yucca) and we had several direct hits from hurricanes in the 1960's.  I've seen cars turned over, huge trees ripped out of the ground, our above ground kids pool lifted up out of our backyard and dumped in the neighbors and more.  Dad boarded up all the windows with plywood but as a child I still remember the wind sounding like a train roaring across the top of our roof.  

So I am biased.  But if a hurricane can pick up a car and flip it, then a hurricane can pick up anything loose on a roof and send it missile like through the air.  That is why I would never plant a tree on a roof in Florida or put a birdbath on a roof in Florida.

But for those who have never directly experienced the terror of unleashed 120 mph winds, I suggest the State of Florida and Miami Dade uplift codes are there for a purpose.  That purpose is to make sure anything manufactured for a roof - that could become a projectile someday - stay on the roof.

As a tort aware lawyer I also suggest that any product placed on a roof without Miami Dade approval or State of Florida approval would be good reason for a lawsuit if that product ends up damaging the fenestration of something else on or in an adjacent structure.

My thoughts are - I get really aggravated with the process but it is there for a purpose, and should include all green roof materials.

Now for Robert's thoughts... 

The actual "ROOF" , or waterproofing element, is accepted by Miami-Dade in many applications.  The most reasonable, cost effective, and environmentally acceptable material for vegetative roof systems is without question, Thermoplastic Polyolefin (TPO), as it contains no oil, no plasticizers, and would not contribute additional nitrogen or phosphorous into water supplies.

I suggest a major manufacturer (Firestone, GAF, Carlisle, Manville, etc.) that is distributed by local supply houses, and stay away from "boutique" manufacturers.  In this way, material is readily available, and you will not find yourself in a "proprietary" scenario that eliminates competition, and drastically increases cost.

For the sake of illustration, I will choose Firestone as our representative manufacturer, and a few Miami-Dade approvals over various roof deck types.  Structural issues regarding design load will greatly impact your options.  Of course, structural concrete, or post tensioned concrete will be your safest route.

target=new* Miami Dade Building Code General Roof

Miami Dade Concrete Deck NOA Requirements Click Here

Miami Dade Wooden Deck NOA Requirements Click Here

Miami Dade Steel Deck NOA Requirements Click Here

FM-I90 wind uplift, and in some cases FM-120 can be achieved.

2.) DO we design part of the roof to blow off as typical landscaping would?  

My thoughts - No.  Under maximum wind load the plants and soils will probably be blown off.  However all other system components must be designed to stay on the roof per code.  Again - I speak from a tort perspective.  I can't imagine having to defend a negligence lawsuit where loose trays or pavers were laid just on the roof.  Not that it is not being done - I just can't imagine defending a client who has designed or installed a part of the roof to blow off in a negligence case - and I can't imagine an insurance company providing product liability insurance for such a system (although I am sure they are out there).

However, plants and soil will probably come off and there is no cost-effective way to completely prevent this.

Whereas Robert says...

NO.  Assuming we are discussing the actual "roof" or waterproofing element.  In this case, TPO, or even liquid applied coating/mesh systems (this can be very humbling if you are not infinitely knowledgeable regarding coatings and reinforcement).  I would far prefer the actual roofing membrane system (TPO).  There are cases when "fully adhered" will be best, and of course, we would use low VOC approved adhesives supplied by the membrane manufacturer.

3.) Yet fix all retention articles to the structure such as edging. 

Robert suggests -

Sheet metal components are no different with vegetative systems, than they are with standard systems, but they must meet the ANSI/SPRI ES-1 Wind Design Standard.  This would include perimeter edge (drip edge), parapet wall coping, gutters, etc.

 My thoughts are - 

In Florida I don't like vertical penetrations through a roof because sooner or later, in under the harsh conditions here, a leak may develop.

But there is the code issue and I agree with Robert - the roof's retention articles should be secure enough to meet code - it would be grossly negligent to, here in Florida or anywhere a tropical storm could impact a green roof, not secure any component of a green roof per uplift requirements.

Soil and Plants are the exception.  I'd note that all soils must be given design consideration to ensure the particles are not gravel like or large enough to harm or do damage.  Plants the same way.  Though highly unlikely, a thorny blackberry brier grown on a roof as a green roof plant would expose the installer to liability for negligence if ripped off the roof in a storm and injured someone below.

4.) Ballast pavers for patios and perhaps root barriers?

 Robert's insight -  (And I'll take the liberty here to suggest Tom's reference to ballast is different than Robert's idea of ballast (( a roofer considers ballast to be gravel or stones placed over asphalt to hold down the asphalt)).  Ballast can be lifted off a roof like shotgun pellets during a hurricane.

Robert - 

I'm somewhat confused why you would require ballast.  The ballast itself can become airborne with devastating results.  It would seem to me that root barriers, or mats, would always be incorporated, regardless of deck type.

I agree with Robert - all components of a vegetated roofing system in Florida must be secured, including the root barrier, mats, trays, etc...

Lots of issues here - for instance you could glue the components down - but what about VOC's?

Cost shoots up with more attachment requirements - but what about good old American Ingenuity?

Would enjoy this discussion.

More of Robert's insight (I paid him to flatter me...)

Height, width, and length of the structure are (of course) determining factors when designing roof systems.  I can easily illustrate, or design a  proper "roof" system, and keep the structure watertight.  But since Mr. Songer is pioneering the attachment of vegetative systems, cannot say with absolute certainty, how the root barrier or mat (hopefully, retaining the root system) would be fastened.

Keeping in mind, our primary roof deck type to be structural concrete, and the wind uplift characteristics of the mat and root barrier would be our most critical component.  Please keep in mind the roof meets wind uplift requirement, thus creating a foundation for additional components (and water) , which affect live load.  A moment ago, I spoke to Firestone, and they will be more than happy to assist in computations and design, which I feel to be a fine gesture on their part.  Always keeping in mind, Firestone is the "Guarantor", and vegetative assembly must be acceptable to them.

I can make these claims, as I am a state certified roofing contractor, licensed roofing consultant, environmentalist, and spent 37 years in the roofing discipline at the highest level.

I hope my comments have at least been marginally informative, and would be very pleased if I've somehow advanced the topic.  

My final, wrap up comments.

I am genuinely suspicious of regulators.  I think the market should ultimately and can regulate itself. 

However having witnessed the brute strength of hurricane force winds time again, I would probably have to say that Miami Dade's requirements have a good measure of validity.  But that having been said, a regulation should never be accepted carte blanche!

Again, with American Ingenuity we can develop systems that satisfy the intent of regulations.  Take for example parapet walls.  There is considerable recent research showing how certain height parapet walls can reduce wind uplift by magnitudes.

So maybe one answer to avoiding permanent attachment of green roof system components is a parapet wall sufficient to protect.  I'm sure with time this possibility will be researched, tested and utilized.

Another facet to consider is the turbulence green roof plants can cause the over blowing wind, decreasing uplift shear.  I've witnessed this phenomena personally during Tropical Storm Fay.  Wind gusts would grab at shingles but the irregular surface of the plants seemed to break the lift vacuum.  I'm sure more research will tell us if textures can break uplift.

We are an evolving industry nation-wide but especially here in Florida!  I always refer to the 5 H's - High Heat (140 F leaf surface temperature on a regular basis), High Humidity (that afternoon sprinkle turns to steam like a pressure cooker), Hard Freezes and Frosts, Hurricanes, Hard Desiccating Winds and more....  Solutions are being developed daily.

It is interest and comments like those Tom Cooper has set forth that will help us make the green roof industry in Florida profitable and effective.

Tom - we'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Happy Green Roofing!  

As always - email us with your questions.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Green Roof Design - Miami Dade Hurricane Uplift and Irrigation Issues

 Tom Cooper, CEO of Green Roof Solutions, Inc. in Chicago left a comment on a recent post, bringing up several important points.
"We are based in Chicago and agree that irrigated green roofing is not the path to true sustainable construction."
 The Green Roof Industry must move to sustainability.  We as a industry many times 'greenwash' our services and products.  There is nothing worse than a hypocrite.

 Fortunately the living wall industry and green roof business has many sustainable benefits - those we talk about daily here - see the post on plants (green roof plants included) removing cancer causing VOCs out of the air.   Moreover Green Roofs and Living Walls may be the key to Urban Core survival of the green Florida Anole by replacing lost habitat - see a very interesting post and video of the Anole here.  Cleaning stormwater, creating beauty, sequestering carbon, producing oxygen and other positive, eco-centered green roof attributes abound.

I was reading a powerful and inspirational article this morning on, entitled  "Departing Microsoft visionary sees 'post-PC' world." The message made me think about what we are doing today - and are we looking to the future or caught up in justifying the not-to-efficient present day method of doing green roofs.

Reminiscent of the over-inflated housing market of several years back, I see some of the approaches to green roofing as dangerously similar.

We can all pretend there is plenty of water to go around (as we do with petrol and gasoline) or we can Vision the Future of Green Roofs.  Those who Vision the Future of Green Roofs will lead the way.

Water shortages are catching up with us even now.  Here in Jacksonville we are allowed to water twice weekly and across America we are using up to 50% of our residential water usage for landscape irrigation.  Georgia, Alabama and Florida have recently been involved in bitter legal battles over water supplies.

From a prudent, common-sense point of view, negligence responsibility for adding irrigation to a roof could possible be very expensive if leaks were to develop - even under the best of contract language (I thoroughly enjoyed 'Torts' class in law school and am always 'tort aware' when working with Green Roofs).   In fact, if I were an insurance company I'd want a big fee and strong assurances from the roofer, architect, engineer and more - because a good attorney would be all over the green roof company if irrigation were specified and a leak/mold/damage developed.

I'm sure good water-proof designs are possible but at what cost?  Are we building a 56 Chevy when visioning (considering both cost and sustainability) demands otherwise?

Visioning Green Roofs as Sustainable with nature-irrigated native species is the future.  The industry will be there sooner than later.  Those who lead they way will win the economic prize.

"The sedum perennial growers have distorted the market for green roofing by selling 100% cover in modular systems. This type of performance is both rare and unattainable in the long term without irrigation."

 Native Plant species must replace monoculture systems.  Relying on one genus of plants for Green Roofs may cause massive diebacks in the event of a species selective blight or infestation.  My grandmother understood this basic gardening concept - never plant too much of one variety or it may all soon die.

We must watch what plants we put on a roof - See the post from this morning about Exotic Invasive Species.

Good Visioning of the Future for Green Roofs dictates caution about using plants capable of causing native habitat damage. Seeds spread easily.   

Sustainability calls for locale-friendly plant species, preferably native plants.

Interesting articles abound on the varieties of available Green Roof plants.  Sedums have there place however it may not be in Florida or other hot humid areas.  Southern Blight is blight is a big problem for sedums in Florida - due to the hot humid climate, the fungus, Sclerotium rolfsii, may take large, beautiful carpets of sedums on a green roof installed during cooler months and turn them to black, ugly mush during the month of July (if not sooner).  See the post of Southern Blight.

Finally, most sedums generally have very little strength in their roots when compared to other possible green roof plants.  This factor does not bode well for tropical storm situations.

Selecting the right Green Roof plant is important.  Flammability (Volatile oil content), leaf litter, invasive characteristics, drought tolerance and disease resilience, habitat value and beauty are but a few of the factors to be considered.

Monocultures of sedums on roofs in Florida are the result of a lack of Visioning and like the 56 Chevy, wouldn't be sustainable.

"I do have a question for you. How do you propose the State of Florida address codes for the components of green roofing under wind uplift requires such as those for Dade County? DO we design part of the roof to blow off as typical landscaping would yet fix all retention articles to the structure such as edging, ballast pavers for patios and perhaps root barriers?"

Tom - We'll add our thoughts to this next all important question in tomorrow's post.

Love to hear your comments too.

The more we discuss, the more we Vision!

Happy Green Roofing!

As always, feel free to email us here.


Preventing Green Roofs and Green Roof Plants from Becoming Vectors of Exotic Invasives Species

Green Roofs provide many benefits.  We have mentioned many of the positive facets of green roofs in past blogs, in presentations and in our passion to see Green Roofs become a part of every sustainable and green project.

Our motto - "Restoring Volumetric Green to the Urban Core'" reflects our beliefs plants need to be in our homes, buildings and cities.  Green Roofs and Living Walls clean stormwater, provide wildlife with habitat, they create a sense of place for people, sequester carbon, uptake CO2, pump oxygen into our atmosphere, remove pollutants, prevent and cure cancers, provide food and the list goes on and on.

Plants are living organisms with many purposes!  They eat sunshine and convert the sun's energy into a host of benefits for our world.

These are some of the reasons we love Green Roofs and Living Walls.

With passion comes responsibility too.  As a certified arborist I hear the phrase - 'Right Tree, Right Place' and 'Right Plant, Right Place' many times a week.

The same slogan should hold true for Green Roofs and Living Walls.  In our rush to install volumetric green in the Urban Core we should not forget to remember some plants are considered aggressive and invasive in certain locations.

Florida, for instance has designated certain plant species to be exotic and invasive.  Typically those plant species are so aggressive they out compete native species - and can form monoculture stands.  For more information on Florida's Exotic and Invasive Plants click here.

I am working with a University here on installing a small green roof and a series of living walls and the University Botanist and Natural Area curator expressed concern about the selection of species to be used on both the roof and walls.

The University policy specifies using only native species or Florida Friendly Species that are not aggressive.  This holds especially true when working near the conservation and natural areas on the campus.

Seed source potential was another question addressed.

Green roof plants with tiny, lightweight seeds will serve as seed sources to surrounding areas with wind and bird dispersal.

Planting a non-native plant on a green roof almost always guarantees the plant will eventually spread into adjacent areas.  Of course the heavier the seed the less likely and slower the spread potential becomes.

It is possible some of the more popular non-native, drought tolerant ground covers could potentially become a nuisance in natural areas.

In our rush to grow green everywhere, let's make sure the plants we are using are compatible with surrounding environments.  Plant selection should always be coordinated with an area conservation botanist to ensure compatibility.

The below photo shows an Allium species on a Florida Green Roof with dried seed ready to drop.   The seeds are large and heavy enough to prevent wind from scattering them about the adjacent areas.  When they do fall from the dried flower stems, they will drop to the green roof and hopefully germinate with spring rains.

Green Roof Seeds - Allium
Choosing native species and non-invasive species is an important part of designing a successful green-roof.

As always - email us with your questions!

Happy Green Roofing!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Plants for Green Roofs and Living Walls - Photo Gallery

We are working hard on developing a complete plant list that includes;
  • Plant scientific name and common name
  • Photographs
  • Case histories
  • Requirements
  • Ethnobotanical history
  • Growing requirements and limitations
  • and other important horticultural factors.
Living Wall Plant - Trumpet Vine, Campsis radicans

    The plant list will create a reference database for those plants we find successfully used in and on living walls and green roofs in Florida and the Southeast US.

    For a quick preview of the photo documentation - check out the MetroVerde living wall plant photo gallery by clicking here.

    We will be adding new plants daily, so come back often.

    Happy Green Roofing and as always, feel free to email us with your questions here.


    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Green Roofs and Living Walls - Defense Against Cancer and Other Diseases!

    Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are chemicals created by industrial pollution and automobile engines among other processes.  VOCs are the primary cause of Urban Smog.  They are also responsible for the formation of cancers, respiratory problems and other serious health issues.

    According to the EPA, the Health Effects of VOCs include:

    Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.

    The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans. 

    For more health information on VOCs from the EPA click here. 

    According to a new study - one confirming what we already know - plants -  - clean these harmful VOCs out of the air.   Read about the study in a National Science Foundation Article here.

    This study makes it clear that it is especially important to have as many plants inside your building or home as the levels of VOCs inside a structure can be up to ten times the ambient levels outside.

    As we are bombarded with pollutants each day, in our water and in the air - installing interior living walls, exterior vertical green - green roofs and living walls, Urban Permaculture - City Gardens, wildflowers and trees - can pay off with significant benefits.

    Ultimately, we may live longer.  Ultimately, we may beat the odds with cancer or respiratory diseases.

    Restoring Volumetric Green to the Urban Core is critical.  Today, go out and plant a plant.  Bring another inside.  Hang plants from your patio walls and your kitchen window.  Keep plants in your home.  Install a green roof.

    Green roofs and living walls - cleaning stormwater, creating habitat, providing a sense of place and beauty and - importantly - fighting disease by removing pollutants!

    Surround yourself with plants today.  You may breath better and live longer.

    We will be glad to help you with your next living wall or green roof design project!

    Email us here!

    Happy Green Roofing...



    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Bat Houses for Urban Permaculture - Free Fertilizer and Pest Control

    Bat House at University of North Florida
    Bat houses are an excellent choice to add to any Urban Garden.

    Bats are voracious devourers of pesky mosquitoes, gnats and other flying fierceities.

    Guano's reputation for premier fertilizer ranks high among all the organic nitrogen and nutrient choices.

    Bat houses need to be out in open fields.  A bat house nestled in a wooded area may never be used.

    According to the USFWS, a colony of 100 bats can eat over 2,200 pounds of insects during a smmer feeding season - and make alot of good fertilizer!

    Click here for a link to 22 Free Bat House Designs and

    Happy Urban Gardening!


    Thursday, October 21, 2010

    Green Roofs, Green Walls, Frost and Pseudomonas

    Green Roofs behave differently in the cold seasons here in Florida and the Southeastern U.S..  Because cold weather will be here soon, I am re-posting an article from two years ago (December 2008) about bacteria, green roof plants and frost.  Enjoy!.........   Also - Check out the follow-up Pseudomonas blog post here.

    In general, plants used in exterior living walls appear to be more resilient to cold than those flat on the ground. Dismantling one of my oldest walls last night, I was amazed to see one of the cactus plants, Disocactus flagelliformis, not only survive the cold but thrive. Amazingly, most of the literature on the web specifies a minimum temperature of 50 degrees F and clearly warns against frost exposure. Last year we experienced several nights in the low twenties. However the cactus keeps on growing.

    With my curiosity peaked, I researched frost, cold and plants on Google trying to sort through the thermodynamics of air movement, heat and cold transfer and the five different types of frost. It seems that as the ground layer of air cools, the warm air rises. So the vertical positioned plants on the wall could actually be several degrees warmer than those plants on the ground. There are several interesting stories of how orange grove owners use helicopters to keep warm air blown back down into orchards in California on occasional nights with freezing temperatures or where frost may become a threat.

    Additionally and to my surprise I read where many plants on the ground support epiphytc 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.

    There is a ice-minus strain of Pseudomonas also, a mutant bacteria that also occurs naturally that does not possess the ice formation encouraging mechanism that its non-mutant sibling possesses.

    Leave it to capitalism to go figure out how to profit on these two types of bacteria. SnoMax - made by Johnson Controls - see SnoMax's website, is a product made from the ice-plus variety and is used for making snow! On the other hand, FrostBan - see article - creates a crop resilient to frost. FrostBan was the subject of many GMO battles during the 1980's and early 1990's.

    I don't have the testing equipment to see if my Disocactus cactus had the ice-minus Pseudomonas, or if the plant growing vertically with excellent air flow had just avoided the dispersal of common Pseudomonas.

    But the fact that it survives the cold and continues to grow on the wall is another piece in the green roof and green wall plant database we are all developing.

    Amazing stuff.

    Happy green roofing!

    Green Roofs, Florida and Hurricane Wind Force Testing

    Green roofs in Florida must be designed to withstand tropical storms and hurricane force winds.

    Hurricane winds speeds can easily reach 130 mph.

    Loose edges or other exposed corners, trays on a Florida green roof can be grabbed by the winds and flung across and off the building.

    The photo below depicts the hurricane simulator at the University of Florida.  The system will be conducting a hurricane simulation test on a MetroVerde green roof panel.

    Hurricane Simulator at UF - Testing MetroVerde Green Roof Panel

    The tested panel is a mat based system.

    We will be posting results soon.

    As always, feel free to email us with your Green Roof or Green Roof Design questions.

    Happy Green Roofing!


    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Nature Irrigated Green Roofs and Dew Catchers

    Green Roof irrigation, dew and alternative irrigation has been the topic of the last several posts.

    And I have come to a realization today.  I've been referring to green roofs designed as fully sustainable units requiring zero mankind provided irrigation as 'non-irrigated' green roofs.

    Studying the dew catchers opened my eyes to the proper term for green roofs that do not have additional mankind provided irrigation.

    'Nature irrigated green roofs' is the proper term.

    Today I want to share a photo of a very effective, cheap to make and made from 100% post consumer recycled materials - Dew Catcher.

    Yes, this simple dew catcher is highly effective.

    A system of these dew catchers for a green roof or even an Urban Permaculture garden somewhere could save thousands and thousands of gallons of potable water from being used as irrigation water.

    15 milliliters of water was collected from the dew catcher shown below on October 18th, 2010 at 8:00 am.

    The dew catcher was placed on a piece of plastic wrap and set on a western exposure roof.

    20 milliliters does not sound like much at first glance.  However by placing 100 of the dew catchers (no cost - only your time and effort) you would collect approximately 2000 milliliters per morning.

    2000 milliliters is equivalent to approximately 1/2 gallon, so you ask - 1/2 gallon - so what?

    If you place one dew catcher per square foot then a ten thousand square foot roof would harvest approximately 50 gallons of water every morning where the dew point is sufficient for harvesting.

    As we mentioned in earlier blogs, cooler months facilitate the formation of dew.  Here in north Florida, as well as in many other world locations, cooler months are also the months where precipitation amounts are significantly reduced.

    So just when the green roof needs additional water the most, nature provides dew.

    50 gallons of irrigation water saved over hundreds of thousands of square feet of green roofs and gardens adds up to alot of water saved.  Stewardship.

    And possibly the key to understanding the proper design of a self-sustaining Nature Irrigated Green Roof.

    So here is the photo.

    Urban Permaculture Dew Catcher - Irrigation for Green Roofs
    Basic design is the top cut off of a plastic water bottle and slit down the side.

    Arguments the unstable plastic will photo-degrade and leach plastics into the roof are probably valid, however there are plenty of other UV stabilized PPE's that would work just as well.

    Recycled glass is another option as well as certain fabrics.

    The important issue to remember though is that with a little ingenuity we can harvest air laden humidity and create sustainable irrigation systems if we choose.

    50 gallons per day on a 10,000 SF roof offers 15,000 gallons per year potential.

    Dew Catchers - Nature Irrigated Green Roofs!

    As always, Email us with your questions here.

    Happy Green Roofing!


    Exporting Urban Permaculture Technology as a Mission

    Check out Echo Gardens in Ft. Myers, Florida.

    ECHO -

    You can view their website by clicking above.

    ECHO stands for Educational Concerns for Hunger Organizations

    When visiting or traveling through the Ft. Myers area, a visit to Echo is a must.

    Well System at Echo
    Growing Vegetables at Echo Inc in Ft. Myers
    Urban Permaculture at its finest!

    Green Roof Irrigation and Dew Catchers - 5 Important Factors

    Irrigation provided by nature exists and understanding how dew works can make the  Florida (or Arid Locale) Green Roof successful.

    Here in North Florida we are in the middle of an on-going three and a half week drought with no rain in sight.

    You put water in the birdbath and the water has evaporated by the middle of the day.

    Our Urban Permaculture Garden is growing just fine but craves water.

    We are abiding by the watering restrictions we have in place here set by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

    Yet look at the following photo my daughter took early in the morning!  There was water everywhere, especially on the green roof plants!

    Irrigating Green Roof Plants - Dew Catchers

    The amount of available water for plants is truly amazing.

    We have noticed several interesting factors:

    1. Dew occurs early in the morning - before the sun gets too hot and evaporation occurs
    2. Early morning dew allows more water to be adsorbed by the plants.
    3. Waxy plant leaves - those typically found on recommended green roof plants - encourage the condensed dew to roll off the leaves into the root area soil.
    4. Many plant leaves seem to possess a natural form that directs dew to the middle of the leaf, down the stem and onto the root area.
    5. Dew seems to be most prevelant during dryer, cooler periods - and those factors correspond exactly with our dry season.
    6. The amount of dew is significant, as much as drip irrigation may produce.

    So Mother Nature is offering up alternative irrigation means.

    And we here in Florida and across the world have a water supply crisis.

    Again, I ask - why are we irrigating Green Roofs with costly potable water that truly has a high carbon footprint?

    When Mother Nature offers irrigation up for free.

    Over the next couple of days I want to discuss dew catcher design and nutrients found in both dew and rainwater.

    Happy Green Roofing!

    As always - email me with your questions and dont forget to check out Dave Hillary's Free Green Roof Mini-Course.


    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Florida Green Roof Hurricane Simulator Testing This Month

    MetroVerde assembled a 4' x 10' extensive green roof panel in early 2009 for research at the University of Florida.

    The green roof was assembled over an asphalt shingle roof decking.

    Allium and other drought tolerant species were planted in the 2" thick engineered soil over a woven PPE  1/2" thick anchoring mat.  Blue spruce sedum was also used however this species did not thrive on the non-irrigated system.

    The panel was exposed to full sun in an area with little to zero shade.

    Over time the Allium species established good rooting architecture and began to fill out the vegetated roof panel open space.

    The roof is now scheduled for Hurricane simulator testing with winds up to 120 MPH - either this week or next week.

    We will keep you posted on results.

    Happy Green Roofing!


    Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Growing Organic Kale in the City Garden

    Fresh Organic Kale is easily grown in the backyard garden during the cooler seasons.

    Growing your own winter vegetables ensures you get the organic quality you deserve.

    Now is the time to plant!

    Fresh October 2010 Organically Grown Kale from Judy's Urban Garden!

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Urban Permaculture where? Roof Crops? COOL! Can't Wait...

    Came across this cool site on Twitter this morning - check out,,,,   and then check out my Twitter page for more great Urban Greenery. 



    Green Roof Irrigation System - Can Nature Support a Green Roof?

    Green roof irrigation can be accomplished via recycled rainwater pumped up from a cistern, potable water supply, a combination of recycled rainwater and potable water or from mother nature alone.

    Importantly, a green roof should look good and not dry.  A dry roof could be a potential fire hazard.  Remember how those dry Christmas trees would burn.  Of course, some - like Ducks Unlimited - used to burn their green roofs annually - but most of us would not want to burn a green roof.

    Other reasons for keeping the plants watered on a roof include;
    1. More photosynthetic activity - hence more CO2 uptake and more O2 production,
    2. Greater wildlife habitat,
    3. Increased nutrient uptake
    4. and others.

    However there are also valid reasons for not irrigating a roof.

    There is a water crisis here in Florida and across the southeastern US.  Remember the water wars of Alabama, Georgia and Florida a couple years ago?

    50% of all potable water usage is typically consumed via landscape irrigation use!  Over withdrawal of aquifer reserves causes sinkholes to develop, wells to go dry and contamination of existing supplies to increase.  Native plantings are encouraged and water reuse is a municipal practice on the increase.

    Additionally, roof leakage is a serious concern.  Creating roofs that can withstand a pond-like body of water is expensive and may cause mold problems.

    Mechanical systems, including irrigation systems are always subject to eventual failure.  If the irrigation system goes down and the plants are used to significant watering then they may quickly die.

    If the system is hooked up to potable water then a flood may occur.

    Maybe there are other alternatives.  In our opinion, with the rush to implement new stormwater rules and nutrient removal criteria in Florida, the FDEP and certain testing organizations have jumped to the conclusion that the only way a green roof can survive periods of little to no rain is to install irrigation.

    A quick review of Florida literature results in few if any research articles considering alternative irrigation methods.

    Granted, FDEP's new applicant handbook suggests using rainwater cisterns to recycle rainwater as an irrigation supply for vegetated roofs, however this is but a selling point for their lack of research on non-irrigated systems and also is seriously flawed.

    Suggesting rainwater cistern and rainwater recycling is low impact development is wrong.  Here in Florida half the year approximately sees only minimal rainfall amounts.  Today we are well behind - ten inches or so in our average annual rainfall amounts.  That means all those vegetated roof plants so used to plenty of rainwater irrigation from the cistern are now going to have to be irrigated with potable water or reuse water because they are not acclimated to the dry periods.  This philosophy is 'Anti-Florida Friendly Landscaping' and is a scam.

    Certainly there is room for having stormwater volume and retention on the roof and in cisterns, but this approach cannot be the only sanctioned approach for green roofs in Florida.  And because FDEP and various educational institutions are pushing the 'Stormwater Pond on a Roof' approach the Florida Green Roof Industry has to adsorb and deal with the results of those misguided efforts.

    Back to green roof irrigation.

    Certain nations, such as Australia, New Zealand and others are stepping up and conducting serious research on alternative irrigation systems such as utilization of dew and air humidity.

    We should too.

    Here in Jacksonville we haven't had rain in three weeks.  Our yards and gardens are dry as a bone.  I'm sure many of the irrigated green roofs around the state are pumping out potable water (all the stored rainwater is used up by now) to keep the green roof plants irrigated.

    Check out the following early morning photos.  remember - no rain here in the past three weeks however early morning water is everywhere.

    Green Roof irrigation alternative - collect morning dew

    Green Roof irrigation alternative - collect morning dew
    Green Roof irrigation alternative - collect morning dew
    Check out the article on dew collection found at  

    Possibly the research topic of an inspiring student or professor, the potential is great and the market place calls out for such inventions.

    Green roof design already has taken advantage of the potential of harvesting dew for irrigation, MetroVerde utilizes compact dew catchers around many green roof plants in the field, harvesting significant early morning water for the plants.

    Moreover, early morning water is captured on a more efficient basis by green roof plants because high daytime temperatures and evaporation process have not begun in the A.M hours.

    So remember, next time someone says "Green Roofs in Florida Must be Irrigated", pause and ask yourself - has this person really done their homework or are they trying to push an agenda past you without your knowledge.

    As always, feel free to contact us via email.

    Happy Green Roofing,


    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Best Living Wall Plants - Florida Living Walls and Urban Green

    Click below for a link to the MetroVerde photo gallery of three vines suited for living walls in Florida and across the Southeast U.S.

    Two are evergreen perennial and one is frost tender but usually root hardy.

    Consideration of living walls as part of any design project is important because living walls;

    1. pump fresh oxygen into the air while uptaking CO2,
    2. sequester carbon,
    3. create beauty and a visual screen,
    4. provide wildlife with habitat in the urban core,
    5. clean stormwater,
    6. and much more.

    The three living wall vines recently added tot he MetroVerde photo gallery include;

    Living Wall Plant - Mikania scandens, Florida Living Walls - MetroVerde 
    Living Wall Plant - Confederate Jasmine - Florida Living Walls - MetroVerde
    Living Wall Plant - Ficus, Creeping Fig - Florida Living Walls - MetroVerde

    You can visit the MetroVerde gallery of Living Wall Plants by clicking here.

    Email us with questions about Living Walls or Green Roofs!

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Urban Permaculture Pests - Nematodes in the Garden

    Here in the hot, humid southeastern United States we have sandy soils in many places.

    This combination of sandy soils and warm weather makes a perfect environment for nematodes to thrive.

    Nematodes love warm sandy soils.  So here in Jacksonville we struggle to keep them at bay each year in the Urban Garden out back.

    Their presence is not so bad in the raised beds filled with organic compost.

    However in the garden beds tilled into the ground directly, they are a problem.

    Jud pointed out yesterday the serious damage nematodes can cause a plant when she pulled up the peppers to make way for winter vegetables.

    The following photos show one pepper plant only somewhat infested with nematodes and another badly infested with the parasite.

    Pepper plant roots infested with root-knot nematodes.
    Urban Permaculture - Organic Matter Reduces Nematode Impact

    Judy is a master gardener and volunteers at the local agricultural extension agency.  Her training is important and she points out that the fungal associations in organic matter will strangle nematodes - and serve to keep the pests at bay.

    Many times I think we look at a poorly preforming vegetable plant and wonder if we'd applied to correct fertilizers or not - because it may be doing so poorly - or maybe watered it enough or too much.

    Check the roots!  The problem may be nematodes.

    If you see swollen knots on your vegetables then add organic matter to the soil and practice crop rotation.

    For more information on root-knot nematodes see -


    Top 5 Reasons for a Green Roof in Florida

    Today I want to reiterate the top five reasons for installing a green roof in Florida.

    There are actually many advantages to having a vegetated roof and living walls here in the southern portion of the U.S.

    However, understanding the main benefits from volumetric green helps in the justification process.  In today's economy cost-effectiveness is important, both short-term and long-term.

    After working with green roofs here in Florida for years, these are the top five reasons I would recommend to anyone for installing a:

    1. lightweight, extensive (less than 4" deep - preferably 2-3" deep),
    2. non-irrigated (hey - we have a water crisis in Florida - and you WILL have to have backup potable water if you rely on rainwater cisterns to irrigate a roof),
    3. cost-effective green roof


    1.  Protects underlying roof, extending the life of your underlying roof by decades.
    2.  Provides significant insulation (the difference is between 40 degrees F and 60 degrees F),
    3.  Cleans stormwater - especially for those designed to not require fertilization,
    4.  Creates wildlife habitat and in-turn an IPMS - an Integrated Pest Management System - the lizards and anoles you attract will eat pest insects such as termites, ants, roaches and flies.
    5.  Cleans stormwater and creates a Sense of Place (beauty).

    Other very important reasons include;

    1.  Sequestering and lowering Carbon Footprint,
    2.  Uptake of CO2
    3.  Production of O2
    4.  Reduction of Heat Island Effect
    5.  Reduction of Stormwater Runoff volume (in addition to water quality),
    6.  Increased pedestrian traffic for retail areas,
    7.  and more (i.e. Green Building Cert Points).

    So you see there are many reasons to build a green roof.

    What are you waiting for?

    For help with system selection and design, please send us an email today!

    Happy Green Roofing!


    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Florida Green Roof Plants - Root Architecture Summary

    We've been discussing the optimal green roof plant root structure.

    There are many adequate types of Florida green roof plant root structures.   The variables different structures become a part of include;

    1. Hurricane, tropical storm and wind resistance,
    2. Rainfall and water absorption,
    3. Plant support,
    4. System cohesiveness, and
    5. other factors.

    One of the major advantages of using a mat with a weave, or trays with an inserted weave for roots to grow into is the overall imparted strength of the system.

     Laterally growing roots will provide greater anchoring during high winds.  This can be an important factor when considering placing a green roof here in Florida -  or anywhere with potential for tropical storms and high winds.

    Florida Green Roof Plant - Good Root Architecture - Lateral Growth
     Finally, the most important aspect of installing plants on a Florida Green Roof is - don't go tot he nursery and purchase plants that have been grown in a production nursery, pumped full of fertilizers, used to timely irrigation and replete with tender new growth. Instead, look for those plants with a lateral root system that are hardened off and acclimated to the tough environment you are installing them into.

    Roofs are harsh places for plants to survive!  Remember the 5 H's - High desiccating winds, High heat, Hard Freezes, HOT-HOT-HOT!, High humidity, Hurricanes,  and more...

    Lateral root growth contributes towards support, enhanced water absorption area, anchoring and a host of other success factors.

    Happy Green Roofing!

    As always, e-mail me with your questions.  Kevin.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Urban Permaculture - Cajanus cajun, Pigeon Peas - Amazing Plants

    Judy bought a pack of Pigeon Peas at Echo in Ft. Myers earlier this year and planted them in our backyard garden.
    I was not really aware  - or didn't pay any attention to the plants until recently.

    Once I did a little research on the I found myself impressed.

    Not only are they an excellent bulk food plant and medicinal herb, they are a superb nitrogen fixer - fixing up to 40kg per acre of N!  Good for soil.

    They grow in the worst of soils and possess thick, strong roots so the species can be used for erosion control.

    Some species are hardy to frost.

    Grown in the islands, India and Africa - you can find a really delicious Bahamian recipe here -   

    Urban Permaculture - Pigeon Peas 10' tall

    Plant Pigeon Peas!


    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Growing Winter Vegetables in the City - Urban Food Permaculture

    Winter vegetables, especially greens are special and are one of the reasons many gardeners look forward to cool weather gardening.

    Turnip greens, collards, mustards, arugula, Swiss chard, sugar snap peas, onions, chives and more grow vigorously, adding color, taste and health to any meal.

    Now is the time to make sure your cool weather garden is started. 

    You can purchase winter vegetables seeds at all the home improvement stores and nurseries now.  Be sure to take home a bag of potting mix and within a few days of planting you will have hundreds of small vegetable starts.

    Water the seedlings appropriately, thin when large enough and transplant into your backyard raised bed.

    Enjoy the winter vegetables!

    Winter garden - Judy's Urban Permaculture Garden - October 2010

    Saturday, October 9, 2010

    Urban Permaculture - Growing Food in the City - Cranberry Hibiscus

    Hibiscus acetosella, or Cranberry Hibiscus is an important plant for Florida Urban Permaculture.

    Below are two photos of the shrubby and delicious plant in Judy's garden.

    Florida Urban Permaculture, Hibiscus acetosella, Cranberry Hibiscus
    Florida Urban Permaculture, Hibiscus acetosella, Cranberry Hibiscus 
    University of Florida, IFAS recommends the Cranberry Hibiscus as a plant resilient to hurricanes and an excellent screening plant.  See 

    Cranberry hibiscus makes great tea - use the leaves - and is a wonderful addition to any salad, including tuna salad.  Children love the sour taste.

    Finally, the cranberry hibiscus is a beautiful addition to any landscape.

    As always, email us with your questions here.


    Bio-Retention for Stormwater - Volumetric Green in the Urban Core - UNF

    Good Blog Post on Bio-Retention System for Stormwater at University of North Florida

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Green Roof and Living Wall Plants Help Us Breath in the Urban Core

    Ever notice how alike plant root architecture and our lung's structure are?

    There are many similarities.

    Importantly, because of the photosynthetic process, plants pump fresh oxygen out into the atmosphere every day.  We, in our busy lives tend to forget plants breathe in out waste carbon dioxide generated from within our bodies as we exhale (helping us dispose of massive amounts of a 'waste' gas everyday).

    Not only do plants get rid of carbon dioxide they pump out large volumes of fresh oxygen into the atmosphere everyday.

    Perfect symbiotic relationship between man and plants.  We need their O2 and they need our CO2.

    Living Wall and Green Roof Plants Provide Oxygen to the Urban Core
    Sometimes we forget how important plants are.  We may view them as a necessary thing to have so we can eat vegetables or fruits.

    We may tolerate them because of the shade they produce, cursing the autumn leaf litter.

    We may enjoy the visual beauty of flowers.

    Importantly though, we look to those around us carrying oxygen bottles to help them breathe.

    Plants are our oxygen bottles.  Without plants we as a race disappear.  We will die. 

    I call the filling of our cities with plants - Restoring Volumetric Green to the Urban Core.

    Create a green roof or living wall - you'll be practicing CPR with a Plant.

    Happy Green Roofing.  Kevin

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Green Roof Plants - Root Architecture - Nitrogen Uptake

    The SimRoot root architecture 3D model is fascinating and informative.

    Though the analysis results are common sense, seeing available nitrogen removed from the uppermost soil levels is important to the capabilities of green roof plants and their capability to clean stormwater.

    Watch the following youtube video of SimRoot from Penn State.

    You will see the time lapse simulation of the root growth and note the concentrations of available nitrogen decreasing rapidly in the surface area.

    More soon!

    Happy Green Roofing - Kevin

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    Living Wall Roses - Heritage Species

    Slideshow of excellent Living Wall Antique and Heritage Climbing and Rambling Rose Varieties - Click here.

    Green Roof Plant Root Architecture - Photos and Comments - Florida Green Roof Plants

    Yesterday we looked at green roof plant root architecture and the benefits of green roof plants possessing a broad, shallow root structure rather than a narrow, deep root structure.  Click here to review the blog post information.

    The diagram is posted for review here.

    Green Roof Plant Root Architecture Comparison - MetroVerde
    Real life Green Roof Plant photos of the two types of root architecture are posted below:

    Root Architecture - Poor Green Roof Formation 
    The photo above typifies the normal nursery container plant root structure - narrow and deep.  This is not a good root formation or architecture to begin a green roof with.  Note the following photos of a plant grown on a mat.  I've cut the mat out of a green roof that had a 2" engineered soil layer.  The plant had grown on the roof for approximately 3 years or longer.  The green roof system was non-irrigated.
    Green Roof Plant - Root Architecture 1 - MetroVerde

    Green Roof Plant - Root Architecture 2 - MetroVerde
    Green Roof Plant - Root Architecture 3 - MetroVerde

    Green Roof Plant - Root Architecture 4 - MetroVerde

    When I removed the mat section I cut out about twice the diameter of the plant crown or habit (form diameter) thinking I'd capture all the root mass.  Upon further examination the plant had extended its roots over triple the area I'd cut.

    Note how the roots have grown and woven themselves into the mat - providing an anchor against high winds and allowing for use vertically.

    The root architecture of plants grown in mats exemplifies the benefits of growing green roof plants in mats.  Roots do not like to be bound up with limiting walls.  It you do not use mats, then use large tray systems.

    With time, green roof plants with access to a large, monolithic and non-sectioned growing space will eventually 'move' to the best spot for their particular needs - on the roof.

    The same basic principle applies to living walls.  A monolithic fabric with no limiting sectional structure will allow the plant to choose the best spot for successful, long tern growth.

    More on Green Roof Plant Root Architecture Soon!

    Happy Green Roofing.


    Living Wall Plants Florida - One Good One Not So Good (Yet Pretty)

    Recommended Living Wall Plant Pick of the Day:

    Staghorn fern,

    Platycerium spp.

    Staghorn Fern makes a great living wall plant, especially here in North Florida - but should do well across the southeast.  Benefits include:
    1. Evergreen
    2. Once established does not generally require irrigation
    3. Good Screening plant
    4. Grows and multiplies steadily
    5. Broad, attractive leaves and form
    6. Does not require significant, if any, soil
    7. Available in most home improvement stores and nurseries.
    Living Wall Plant - Staghorn Fern, Platycerium, MetroVerde

    Non-Recommended Living Wall Plant Pick of the Day:

    Japanese Honeysuckle,

    Lonicera japonica

    I really like this vine but cannot recommend it's use due to the extreme invasive nature of the plant.  Watch out if you ever use Japanese Honeysuckle because the plant will literally take over.  I've cut it out of the attic, off tall walls and it is almost impossible to get rid of.  Yet it is evergreen and beautiful, and will establish a barrier screen very quickly!  The plant has been placed on the list of Florida's Invasive Plants - click here for more details. 

    Invasive Living Wall Plant - Japanese Honeysuckle - Lonicera japonica - MetroVerde
     Choosing the right living wall plant is as important as choosing the right living wall structural system!

    Email us with your questions.  Kevin.