Thursday, March 24, 2011

Green Roofs, Living Walls & Biodiversity

Honey Bee & Taraxacum, Breaking Ground Green Roof Project

Documenting increases in biodiversity through Green Roof and Living Wall should be a fundamental component of all vertical green projects, providing valuable data to help with understanding how wildlife, birds, insects, reptiles and plants adapt to the Urban Core.  Most Urban Core construction sites possess limited biodiversity with vast stretches of impervious areas, asphalt and concrete, roofs and parking lots.

But concrete has its cracks and gutters fill with leaves and other organic matter, creating a small yet vitally organic base from where the smallest native wildflower seed may lodge, germinate and grow.  Many see these native species growing at the bases of buildings, in sidewalks and across the parking lot and immediately think 'weeds'!

With temperatures much higher than grasslands, meadows, forests or other ecological habitats covered in plants, the asphalt jungle is an inhospitable place for any plants or wildlife and it is difficult just simply to survive.

Over time our field studies have shown those plants growing in the Urban Core, though reduced many times in population sizes and numbers, are critical to sustaining biodiversity in the city.

Documentation of site species makeup and density should be conducted and various stages prior to construction or renovation, including the addition of green roofs or living walls, through the construction process and each year following the project's completion.  Establishing background, impact and then restoration levels of biodiversity will provide a clear picture of just how effective the 'Green' project was in supporting and increasing Urban Core biodiversity.

This week I was onsite with my camera at the Breaking Ground Contracting project, documenting what plants, trees and wildlife were observable.  I began on the eastern side of the building and made my way around to the rear, the southerly side, stopped, squatted and readied my camera to photo-document a Taraxacum blooming in the middle of the construction material.

Catherine Burkee, the Education Direction for Breaking Ground Contracting, in her blog best describes what happened next;

"Honey bees are having their issues these days, and amidst all of the buzzabout honey bees, we were excited to see that pollinating is alive and well at Breaking Ground Contracting. As our green roof expert, Kevin Songer, was walking the property, he saw this lone yellow wildflower (Taraxacum) and he wandered over to take a photo. Much to his surprise, as he went to snap the shot, this little honey bee came out of the petals. It gives us great hope to know that our site is attracting honey bees which are required to pollinate many of the worlds crops! Including the veggies we will be growing on our roof in the months to come! For some information on these amazing insects and their importance to our planet, go to "

Importantly, a contracting firm such as Breaking Ground Contracting here in Jacksonville, recognizing the value of vertical green and committing themselves to sustainability is noteworthy.  As a leader not only in the community, but in the state of Florida for sustainable building, BGC is making a sustainability statement for today, tomorrow and the long-term future - one of our children desperately need.

We will post the results of the site bio-survey soon and update the project's biodiversity study over time.

All plants, no matter how small or insignificant appearing support life, providing oxygen, sequestering carbon dioxide, offering refuge for wildlife, making nectar for food and giving shade to help keep our world a little more habitable.  Weeds are not just another plant to spray with 'Roundup'.  Weeds are the real key to biodiversity!

No comments: