Sunday, August 28, 2011

Safety on the Green Roof, Walkways and more.

We all love to show our green roofs off to others.  Safety then becomes paramount on the green roof.

Building codes and regulations for years have addressed rooftop access with specifications for hand rails, walkways and other methods to protect those on the roof.
Anti-slip Roofing Walkways help prevent slipping, even where water may stand

Green roofs bring an entire new meaning to safety on the roof.  Green roofs may attract significant crowds of people, including children especially if the roof has an educational focus.

With single ply roofing membranes becoming more and more popular on roofs and around green roofs one should be aware of slippage issues.   Single ply roofing membranes include materials such as EDPM and TPO.  The white TPO is especially popular due to the material's reflective capabilities.  TPO helps keep a roof cool by not adsorbing solar heat to the extent black asphalt does.

But white TPO is a slick material and when wet from morning dew can pose a slip risk.  Rules should be posted at the entrance tot he rooftop garden concerning the safety hazards of being on a roof, including 'Walk and Do Not Run'.  Sometimes we think the most obvious rules are common sense.  However during the excitement of a green roof visit, some may fail to heed common sense precautions.

I like to use TPO walkway material around the green roof pedestrian areas.  The material has a slightly different color and is anti-slip, very easy to walk across.

Next time you are designing a green roof, remember safety issues.  A good safety plan should always become part of the final green roof project's paperwork.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Green Roof Agriculture, easy to grow, even without a Green Thumb!

Growing food on rooftops and across Green Roofs is easy.  Many times I've people say, "I can't grow any of my own food, I don't have a green thumb"!  But it is the plants that do the growing!  All you need to do is provide them with sunshine and a little water from time to time.

Green Roof and Rooftop Permaculture Gardens can produce masses of food
 Rooftops are free from many pests, such as the infamous root-knot nematodes here in our sandy soils  Green roof gardens easily reach for more than their fair share of sunshine!
Green Roof Luffa and Roselle
In fact, to grow vegetables on the roof you really dont need alot of soil either!  Think of plants growing in gutters.  The above Roselle, a plant renown for tea and medicinal uses (I love to cook the leaves like greens) and the magnificent luffa sponge gourd are growing in less than two inches of soil.

Green roof agriculture, Rooftop Okra
Rooftops are the new frontier of agriculture!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Herbicide Ready Crops Feed the Masses but Rooftop Garden Grown Brassica is way more healthy!

"Gene manipulated corn fields feed people"

The above comment was a response this morning to one of my suggestions rooftop permaculture can help.  It is really sad because some truly believe this.

Fortunately - like the present Middle East changing of the old, stale guard and influx of new ideas, I believe rooftop permaculture and vertical permaculture is well on its way to replacing the old and becoming the new frontier in volumetric and rooftop green.
Green Roof Rooftop Permaculture - Brassica

Green Roof Vegetables - Broccoli
The broccoli here were pulled from the roof garden.  We had the Brassica growing in 3" of light weight highly organic composted and very well drained soil on a 4/10 slope.  You can see just how the vegetables became with no additional fertilizers and zero pesticides and herbicides.

Unfortunately, large corporations view rooftop permaculture and the citizens taking the task of feeding themselves back into their own hands as a serious threat to profits.

But I reject the above statement that "Gene manipulated corn fields feed people" as the only successful approach.

Many people may want to eat GMO corn products.  Yet I believe a large portion of the population may not want to.

So I see a grassroots movement arising to support rooftop permaculture, one where common people can make nutritional decisions for themselves rather than having the State or a Large Multi-national Corporation do so.

Check out just how big the Brassica grew.  Look at the root architecture.  We planted them close together to brace against wind issues and ate the greens daily. The plants adapted to the 4" soil (100mm) dispelling the myths of need for deep dirt to grow.

ECHO, see is a great resource for rooftop permaculture practices, tips and design guidelines from a cost-effective approach.

Our $2.00 worth of seeds provided a daily bunch of organic greens and broccoli tops that would have cost US $ 5 in the store for six months.  As I see it the numbers work out to be close to $1000 savings in food costs, not to mention the health benefits.  That is just for organic broccoli alone.  Add the collards, mustards, sugar snap peas, pok choy, turnips, potatoes, tomatoes and the benefit of fresh air and gardening companionship and one can easily see the economic advantage.

No thank you to GMOs and to the outdated, stale industry guru's that are old news.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Green Roofs and Healthy Buildings

Typical air we breathe contains about 20% oxygen gas under most conditions.  A stale, stuffy building may contain only 17 to 18%, levels far too low for optimal body health and brain performance.

Plant leaves clean the air and supply oxygen!

Yet oxygen levels in the rainforests can reach up to 24% of the ambient air!  We all know how refreshing it is to walk through the forest.

Plants produce oxygen during the photosynthetic process where carbon dioxide and water are changed into sugar and oxygen.  The sugar is used by the plant to grow and the oxygen pumped back into the air for us to breathe.

Air Intake over Green Roof!
One way green roofs can help create healthy buildings is through oxygen production around air intake vents in the Air Handling systems.

As the fresh air intake opens, the invisible cloud of high percentage oxygenated air enters the building, replacing stale CO2 with fresh, pure O2.

Increasing the building O2 content just slightly can have significant impacts on occupant health, attitude and productivity.

Green roofs for healthy buildings!

August 23, 2011 Green Roof Biodiversity, Rooftop Garden, Breaking Ground Contracting, Jacksonville - Kevin Songer - Picasa Web Albums

Green Roofs always offer different scenery in the afternoon light. As the day progresses and temperatures rise, the insects and pollinators begin to show up en masse! Though rooftop temperatures are hot, the plants reduce the urban heat island effect and create an oasis in the urban core.

Green Roof moth & Zinnia

Monday, August 22, 2011

Federal Building roof goes "green" - WDRB 41 Louisville - News, Weather, Sports Community

The federal government is one of the biggest enabler of non-native plants being brought in and installed in our cities. Why are the native plant groups so silent?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Green Roof Growth Comparisons, Six Months on a Florida Green Roof

When we created the Breaking Ground Green Roof our intent was to implement a nature irrigation based food and native plant roof providing economic benefits as well as environmental impact.

Today's post shows how much the roof has grown over the past five months.

April 2011, BGC Green Roof by MetroVerde
The roof system is designed to be hurricane resilient and convert atmospheric gas into usable forms of nutrients by the legumes and their associated nodule bacteria.

Air conditioning condensate is captured and distributed within the system.

We are still classified as an area under severe drought by USDA's Drought Monitor.

Today the Green Roof is a living example of just how much food, flowers and habitat a rooftop can produce.

August 2011 BGC Green Roof Jacksonville
Following basic permaculture principles with an emphasis on wind and light exposure forms the foundation for this projects growth.  Many of the plants are evergreen perennials and we expect the roof to continue preforming over the long term.  For more information on the project, visit the MetroVerde Website and then be sure to visit the Breaking Ground Green Roof project website here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Strengthening Biodiversity with Bees on the Rooftop and Green Roof!

Bee Home with Green Roof for the Green Roof!
Check out our bee hive for the Breaking Ground Green Roof, a hive that has a green roof all of her own!

We have so many bees on the roof everyday already and I am sure the scouts will quickly find the hive.

Bees have played such a large part of the success of our roofs.  Integrating rooftop bees into greenrooofs only makes sense!

We will keep the project updated on the Breaking Ground Green Roof website.

Hume: Architecture and the edible city -

All yards shold have fruits and vegetables planted therein and up the walls and on the roofs! Interesting note.

Cool short post on China and Green Roofs

From the China Daily - interesting note about Green Roofs!  Interest is spreading around the world.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rooftop Agriculture - the new frontier for Roofs & Green Roofs!

We are speaking for an audience in St, Johns County today about the virtues of rooftop permaculture.
Green Roof Agriculture - Cherry Tomatoes, MetroVerde

I believe rooftops are the new frontier for Florida agriculture and the agriculture of the world.  There are acres and acres of available growing spaces in the cities and Urban Core!  Of course we will be forced to learn maximization practices and understand new constraints never before encountered in agriculture but the rewards are enormous! High value crops such as organic herbs, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, greens, spinach, beans, corn and more can be easily grown of the green roof and without much soil.

We believe a large portion of the new Gross Domestic Product will be organic, local food in the future as transportation costs increase, fuel is scarcer and poisons applied more and more to GMO based crops.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Preservation Pub Cited For... Flowers? » Metro Pulse

I cannot believe the nerve the Historic Preservation people have to cite someone for flowers. Fire them all!

8 lush green rooftops from around the globe | MNN - Mother Nature Network

Beautiful photos of eight lush, green roofs from around the world!

Rooftop gardens prove more sustainable ways of “greening” campus | DU Today

Post makes a strong statement about the value of rooftop permaculture! Great article of why DU decided to plant food plants rather than just green roof landscape plants.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Watering the Roof | Garden Cincinnati!

Nice little post on a new Cincinnati Green Roof - I'm especially interested in the rooftop veggie garden!

Charleston storage building gets a new green roof - ABC News 4 | News, Sports, Weather for Charleston S.C.

Charleston storage building gets a new green roof - ABC News 4 | News, Sports, Weather for Charleston S.C.

Green Roof Designs are different than ground level landscapes. Green Roofer Responsibility.

A perpetual optimist, I always hope for the best from people, groups of people and collectively as companies and industries.  I hope most want to do the right thing when green roofing is in focus.

Rooftops are different than ground level landscapes, but check out the sprinklers going!

Maintaining positive industry reputation is critical to the developing green roof industry here in Florida.  Several bad jobs can label the product as 'defective' and quickly turn a positive business atmosphere and outlook into a negative one.

Those doing green roofs in Florida needs to ask for help from someone who understands the different issues facing rooftop plants here.  Florida roofs are different than the rest of the world.   Importantly, although many landscape companies exist across Florida, a ground level landscape is vastly different from a roof.  Consulting a landscape architect or green roof designer who understands green roof design and plants is crucial for the success of a Florida green roof.

Right now there is a relative large project here in Florida where a nationwide company installed a green roof in October of 2010.  The contractor used sedum, which should have never been recommended or used here in Florida and the plants promptly died.

In an attempt to remedy the job the contractor used a landscape company to install perennial peanut sod as a cost effective alternative.

In my opinion, this was an inexpensive remedy with a plant that is known to die back here with freezing temperatures.  Though green roof plants may be expected to die back up north with cold weather, here in Florida vegetated roofs should be green year around.

It appears that a large amount of fertilizer has now been added to the roof to encourage the plants to take hold and the gutter overflow is filled with algae, speaking of high phosphorous or nitrogen applications.

Right now the roof has five garden hoses slung up to the top from down below and for four hours each day or so, five whirly bird sprinklers are spinning around full blast watering the peanut sod in an attempt to moderate the 120+ F rooftop temperatures and two meter per second desiccating wind (the roof has no protective parapet).

Where the water hits the plants look green.  The other thirty percent of the roof is dead brown. The entire planting is hit or miss.

The sod that is green will continue to look good as long as irrigation water is applied, except where the soil media is being eroded away.

But this is not sustainable and this is not what the green roof industry needs in Florida.  We have a water crises here in Florida and applying large amounts of overhead irrigation to a green roof should not acceptable from an industry perspective.  Moreover, it is not good for the plants as it encourages fungal issues here in our long, hot and wet summers.

A rooftop is not a ground level landscape and must be designed with different restricting issues in mind.

I was always taught to be sure customers received the very best product once you agreed on a design, regardless.

Landscape companies and large roofing companies may have the capabilities to install plants on the roof, but if they do so they seek out qualified design help before experimenting real time.

The green roof industry as a whole deserves and should demand quality work from those participating in the genre.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Creating Raised Beds From Leaves

Permaculture Raised Bed Cross Section

Here is sandy Jacksonville raised beds are essential for a number of reasons.

First of all we are in hurricane territory.  When Tropical Storm Fay came through several years back we had over twenty inches of rainfall within twenty four hours, almost a continual inch per hour.  Water backed up and flooded our garage, rising to about an inch below the door threshold but covering the garden by several inches.

The only plants to really survive were those in the raised beds not covered by the flood waters.

But flooding is not the only reason to build raised beds, there are many more.  Raised beds are typically made with compost and leaves, or organic matter.  The organic material is important for several reasons.

First of all the leaves provide a source of micro nutrients such as boron (B) , iron (Fe), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn) and molybdenum (Mo).  Composted leaves and kitchen scraps can add the required macro nutrients, the three main being nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K).

Additional horse, cow, rabbit, chicken or other manure can be added for additional macro nutrients.

Chicken and turkey droppings should be allowed several months to cool because it is considered an 'hot' manure.  Some recommend allowing hen droppings to compost for a year before using.  If the chicken manure is mixed with leaves from the coop floor less composting time would be required.

Cow, horse, rabbit, duck and geese manure are considered more 'cool' manures and can be used without the long wait.  In fact, vegetables have long been planted directly in horse manure collected from the streets in nineteenth century France, giving rise to the practice known as French Intensive Gardening.

Yet beyond adding micro nutrients, macro nutrients, organic matter and flood protection, raised permaculture beds offer even more benefits.

Leaf compost allows for mositure retention.  Keeping the root area moist during hot dry periods is important.  Leaf compost prevents vegetable bed soil from drying out as quick as those beds without compost.  I've seen raised beds made of pure sand and manure turn into dried, cracked planting beds during long, hot summers.  Adding leaves cools the beds, provides shade and keeps the soil moisture intact longer.

And then there is nematode protection.  Nematodes devastate vegetables planted directly into our sandy soils by infecting the root area with their presence and damaging the plant's ability to transport water and nutrients up through the vascular system to the leaves.  A nematode infested vegetable plant will appear stunted and produce little if any vegetables.  Fortunately, nematodes do not like highly organic and composted soil.  Building raised beds with organic matter, compost and leaves will help in preventing nematode infestation.

There are many more reasons for building raised permaculture beds when operating an urban core farm.

Rest assured though that your raised beds will out produce non-raised beds every season.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Living Architecture, Critter Proof Coop for Pennies on the Dollar

One of the first tasks at hand we were faced with when starting an Urban Farm was the design and construction of a chicken coop.

With twelve newly hatched chicks growing rapidly each day we knew it would only be a matter of time before the puffy peeps would no longer comfortably fit in the large, blue tupperware storage bin.

I'd never built a coop before and honestly had no idea where to start.  The images we found on the internet were complicated looking, possibly requiring days of intricate cutting, nailing and screwing.

I'd just rather bang-bang get it done quickly.

But the coop had to look good and had to be functional.  Most of all the chicken pen had to be cheap.

Here is how we made our really cool, pimped out fowl parlor.

First we figured four square feet per bird, pretty much the standard for chickens as stated across the omniscient web.  Ten birds would be forty square feet - not a overly large area - but sufficient enough to let the chickens roam around in, chase bugs and roost at night.

Then we decided on the spur of the moment to quadruple the size to one hundred sixty square feet with no good reason except we wanted our hens to be happy hens.  Whether or not larger coops make happier hens remains to be seen.  But I am glad we have a large coop and the hens seem to enjoy chasing each other around the coop aggressively determined to rob whatever morsel of food one or another hen may be carrying in her beak.

Coop frames are the foundation on which the final coop appearance and function develops.  I like arches but don't want to have to bend pipe or purchase pre-bent pipe.  The coop walls also need to be critter proof.  below is a photo of a basic coop frame upon which living walls will be established.

Urban Farm Coop Frame
The frame is inexpensively constructed with grey electrical conduit (Outdoor plastic type) that easily bends to create the arches.  The ends of the conduit are zip-tied to either farm fence posts or chain link posts hammered into the ground.  Finally chicken wire or fencing is added to the frame to keep critters out and fowl in.

The frame can be covered with a variety of native materials, such as bamboo or saw palmetto fronds.  We also grow native flowering vines and food plants around the coop for shade, visual effect and feed for the hens.

One year later our coop begins to blend into the urban farm fruit vines.

Grapes covering the Coop walls
Cost-wise we have less than one hundred dollars into a very large, hen happy chicken coop with all the reuse of scrap materials we incorporated.

Coop Door View Living Architecture