Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Living with an Aortic Dissection & Marfan Syndrome

Living with a dissected aorta, Kevin Songer & granddaughter Cali
I experienced a 'root to foot' aortic dissection on November 30th, 2011.

Though I received a St. Jude's Aortic Valve and Dacron aorta, my descending aorta is still dissected from the graft down to my feet.

Its been just over one year now and I am still alive.  Challenges arise everyday though.

One of my most significant areas of frustration has been the lack of available information concerning  the dissection, my medications, available treatments, steps I can take to improve the condition, 'mysterious pains', 'what-if's' and so much more.

Granted, the National Marfan Foundation (NMF) is a great place to start yet my particular significant issue is the dissection.  NMF provides a good deal of information regarding aortic dissections but does not address many questions I have had over the past thirteen months.

Living in Florida, I've joined the Florida Marfan Support Network on Facebook, and subsequently been blessed with meeting many others encountering similar issues there.

Moreover,I've even began my own Facebook Marfan page!

And I've been wanting to start a weekly Aortic Dissection blog, so getting a jump start on the New Year's resolutions, here goes.  Look for my thoughts of living with a metal valve, Dacron aorta, Marfan and most importantly a dissected descending aorta that could aneuryize any day.

With a wonderful wife, grown children, two teens and grandchildren I want to stay alive as long as possible.

Whether you are experiencing an aortic dissection for the first time or a veteran of the disease, your thoughts and comments are also welcome.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Florida Living Walls for the Urban Core - Stormwater, Ethnobotany, Habitat & Heat Island Cooling

Florida Living Wall using Native Plants
Living walls are a popular method of adding vertical green to the Urban Core.  Living walls contribute important environmental benefits to the city.  Habitat is created, stormwater attenuated and purified, heat island effect calmed, air cleaned and oxygen produced.  There are numerous reasons to install a living wall anywhere downtown.
Florida Native Plant, Horsetail, Equisetum hyemale

Unfortunately though, when considering living walls many people think only in terms of very expensive vertical planting systems and trays.

There are many ways to create an Urban Core Living Wall.

One of the most simplest living walls here in Florida is the type where vines, such as Virginia Creeper, Coral Honeysuckle or Carolina Jessamine grow vertically across walls.

Rows of trees are an alternative example of living walls.

Even tall plants, such as those pictured above, can create stunning living walls.  The Florida native plant, Horsetail, Equisetum hyemale is used here to create a living wall against a concrete block wall.  The plants are thriving in heavily urbanized, high pH construction soils, surrounded with concrete foundations and concrete driveways.

I like using horsetail because the plant is evergreen, has a low leaf-litter habit, adds structural interest, grows well in low organic substrates and provides immense habitat.  Additionally, Horsetail acts like a living grate, filtering out most all trash from stormwater runoff.

Combined with vines planted in a living roof container and draping over a roof's edge, an entire facade can be covered with plants without having to install expensive and hard to maintain planting systems.

Finally, installing vertical green in the Urban Core has many benefits, a few being;

  • cleaning and attenuating stormwater
  • providing wildlife habitat
  • cleaning air, removal of CO2
  • fresh oxygen production
  • heat island effect mitigation
  • landscape beauty & plant art
  • noise insulation
  • integrated pest management
and so much more.  Think creativity when exploring living wall options.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vegetated Green Roof Mats for Metal & Standing Seam Roofs

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

Because 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 but can also be cantilevered over the peak of a sloped roof depending upon the architect's or engineer's design requirements.

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.

With advances in sealant and adhesive technologies sloped green roof systems and vertical living wall systems can be installed across the Urban Core.

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.

Remember, I prefer to use Florida native plants and wildflowers because of their habitat and pollination value and some Sedum to become susceptible to unavoidable fungi attacks here in the Southeast US.

Food is another great option for sloped metal roofs!  

Regardless though, the important point is that of bringing green back to the Urban Core.  If you have a standing seam metal roof, don't let that stop you from adding plants!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Low Cost Housing - Sustainability, Scalability and Integration of Food Walls and Vegetated Roofs

I keep coming back to my favorite design for greenhouses where integration of food, stormwater and recycled materials creates a home for our plant starts worthy of living in.

Integration of Food Plants into Shelter
With my dissected aorta I am not supposed to lift anything weighing over two pounds at risk of a catastrophic aneurysm.  So this project MUST be easy.  Preferably one where I can tell my easily distracted teens what to do!

Photos are being taken as the structure goes up and they will be posted in a couple weeks as the roof & siding is added.

The design is based on the theory of integrating food, economy, shelter and community into an inexpensive to build housing unit.

Food is the largest source of commerce in the world.  Growing food for use and resale in and on the home is smart business creating opportunity for cash, family enterprise, community bonding, security and health.

Check out the ideas here on the project link and also Dr. Owen Geiger's blog here. check back often for updates on our progress!