Green Roofs The Dirt Page 2

Green Roofs The Dirt Page 2

How to Integrate Design

Living systems, including green infrastructure systems like green roofs, are infinitely complex. They mimic nature so will grow and thrive. Designing these systems, though, requires an integrated design process, said David Yocca, FASLA, Conservation Design Forum. at the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities conference in Philadelphia. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Landscape architects, architects, and green roof product manufacturers discussed the challenges in making an integrated design process work and actually translate into systems-based designs.

Integrated design breaks down silos between professions and brings multiple designers, expert consultants, contractors, and product manufacturers together to mesh design requirements together at the beginning of a project and then co-implement the project throughout the process. Integrated design processes enable systems thinking and create projects that hit multiple benefits at once. Think of Philadelphias many city agencies coming together to create the citys ground-breaking open space and green infrastructure strategy (see earlier post ) or a landscape architect and architect together designing a man-made wetland that harvests rainwater coming off a nearby building .

The Barriers to Integrated Design

Jose Alminana, FASLA, Andropogon. said there are two levels of barriers preventing more widespread use of integrated design processes: individual and external. At the individual or professional level, education is the obstacle. Designers and manufacturers have areas of expertise and some are narrowly focused. Others, like landscape architects, argued Alminana, have an integrative perspective and traits more apt to bringing together diverse experts to achieve sustainable designs. External factors include budget limitations or an unimaginative client.

Still, many forward-thinking landscape architects and architects who could be practicing this way but arent because thats doing something outside the norm. Delegated design is whats practiced today, not integrated design. However, we have a moral imperative to practice this. Steve Moddemeyer, Principal, Collins Woerman. agreed, arguing that we need to look across silos.

Making the Public Case

So how can landscape architects put integrated design into practice? Yocca thinks landscape architects must get at the people in power and the clients. We have to reach bankers and policymakers. Its about changing the views of those in leadership positions. Pointing to the benefits of getting the benefits of integrated design into the heads of policymakers, he said Philadelphias broad water-based approach to retrofitting infrastructure prevented lots of money being thrown at wasteful single-use solution.

How can designers make the public case for integrated design? Moddemeyer argued that Wall Street is excited by things that are not relevant to the rest of the world. We dont have a resilient economic system so look what happened. Its taking longer and longer to recover from recessions and the recoveries are increasingly jobless. This lack of resiliency is manifested at multiple scales. But, he believes, it doesnt have to be this way. Instead, there could be a more positive message about how cost-efficient and resilient infrastructure systems can be formed out of working and designing together in an integrated process, which could then form the basis for a more resilient economy and society.

Municipal by-laws are also holding up integrated design projects, said Ron Schwendinger, President, Architek. In many communities, rainwater harvesting, blackwater recycling, and other progressive practices are still banned, so their benefits, which are often drawn out only through systems-driven projects, are often lost. He added that his biggest obstacle integrating rainwater and building wastewater recycling systems into green roofs is the plumbing inspector, who doesnt understand it and so it not comfortable with it.

Does Integrated Design Cost More?

Schwendinger thinks that there is a general lack of understanding about integrated design projects: They cost less but the perception is that they are more expensive. The perception of cost is out of line with actual cost. However, Aliminana thinks that integrated design processes do actually cost more. Delegated design is about absolutely mimimal investment so being integrative does cost more.

Alminana added that the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES). LEED, and other rating systems, which are basically crutches, can help though, because they expose the true costs of doing things improperly, but also the costs and benefits of doing things well. These systems force designers to measure performance and value benefits. SITES, in particular, lends itself to integrated design approaches and outlining the many benefits that can then be quantified, offsetting any higher costs.

There are other aspects of integrated design with cost implications: An audience member from William McDonough + Partners remarked that the ever-increasing specialization of consultants made integrated design expensive. With 20 consultants on a project, a client may not understand why so many need to be involved to make a systems-based project work. Another from KieranTimberlake added that consultants have to be pushed a lot. There has to be someone there to make them accountable.

Yocca also added that theres the time value of money. Some clients dont want to start the meter until they are almost at the construction phase, which shows how little the design process up front is valued. To remedy this kind of problem, Shwendinger called for flattening the process from the get-go, and bringing in the client so they can see all the players as an integral part of the process.

How the Process Works in Real Projects

Paul Kephart, President, Rana Creek. described a $3.1 billion hospital project he worked on for Southern Health, a healthcare provider. The client used Toyota management methods. It was completely flat, integrated process, which meant we all had to be at the table. Sometimes this was a great opportunity. Other times, it was pretty dull.

The client was informed by a core committee that involved the client. The owner was there at every decision tree. In addition, all the design professionals, consultants, and contractors pooled their risks so if there were cost over-runs, that would eat into their share of the profits. For a project of that size, a 10 percent creep can be a lot of money so contractors had to work with each other from the beginning. There were lots of what if, then conversations. Kephart also discussed how co-locating contractors on site can yield efficiencies, even though thats not always possible.

Alminana used an integrated design process to create the sustainable landscape at the Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh. He said a very enlightened client, who believes green building is cheaper over the long-term, was critical to making that work. Using passive-solar building strategies, the client was looking at the 100 horizon for the landscape as well. There was a significant investment in systems, integrative thinking. As a result, the systems in the site cant be pulled apart.

On another project with KieranTimberlake for Sidwell Friends. a private school in Washington, D.C. integrated design processes helped unearth the true costs and benefits of using a green roof, in discussions at the beginning of the project. The client really wondered whether the green roof was the cheapest solution, said Alminana. So his firm went through the calculations with the integrated design team and found that a green roof proved to be the most cost-effective way to manage the water that fell on the roof (as opposed to additional underground basins) and channel runoff to the landscape below. However, he said in another project that a 2-acre green roof was just too costly so instead they used a white roof to reduce the local urban heat island effect and a rooftop catchment system to collect rainwater to irrigate the site.

Integrated Design and Hard-to-Quantify Benefits

What is the economic value of habitat connectivity? Designing green roofs as a by-way for migratory birds runs counter to a cost-driven approach, said Kephart. These ecosystem service values, however, were important to him and his design team so habitat elements were added into one project at low cost. He added that we wont value these things until we dont have them anymore. Perhaps integrated design approaches can help here though: LEED is now adding in points for buildings that prevent bird collisions. SITES also provides lots of credits for restoring native plants and creating wildlife habitat.

On another project, Kephart put green roofs on 10 buildings near intact butterfly habitat. We added butterfly host plants on the green roofs. Now, they are being used by endangered species. He said E.P.A. mandates on habitat restoration can enable push designers to simulate habitat on green roofs.

Yocca saw another potential benefit of bringing biodiveristy in through integrated design processes: local eco-tourism. Instead of traveling far away to see natural beauty, there could be biodiversity, eco-tourism in cities. Moddemeyer pointed to examples of this in Stockholm that are place for people, nature, or both. The areas of overlap are exciting.

Another fantastic idea: Turn big-box store roofs into widlife habitats. This could help some companies with marketing. We just need successful demonstrations. Many agreed, arguing that Target could change their prototype A,B,C,D buildings, and instead of using throw-away architecture, could actually use their massive roofscapes to provide real spaces for nature.

Image credit: Sidwell Friends School Wetland / Andropogon Associates

Interview with Bjarke Ingels

Bjarke Ingels is founding partner of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). Ingels, who rated as one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company, is also a visiting professor at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Youve been calling for a new approach, hedonistic sustainability, which is sustainability that improves the quality of life and human enjoyment. What are some examples of this?  Why is it important for sustainability to enhance pleasure?

We shouldnt forget what we are here to do in the first place as architects and landscape architects. Its to improve the quality of life for everyone and not at the expense of the quality of life for other people or other life forms, for that matter. The whole discussion about sustainability isnt popular because its always presented as a downgrade. The position has been theres a limit to how good a time we can have. We have to downgrade our current lifestyle to achieve something that is sustainable. That makes it essentially undesirable. People can be to the left and maybe shop a little bit green, but theyre not going to drop their car if they have to pick up their kids from football and go to the movies. It becomes an impossible mission.

However, theres nothing in our lifestyle that necessarily requires CO2 emissions. Its just an unforeseen side effect of all of the increases in quality of life that we have been able to deliver through modernization and industrialization. As we get smarter and more aware of these side effects, we can factor them in and start delivering urban mobility without emissions by switching to fuel cells or batteries.

My two favorite examples from Copenhagen: 37 percent of the Copenhageners today commute by bicycle so they are never stuck in a traffic jam. You know how unenjoyable it is to sit stuck in traffic, especially if you do it every day. So 37 percent of the Copenhageners never experience that because they have the convenience of going from A to B on a bicycle. Also, our port has become so clean you can swim in it. You dont have to commute to the Hamptons to have clean water. You can actually jump in the port downtown. So these are basic examples where sustainability actually starts becoming an upgrade rather than a downgrade.

In your large-scale master plan and park projects, you often feature landscape loops. For example, in your Stockholmsporten project, a continuous bike and pedestrian path reconnects different areas in an un-hierarchical and democratic way. In Clover Block. theres a perimeter loop surrounding a massive lawn.  In another project still in the idea phase, you propose a loop city in the Copenhagen suburbs. Whats the attraction to these loop forms? How well do they work?

They have to do with connectivity. You can see it in the loop city idea. The old paradigm for Copenhagen a city was the five finger plan, where from the central orientation of downtown Copenhagen you have these corridors of urban tissue that extend, leaving gaps between the fingers of green and agriculture. But, of course, this is a hierarchical and central model where the further you get out in the finger, the further you are away from the concentration of connectivity and activity. Given a lot of the Copenhageners live out in the fingers, and a lot people actually work in this finger and live in this finger and play football in this finger, another kind of connectivity starts becoming interesting. Since Copenhagen is actually the other side of the Oresund by Malmö and Lund and Elsinore, you have a whole suburbia over there. Historically, because its on the Swedish side (ten years ago, we didnt have the bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö), theres never been any kind of central planning authority considering these Swedish/Copenhagen suburbs as part of the metropolitan area of Copenhagen because theyre in another country. Theyre eight hours away from Stockholm but only 30 minutes away from Copenhagen.

So what we are proposing with the loop city is to create a bi-national continuous urban tissue where people are no longer condemned to live in the outskirts and commuting into downtown Copenhagen and back out again. There will be a continuous ability to interact between these kind of urban areas that now house the majority of the population of the area. You have 500,000 people living in Copenhagen inner city and you have three and a half million people in the region.

You are well-known for integrating building and landscape in your large-scale residential projects.  In The Mountain. terraced apartments are arranged so each gets sunlight and has its own individual garden. Other projects, including you upcoming West 57th Street residential complex in New York City, Vilhelmsro School, and the 8HOUSE project in Copenhagen beautifully combine building and landscape in the form of green roofs. What comes first: the building or landscape? How do they mesh? How do you deal with the different disciplines within your firm? Is it architecture versus landscape architecture?

As you mentioned, it is often hard to distinguish where one discipline begins and another one ends. Weve had lots of collaborations with landscape architects. Weve been working a lot with Topotek1 and Man Made Land and recently Martha Schwartz and !Melk. Its an interplay. In the case of the 8HOUSE. we wanted to include the typology of the townhouse with the small garden and all of the social interaction that happens when people have a little piece of their private life happening in the semi-open, like the porch in an American suburban setting. Sitting out on the porch, you can holler at the neighbors and see whos home and whos not. Youre at home and sort of semi-private but people can actually access you and theres the possibility of spontaneous interaction. We simply tried to introduce that social typology found in a dense urban block by simply allowing it to invade the three-dimensional space of the open block. To really make it townhouses with gardens, we wanted to make sure that there were trees and plants. To recreate the social possibilities, we had to include the element of landscape.

In the West 57th project, the entire architecture is created as the framework for the courtyard. Somebody called it a Bonsai Central Park. Its probably 1/500 the size of Central Park but by insisting on creating an urban oasis for the residents, the whole volume of the block, the whole architecture was dramatically reconfigured and we can no longer rely on the traditional boxy typology. We created this highly asymmetrical roofscape that allows in daylight and creates views into a sort of oasis. It was really the Central Park of the Copenhagen courtyard. We arrived at a completely different architecture because of Central Park.

Your upcoming project in Umeå, Sweden, the Umedalen Sculpture Park. seems to take these ideas even further, fully integrating the building into the landscape and using the landscape to guide the shape of the buildings. What were the challenges with this approach? When does this approach work or not?

In this case, the brief was that there was an existing man-made valley. It was an excavation site where they had dug out the sand for the construction nearby. They were just trying to fit in a hockey rink and they didnt want some big, fat hockey rink that would ruin the whole neighborhood. It essentially became a vanishing act trying to put in a really big sports hall without dominating the area. We also tapped into the tradition of the place, where they have made summer spectacles in the ditch because it is almost like a little mini amphitheater. In that case, it was about recognizing and emphasizing the existing activities of this mini valley and just adding a cover to give it an indoor and all-year component. In many ways, I think it has to do with discovering, reinterpreting, and reemphasizing the qualities, attributes, and potential already there and just taking them one step further.

In Copenhagen, you are designing a smart example of multi-use infrastructure, a 100-meter tall waste-to-energy plant that will double as a ski slope and civic center. What did Copenhagen figure out that other cities havent? Why arent more cities designing and building imaginative public works projects that solve multiple problems at once? Lastly, what advice do you have for other designers who are trying to get these types of innovative solutions through bureaucracies?

I am seeing tendencies. We are quite interested in this new genre of projects that we call social infrastructure. A major part of any citys annual construction budget goes into improving highly utilitarian structures that are purely in the domain of civil engineering. The holistic, integral thinking that architecture and landscape architecture can contribute, where its not technology-driven but actually human-centered, can be transformative. Instead of getting your nasty highway overpasses that create shaded areas for dodgy activities, you start incorporating social attributes and making sure that when a necessary piece of infrastructure like a train connection, a bus line, a roadway, a power cable, is carried through that its done in such a way that it actually increases connectivity and creates new activities, so that the sheltered spaces become sort of sports facilities or market halls.

There are tons of examples where decommissioned infrastructure turns into new programs. In Paris, Berlin, or London, you have galleries and marketplaces occupying the archways under the train lines. You have the High Line in New York. You have tons of examples where, after the fact, we can re-imagine the infrastructure. But what if we, from day one, can actually turn the power plant into a public park?

The power plant has a budget of $700 million USD so the configuration of the roofscape is nothing compared to the overall budget. As a result, people dont feel that were dumping a big boxy factory that blocks their views and casts shadows into their neighborhood. They feel that were actually creating a public amenity. Normally we would get not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) letters and complaints about the project. Now, were actually getting letters from people asking when its going to open. So its also a way of integrating the necessary infrastructure into our urban fabric rather than sort of putting it in some kind of industrial wasteland in the periphery of our city.

I saw you discussing your buildings in the context of parkour in the film My Playground. Do you think through how your buildings and spaces could be reappropriated?  What are the most unexpected uses of your buildings, uses you didnt imagine? 

We do try to wedge in as much potential and possibility into our work. The driving force of our design is to saturate it with possibility. We like the whole notion of parkour. What architects do is put potential out there and what parkour people do is to expand the preconceived or pre-planned possible use and take it one step further, essentially to expand the human realm of the city. That said, take a project like the 8HOUSE. where we made this mountain path that allows people to walk and bicycle all the way to the tenth floor for the residents. Sociological studies from the 70s indicate that children living higher than the third floor rarely come down and play because of the disconnect whereas, here, if you were living on the tenth floor, you could actually just walk four houses down and play with your neighbor to create this spontaneous social interaction. Thats also why the 8HOUSE is actually a loop. Everybodys connected to everybody.

Because Copenhagen is completely flat, there is no landscape, there is no vista where you can go and enjoy the view and hold your girlfriends hand, blah, blah, and enjoy the beautiful scene except now, at 8HOUSE. there actually is. So what we didnt imagine is people from around Copenhagen actually go to 8HOUSE on weekends for a walk because this is the only place you can actually enjoy the view of the city and get this sort of three-dimensional experience that you get in a lot of other cities naturally. That means the café in the southwest corner of the 8HOUSE where the two roofscapes dive down has actually become a busier business than originally anticipated.

You told Metropolis magazine that one of your goals is to put architecture on the public school curriculum, given nobody has thought of giving students a basic understanding of how our cities have evolved. What about the other disciplines and forces shaping cities: landscape architecture, urban planning, climate, and ecological sciences? How must they be taught in schools?

I see them all as part of the same curriculum in that sense. Holistic design awareness. Weve actually had a little revolution or evolution in Denmark. We recently had elections and we got a very photogenic female left-wing prime minister and we have an incredible cultural minister. Five or six years ago, I was on the cultural ministrys educational council. Architecture, art, design, and planning are all under the cultural ministry rather than the ministry of education. My first proposal to the cultural minister was to give them back to education so that the whole range of architecture, including landscape architecture, is seen as an investment in the future rather than a form of high-brow entertainment. This can really ensure these subjects are seen with the seriousness of education, instead of just as a luxury, like culture is sometimes peceived. Now theyre actually proposing to do it and its causing a lot of debate in Denmark. I really believe its the right thing to do. I wouldnt be surprised if architecture and design is not part of the public curriculum in Denmark in the next five years.

Interview conducted by Jared Green.

Image credits: (1) Loop City. BIG / Glessner, (2) 8HOUSE Garden. Dwell Magazine, (3) W57. BIG / Glessner, (4) Amagerforbranding. BIG / Glessner, (5) 8HOUSE. Dragor Luftfoto

Three Years Later: California Academy of Sciences Living Roof Also Educates the Design Community

Three years ago the California Academy of Sciences museum re-opened in San Francisco. The original projections of annual visitors were for 1.6 million, a head count that has been far exceeded in the past three years. Some of the building’s popularity is undoubtedly due to its iconic 2.5 acre-“living roof ”, celebrated in the early reviews for its innovative energy saving properties. The roof was, however, criticized for the high price tag it came with, and the unknown cost of its future maintenance. The technology used in this design is a part of the museum’s educational curriculum and it’s been the model for other green roofs since its completion. If green roofs are going to be a viable part of the infrastructure systems of our cities in the future, we need to openly evaluate what is working and what isn’t.

The California Academy roof contains enough solar panels to prevent the release of 405,000 pounds of greenhouse gases per year. The large glass canopy that surrounds the living roof contains 60,000 photovoltaic cells. The arrangement of the panels on the canopy shades pedestrians below and generates some 213,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year.

In addition to energy savings, the roof helps cool the interiors beneath it. Those eye-catching mounts send cool air down into the open-air plaza while warm air from inside the building vents through the skylights. Sensors in the skylights gauge the interior temperatures and automatically open at a given threshold. The roof keeps the interior temperature an average of 10 degrees cooler than a standard roof would.

The 106,500 square foot green roof absorbs 3.5 million gallons of rainwater each year, a stormwater runoff reduction of 93%.

But does it mitigate the urban “heat island,” as green roof proponents promise? While studies show that expansive use of green roofs in a city can help cool air, this particular roof is in the middle of Golden Gate Park and not in an urban area where green roofs offer the most potential for heat island mitigation. Anecdotally, the fact that this living roof is irrigated year-round does contribute to lowering temperatures, both inside and around the building. And since the new building’s footprint is 1.5 acres less than the original building was, the acres returned to the site as green space help cool the area.

Even with all the advantages of the living roof, there are a few controversial items related to the project that are still subject to debate. While year-round watering contributes to cooling the building and its surroundings, the original intent was less resource intensive. Significant effort and testing went into creating a native California landscape on the roof, using plants that are indigenous to the area and that would survive its particular micro-climate. The design proposed that the plants would go dormant during the warmest months. But as long as the allure of the green roof is in its greenness it will be difficult to pull the plug on irrigation and the Academy misses the opportunity to educate the public that the green roof’s native plants have a dormant season.

Something for the Academy to consider: integrate semi-native, adaptive species that are evergreen and / or flower during the time when the native grasses go dormant. It goes against the all native approach, but perhaps this is true aesthetic of sustainability.

Also under debate is how the roof will hold up over time. Most buildings require periodic weathering and re-waterproofing. And since this is such an innovative project, it’s hard to predict the procedures that will be needed in 40 or 60 years to update and maintain the roof and building itself.

Dubbed a “high maintenance superstar” by Landscape Architecture Magazine. the living roof at the Academy of Sciences cost almost twice as much as a traditional green roof does. Typically, such roofs cost $15 $20 per square foot versus the $28 $35 per square foot for this living roof. With the unknown maintenance and upkeep costs in the future, the roof could continue to be expensive.

My suspicion is that much of the Academy’s green roof maintenance budget is spent pulling weeds and replacing plants. Perhaps the Academy could structure a funding program aligned with local universities (e.g. the funding grants come through the universities) offering students a chance to learn about green roof technology via a set of stewardship initiatives that could, among many things, include pulling invasive plants. This approach could free the Academy of out-of-pocket expenses and further its commitment to education.

Even with these drawbacks, the roof effectively teaches millions of people, communicating that design and sustainability matter. Its form and construction have inspired dozens of new green designs. These positive outcomes cannot be quantified by the price per square foot method. After all, the roofs role in promoting public awareness of living roofs was part of the reason the California Academy of Sciences project was awarded LEED Platinum certification.

Gerdo Aquino, ASLA, is president of SWA. an adjunct associate professor of the Master of Landscape Architecture program at the University of Southern California and the co-author of Landscape Infrastructure  (Birkhauser 2011). John Loomis, ASLA, SWA’s Sausalito office, was the landscape architect for the new California Academy of Sciences building.

Image credits: ASLA 2009 Professional General Design Honor Award. California Academy of Sciences. SWA Group / Tom Fox

Becoming Greenest: Recommendations for a More Sustainable Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. leadership has requested input from a range of organizations as it develops a new “unified vision” and “comprehensive framework” for a more sustainable Washington, D.C. The end goal: to connect sustainability with economic development and become the number-one, most sustainable city in North America. Washington, D.C. is currently ranked eighth in a recent Economist Intelligence Unit report sponsored by Siemens.

As part of this process, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) polled members from its Potomac, Northern Virginia, and Southern Maryland chapters and incorporated their input into a set of bold recommendations in the priority areas identified by the city government. Because the categories of recommendations will be evaluated by different D.C. agencies, recommendations are repeated when appropriate and relevant. Among them:

Energy. Reuse brownfields as solar energy farms. Through revised building codes and local tax incentives, expand use of smart tree placement and green roofs and walls. Reduce building energy use through green infrastructure. Incentivize the use of rooftop solar panels. Read research and recommendations

Climate Change / Mitigation. Reduce total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by expanding urban park land, further improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure, incentivizing the growth in the number of bicycle and pedestrian commuters, creating highly walkable pedestrian-only areas, and introducing new innovative forms of public space such as parklets and underpass parks. Read research and recommendations

Climate Change / Adaptation. Increase coverage of street trees for shade and expand use of green and cool (white) roofs in order to adapt to higher average temperatures along with more varied temperature fluctuations within the District. Improve building and landscape water efficiency measures. Develop resiliency plans for Washington, D.C.’s plant and animal life within parks and green spaces, including the introduction of wildlife migration corridors and heat and drought-tolerant plants. Read research and recommendations

Water. Develop a comprehensive green infrastructure plan that leverages existing grey infrastructure. Use Sustainable Site Initiative™ (SITES™) guidelines to improve water efficiency measures, require the use of appropriate plant species in public and residential landscapes, and enable rainwater capture and filtered or treated greywater (and even blackwater) reuse for landscape irrigation. For stormwater management, require the use of green roofs for new buildings exceeding a minimum size. In addition, approve the use of rainwater cisterns for irrigation of green roofs and other green infrastructure. Improve the permeability of the District’s park surfaces and their ability to capture and store water. Create multi-use infrastructure, or rain gardens or bio-retention systems in District parks, turning them into green infrastructure and water treatment systems. Increase the use of bioswales near transportation systems, and add in permanent green street corridors and green alleys. Continue to expand urban tree canopy and preserve larger trees to manage stormwater runoff. Spread use of tree boxes and permeable pavements for stormwater capture. As part of a public education campaign, parks and public green space should follow the highest water efficiency standards. Read research and recommendations

Transportation. Expand bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Create safe bicycle infrastructure. Connect the Metro system with bike infrastructure and bikeshare stations. Require secure bike parking within office and residential buildings. Incentivize the growth in the number of bicycle and pedestrian commuters. Create highly walkable pedestrian-only areas, and introduce new innovative forms of public space such as parklets and underpass parks. Read research and recommendations

Waste. Set clear, ambitious targets and deadlines for achieving zero waste in the District and measure progress against targets. Ensure all building materials are reused in new buildings (if the materials are non-hazardous). Use Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) guidelines for park maintenance and eliminate grounds waste generated from Washington, D.C. parks through composting. Read research and recommendations

Built Environment. Invest in turning more brownfields into parks. Apply bio-remediation and other safe environmental remediation technologies during park development. Develop an Internet-accessible inventory of all brownfields in the city to enable easier remediation and redevelopment of derelict sites by local developers. Create a certification program for remediated brownfields to facilitate faster reuse. Invest in retrofitting older school buildings to make them LEED Platinum and also integrate green school redesign activities into school curricula. Ensure all schools apply Safe Routes to Schools design guidelines. Read research and recommendations

Nature. Develop a biodiversity and environmental education action plan based on the concept of biophilia. Recreate wetlands along riverfront edges and reintroduce native wildlife. Reduce the mortality rate of trees and extend their lifespan by enabling them to grow in larger tree pits with structural soils and under permeable pavements. Use appropriate trees grown locally for urban forestry campaigns. Experiment with growing trees in park nurseries. Read research and recommendations

Food. Develop a comprehensive urban agriculture plan. Evaluate all available empty lots (including brownfield sites) as potential opportunities for commercial and community urban agriculture. Develop new codes enabling local food production. As a priority, target food desert communities with high numbers of brownfields. Allow local residential food production. Develop new soil testing and clean-up requirements for growing food in former brownfield sites. Allow and also increase tax incentives for rooftop food production. Read research and recommendations

Green Economy. Invest in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvement projects to boost job growth. Use green infrastructure systems, including green roofs, to increase number of local, non-exportable green jobs. Launch a comprehensive green jobs program, training chronically unemployed and former convicts in brownfield remediation, green roof installation, and other tasks. Launch a national campaign in an effort to lure the best green talent to the District. Read research and recommendations

Governance. Organize watershed councils at the local level and appoint ward-level sustainability advocates to help implement and align SustainableDC initiatives. Use Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) guidelines as a management tool for achieving high-performing landscapes across the district. Read research and recommendations

Also, be sure to add your comments below on how D.C. can become greenest.

Image credit: ASLA 2011 Professional Design Honor Award. Monumental Core Framework Plan, Washington, D.C. AECOM, the National Capital Planning Commission, and the U. S. Commission of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.

Torontos Cutting-Edge Approach to Green Roofs

New data collected by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities says Torontos cutting-edge green roof by-law. which came into effect in January 2010, has resulted in 1.2 million square feet of new green space across commercial, institutional, and residential developments. Torontos by-law requires green roofs for all new developments with gross floor area over 2,000 square meters.  According to the city, the green roof requirement is graduated, ranging from 20-60 percent of available roof space, so as buildings move up in size, the percentage area of green roof that needs to be installed also increases. If building owners cant or wont add green roofs, they can provide a cash payment instead, which gets funneled into other green roof programs in the city. In April 2012, the same regulations will apply to industrial buildings.

Toronto provided Green Roofs for Healthy Cities with data on the impact of the by-law: More than 125 full time jobs were created, 435,000 cubic feet of stormwater was captured, 1.5 million KWH of energy were saved, and there was a tangible reduction in the local urban heat island effect. Other pluses: the green roofs may be improving air quality, creating wildlife habitat, and offering new rooftop recreational and food production opportunities. In addition, the organization says the new green roofs may help lengthen the lifetimes of the roofs, saving building owners money and reducing landwill waste over the long-term.

Steven W. Peck, Hon. ASLA, Founder and President, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, pointed to models run by the Canadian government, outlining the benefits if the green roof roll-out scales up: “Environment Canada modeling has demonstrated that an area covered by 10 million square feet of green roofs, the size of 10 Queens Parks, would reduce temperatures in that area by 1 to 2 degrees centigrade and will help save tens of millions in energy costs by reducing the peak load demand. Environment Canada scientists have estimated that the energy savings on heating and cooling generated by 10 million square feet of green roofs in Toronto are over 15 million KWH, the equivalent of running 29,593 60 Watt light bulbs year-round. Stormwater run-off reductions also increase to well over 3.6 million cubic feet annually.”

According to their data, Toronto was just behind Chicago in terms of the total square feet of green roof added in 2010. Chicago uses a set of incentives and expedited permitting processes to promote green roof installation but unlike Toronto, has no green roof requirement.

On top of the progressive rule-making, Toronto, like Chicago, has been smart about making its green roofs public. Last year, the city added a novel green roof park to its City Hall  (see image at top). The project, which was designed by local firm PLANT architects. in effect extends ground-level park land and a broader urban revitalization effort through to one of the citys most symbolic public spaces.

Image credit: (1) Toronto City Hall Green Roof / PLANT Architects, (2) Green roof data, 2010 / Green Roofs for Healthy Cities


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