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Cities use green roofs as elegant solutions

A remarkable thing about green roofs and green infrastructure is we are learning to construct buildings and environments that support nature and natural systems. Where rain falls, where it flows, where birds and insects and even small species go about their business (squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, geckos, etc.) are supported by carefully selected plants and growing media that are installed on top of structures that otherwise serve human functions.

I had the opportunity to survey several people who are building some showcase vegetated roofs for Green Building & Design magazine for a single article published in 2013. They include Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (incentivizing building owners to install green roofs); landscape architect David Yocca (who created the Living Architecture Performance Tool); Gaelle Berges (Le Prieuré/Vegetal pre-planted interlocking trays for roofs and walls); Paul Kephart (Rana Creek’s design for the Transbay Center in San Francisco); Nate Griswold and Dennis Yanez (American Hydrotech, a leading waterproofing and roofing products company); and entrepreneurial urban farmers John Stoddard and Courtney Hennessey (a large-scale rooftop farm on the Boston Design Center).

This story touches on the many ways in which vegetation is helping us manage the modern problems of civilization: stormwater mitigation, habitat preservation, heat island elimination and energy use reduction. Healthcare designers are also using green roofs to provide patients with verdant vistas, as incentivized by the LEED for Healthcare certification. Speaking as someone who has worked and lived in high rises, allow me to add this much: grasses, sedum, bushes and trees are a heckuva lot nicer to look at than gravel and building mechanicals.

Russ Klettke is passionate about sustainable design in all forms, including where digits meet widgets to reduce the impact of industry on the natural environment. He also writes on a broad variety of topics (law, finance, fitness, health, consumer products, business processes, professional services, etc.). Contact him to discuss your communications needs.

Rendering: This is the San Francisco Transbay Transit Center, slated for completion in 2017. Its four levels of concourse space will be the hub of 11 different transportation lines carrying 20 million passengers per year; it's being called the Grand Central Station of the West. To thousands of people working in the vicinity of this downtown colossus, what will be largely evident from above is a 5.4 acre rooftop park with 50+ tall redwood trees, willows, alders and wetland plants that recycle greywater. Building heating and cooling costs are reduced due to the insulation effect of dirt and vegetation.

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Russ Klettke

Business Writer

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