Since we’ve constructed a green roof on part of our office building in late 2006, we have learned several things that we want to share:
When you think of infrastructure, you usually think of things like roads, sewer systems, water supply, power grids, etc… It is the basic physical structures needed for a community to enable, sustain, or enhance a certain standard of living for its residents. It enables the buying and selling of goods and services at a more efficient level. Could you imagine your workplace without internet, electricity, or even roads connecting you to your clients?
Wetlands and riparian buffers are green infrastructure.
But what does it mean when “green” is placed in front of the word infrastructure? Green Infrastructure is a concept that can, and should, be applied to all different scales of planning and design. Basically, it includes everything from strategically planned and managed networks of natural lands, to working landscapes, to recreational landscapes, and other open spaces that conserve ecosystem values and functions. In other words, greenways, parks, riparian buffers, wetlands, floodplains, rivers, and even stormwater Best Management Practices such as rain gardens, porous pavements, green roofs, and trees are all part of Green Infrastructure. It recognizes the importance of natural systems and processes within our communities.
Green roofs and rain gardens are green infrastructure.
Why has Green Infrastructure become so important in the last 10 or 20 years? Well, because it is beneficial for the environment, human health, the economy, and our society as a whole. Working with and using natural processes ensures that we’ll have resources for future generations. Stormwater BMPs reduce flooding, pollution, and the strain on our storm sewers. Street trees beautify our neighborhoods, increase property values, reduce the urban heat island, and absorb air pollution and stormwater. Greenways help protect steep hillsides from being developed and eroded, protect wildlife habitat, and offer recreational opportunities. Constructed wetlands not only provide wildlife habitat but filter pollution and even human waste.
So the next time you step outside, try to identify what types of green infrastructure are present and how they help to make your community a better place.
In 2006, Pashek Associates decided to experiment with designing and building a green roof on our 1890’s office building located at 619 East Ohio Street on the Northside. We wanted to see what we could do with a little money, a little time, and a little physical labor. After discussing different options, we decided on a simple extensive tray system, mostly because the manufacturer was using them on a larger project in the city and agreed to put an extra one hundred trays on the truck and deliver them at a discounted price.
One cold December morning, we put on our working gloves and carried the 50-pound trays filled with special growing medium into place, assembly line style. Each 2’x2’ aluminum tray was set down on five small rubber pads to allow excess roof runoff to flow under the trays and into the existing roof drain. No other material was applied directly to the roof. It was as simple as that!
Then, on a warm spring day, the whole office pulled our gloves back on and planted the trays with several varieties of sedum. We used small plugs and get them a good soak using water from a rain barrel attached to our third floor roof. We did install a drip irrigation system for the first growing season. We have removed the system and haven’t needed to water the plants since.
A couple years later, we thought we had a roof leak. A roofing contractor moved the trays around the roof in order to find the leak. He was surprised to find that there was almost no degradation of the roof membrane as a result of the green roof trays. Ultimately, instead of finding a leak in the roof, the contractor found a leak in a brick wall. That’s when we knew that our green roof was really doing it’s job!