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How Initial Green Roof Design Impacts Stewardship

Posted by Ecogardens

 

While good stewardship helps keep a green roof sound throughout the decades of its life, you’re fighting a losing battle without good design.

On the surface, green roof design and stewardship might seem like two wholly different aspects of the green roofing process.

Design and installation are completely done by the time stewardship takes over, after all. They exist in two distinctly separate phases, leading some to believe that the one doesn’t impact the other. Design is one-and-done. Stewardship comes on later, and if it’s good, can keep a green roof healthy no matter what.

… Right?

Not necessarily.

Truth is, design and stewardship are inextricably intertwined. Yes, good design – based on sound scientific concepts and artful creativity – should set a roof up for life. And yes, excellent stewardship does help any green system weather the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

But without good design, stewardship is set up for a fall. Let’s talk about why the right approach is so important from the very beginning.

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Topics: Stewardship

How Does Regular Stewardship Impact Stormwater Retention?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Keeping your green roof in great shape is the best way to reap maximum stormwater benefits.

Forget Snuggies, fast food and terrible teen pop.

Stormwater is the real crime of this century.

Combined sewer overflows, the result of rainwater overloading the sewers and spitting filth into the streets, carry disease into our cities and waterways. It sheets over asphalt and concrete, sweeping pollutants right along with it.

Rural areas suffer from stormwater troubles as well, but it’s really the cities that desperately need better methods of keeping rain and snowmelt out of the sewers.

That’s where green roofs come in, trapping and detaining stormwater during rain events. They keep water there for hours or days, relieving the sewers of undue pressures resulting from all that water entering all at once.

Of course, they only provide those benefits if stewarded well.

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Topics: Stewardship

Why Are Hummingbirds Important, and How Can Rooftop Gardens Help Them?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

These jewel-bright birds do more than dress up your bird feeder in the winter months. They also perform valuable pollinating services, so we would do well to help them out.

Toss off the word “pollinators,” and almost anyone will conjure up the image of a bee.

Usually a honeybee.

Probably fuzzy with yellow pollen and sitting on, like, a sunflower or something.

That’s not to say bees aren’t important pollinators. We merely mean to point out that this is a limited conception that fails to do justice to pollinators as a group.

Exhibit A: hummingbirds.

These flying gems gather pollen on their heads as they flit from flower to flower, helping fertilize them and propagating new generations of the plants on which we depend. Birds as a whole represent 2,000 species of pollinators, with hummingbirds making up a sizeable percentage of those.

While putting nectar out for hummingbirds is a wonderful winter tradition, and can do much to keep them strong and well, we must do more. It’s time to give these tiny birdies habitat, shelter and real flowers on which to feed.

And that means using horizontal space more effectively in our cities.

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Topics: Pollinators

The Importance of Enforcing Green Roof Programs After the Build/Handoff

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Building a green roof is all very well, but what happens next? If the answer isn’t “amazeballs stewardship,” then you’re doing something wrong.

Much of our collective cultural focus on green roofs has to do with “getting one.” As though simply installing a roof is enough to win you the Medal of Ongoing Environmental Awesomeness for All Time.

No, that’s not a real thing.

Yes, some people act like it is.

Truthfully, though, while it’s fantastic to build a green roof, it’s not enough to simply do so, dust off your hands and walk away.

The same goes for any other type of green infrastructure: bioswale, rain collection system, low-water landscape, rooftop garden, or what have you. These systems are tightly structured to achieve specific goals, and they often exist in harsh environments. They need careful stewarding, or they won’t achieve those goals and they will suffer.

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Topics: Green Roofs

How Often Should You Schedule Site Inspections for Your Green Roof?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Careful stewardship of your green roof means frequent site inspections to ensure its health and stability, but how often should they occur?

If you build it … they will come. “They” being the birds, butterflies, insects and other fauna that inhabit green roofs across our fair cities.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Green roofs need careful balancing. A green roof's purpose is to mimic nature in a very condensed profile. You have deep soil profiles in nature, around 2 feet on average, but we’re asking the same type of natural habitat to perform in only 6 inches, and often less. That's a big ask.

In other words, they need our help maintaining balance. While an established green roof does settle into a low-maintenance equilibrium, there’s no such thing as a no-maintenance system, no matter what some green roofers will tell you beforehand.

Just ask anyone who’s ever dropped tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project, then let it “take care of itself” for a few years.

Spoiler alert: It won’t. Which is where green roof site inspections come in.

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Topics: Green Roofs

How Do Green Roofs and Pollinators Work Together?

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last decade – and a very remote rock at that – you’ve heard the word pollinator.

Most likely you even know that the term extends far beyond bees, encompassing birds, bats, moths, beetles and tons of other insects. Nevertheless, bees make up a huge portion of the pollinating pie (pillar page), and since they fly, they are frequent visitors of green roofs and roof top gardens.

Where, can we just say, they do a lot of kickass work. But what type of work, exactly? And how do those green roofs help them back?

That’s what we’re here to talk about today. Get ready for the greatest romance of all time: pollinators and the green roofs that love them.

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Topics: Pollinators

How to Maintain Green Infrastructure for Peak Performance Year Round

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Stewardship is a critical factor in getting the most out of your green system, whether your goal is beauty or environmental benefits or both. Here’s how to get peak performance.

You have a green roof, or perhaps another green system. Whether it was recently installed or is 10 years old, you want it to work well.

Ideally, you want it to work very well. Year-round peak performance is the goal.

(One assumes. Let’s just go with it.)

But how do you accomplish that? In other words, what are the basic tasks involved in stewarding a green roof environment?

Glad you asked. Here’s a basic rundown of how you should steward your green system – whether a rooftop garden, bioswale or another kind of green infrastructure – all year round.

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Topics: Stewardship

Moving Beyond Simple Sustainability: Building Strong Ecologies in Urban and Rural Areas

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Sustainability is a buzzword we hear a lot, but do we truly understand what’s needed to preserve the health of urban and rural areas? Our interview with Keith Bowers provides a look at how we can move beyond a simple idea of sustainability, toward a truly rich ecology across our nation and the globe. 

(Download a PDF version of the report to share with friends and colleagues for free)

Since our earliest days, we have felt a divide between human habitation and the Wild – a vast unknown that, for much of human history, was populated with monsters and nightmares too frightening to comprehend.

We create light where once was darkness, water where formerly the desert reigned, high walls where saber-toothed cats stalked at will. Our singular goal has been to fulfill an evolutionary mandate to keep our own species safe at all costs, even if that means railroading the other organisms with whom we share this planet and destroying the resources upon which they depend.

Today, we’re waking up to the fact that … come to think of it … we depend on those resources too, and it would be a real bummer if they were gone by our children’s or grandchildren’s generation. Even without such a strong motivator, preserving the Earth for its other inhabitants is, we can agree, the right thing to do.

Luckily for the rest of the human race, some forward thinkers spotted this issue years back. They have spent decades fighting against the negative impacts of profligacy and shortsighted development trends, and setting new ones in place.

Ecology has proven one of the most fruitful of these fields. Its sturdy relationship with other buzzwords – sustainability, resiliency, environmentalism – points to its importance, yet others might say it confuses the issue as well.

Keith Bowers is one of the latter.

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Topics: Stewardship

The Difference Between Looking Green and Being Green

Posted by Ecogardens

 

While we assume the color green automatically indicates environmental aid, that’s not necessarily the truth. We need better metrics for telling between what is green and what merely looks it.

People tend to simplify:

Cake = delicious. Vegetables = gross.

Yet caramelized onions are amazing, and banana cake is an absolute crime against humanity. So clearly oversimplification is a problem from which we humans tend to suffer.

The same holds true in the green-iverse.

Let’s face it: We’re just suckers for the color green. Show us a succulent-clad green roof and we’re going to believe the best in it, even if it doesn’t necessarily add to the surrounding environment in any meaningful way.

On the other hand, we assume a bare patch of ground is worthless – even though a completely dead green roof still performs about 60 percent of the stormwater management services of its fully functional, vibrant counterparts.

So if we can’t trust the color green to provide automatic indication of environmentalism, what can we know? What do we look for?

Here’s a brief primer on separating the wheat from the chaff.

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Topics: Green Infrastructure

How to Increase Pollinator Diversity in Urban Areas

Posted by Ecogardens

 

Pollinators matter in cities as well as agricultural areas, but numbers and diversity of these critical animals are in constant decline. It’s time we address the issue.

You can’t get an honest bite of street falafel these days without experiencing the oh-so-popular lament for the sacred honeybee.

On television and magazine covers, over the radio and via interviews galore, we hear more and more about declining bee populations. And that does matter, but what all those interviews fail to take into account is the importance of other pollinators too.

Declining pollinator diversity is, in fact, a serious problem these days. Not just honeybees, but native bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, birds and even bats struggle from loss of forage and shelter.

It’s not enough that we fight back for the honeybee, although that’s important too. We need to work to increase the number and kinds of other pollinators as well.

But how can we foster pollinator diversity in both urban and agricultural areas? How can we prop up urban ecology before it’s too late?

Let’s take a look at the most promising approaches today.

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Topics: Pollinators