Every couple of years, the International Green Roof Association (not the IGRA you’re thinking of) puts on a conference to discuss the state of green roofs and give awards to outstanding projects. Unfortunately, Candy’s travel budget didn’t stretch enough to send me to Kuwait. I suspect there was no Dallas developer representation either, more’s the pity.
The conference venue was underneath the Al Shaheed Park, a 76-acre oasis of which 20-acres are green roofs covering a conference center and museums. As you can see in the photo above, the area left of the highway is the old city of Kuwait while to the right is the modern section. The location of the Al Shaheed Park was always designed as a green belt separating the two. As happens when governments get lazy, after a period of neglect, the area needed reclaiming back to its green intentions. The park complex was able to marry the original green intent with cultural and commercial requirements.
Kuwait wasn’t chosen by accident. The main theme of the conference was the feasibility and options for using green roof technologies in hot, drought-prone areas. Here in Texas, it seems like we’re either flood or famine with water, so to avoid a green roof costing more than a traditional roof, irrigation would have to be minimal. Certainly if places like Kuwait, with an average daytime temperature of 90 degrees, can make green roofs thrive without insane amounts of irrigation, Dallas can.
Kuwait is also into other green features like this green wall installation in the 360 Mall. It contains over 21,000 plants and could likely get enough sunlight from flashcubes (if we still used them). Aside from being visually stunning, coupled with the calming effect vegetation elicits in humans, its intention is to improve air quality by acting as a natural filter.
I make no secret of my intention to drag Dallas, kicking and screaming, towards using green technologies, particularly green roofs. I now always ask developers about their roofs, and so far have been met with blank stares.
I think their indifference comes from being unfamiliar with the technology and its benefits. We all love a rut whether it’s the route we take to the grocery store or the principals employed in development. Couple that with large numbers of apartment builders who simply don’t care about their tenants’ utility bills, and here we are.
As a high-rise dweller, I also think about making roofs more palatable to their taller neighbors. Today’s apartment buildings install air-conditioner farms on their light-colored membrane roofs. If they want neighbor buy-in for their plans, green screens could be used to mask the sight and noise of hundreds of fans whirling throughout the year. To further save costs, they could place a centralized chiller behind a green screen. Chillers take up less space, are more energy efficient and require less maintenance. Everyone wins.
Quick Green Roof Facts
- Green roofs cost more to install, but over time that cost is justified by roofs lasting twice as long and requiring fewer repairs. This increased longevity is due to a green roof protecting the underlying roof from sun damage (and things like hail)
- Green roofs don’t all weigh a ton, causing roofs to be reinforced. Depending on the growth medium, plants and depth (3 to 16 inches), roofs weigh between 13 and 100+ pounds per square foot.
- Builders: Is 3 inches and 13 pounds per square foot that big of a deal?
- Green roofs don’t have to require a lot of maintenance. The most cost-effective, covered with drought-resistant mosses, sedum and other succulents, are the easiest to maintain (no mowing).
- In fact once the plants have gained their foothold, artificial watering may be done.
- The floor under a green roof has the same energy efficiency as the ground floor.
- Green roofs are assigned with R-values, adding to overall thermal insulation
- Green roofs cut noise levels by up to 3dB and increase sound insulation by 8dB (for those living near Love Field)
- Green roofs capture 50-90 percent of storm water, reducing local flooding. Excess water can be captured in a cistern for reuse watering lawns (or the roof).
- Plants clean the air. Ten square yards can filter a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of dust per year.
- Native birds love them.
- Greener cities reduce urban heat islands, mitigating the temperature gains resulting from built-up heat in concrete roads and buildings.
My message to Dallas builders and architects is simple. Get educated. If reading isn’t your thing, and waiting two years for the next ILGA congress is too long, try Toronto and New York City.
Toronto: May 15-16: Grey to Green Conference. For C$249, developers, architects and landscape architects can spend two immersive days learning about different technologies and seeing real-world implementations around Toronto.
New York City: September 24-28: CitiesAlive 2018 conference. This 16-year-old event is sponsored by the North American Green Roof & Wall Association and the Green Infrastructure Foundation. It’s a four-day event expected to attract 700 attendees. There is a full slate of educational sessions and tours for the newbie and experienced developer. The trade show area is perfect for assembling a roster of products and services for a project. Registration hasn’t opened yet, but you can pre-register and they’ll let you know the costs when registration officially opens.
Dallas will have to get on the green wagon sooner or later. Instead of avoiding the future as you would lima beans and liver, learn. I guarantee that once you get started, it’ll go down much easier than the liver.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.