Overview of the 3rd International Green Roof Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

No one can argue that the green roof industry is still in an "experimental" phase. Speaker after speaker proved this to be true in the three days of excursions and presentations in and around Hamburg two weeks ago. While there was far too much information exchanged to repeat in detail, I thought I would mention just a couple of general topics of discussion that came out of this excellent conference.

conference sponsored by ZinCo

The conference was sponsored by (and at times felt like a very large advertisement for) ZinCo. That being said, they did a fantastic job at co-hosting with IGRA (International Green Roof Association). ZinCo is one of a few green roof industry leaders with more than three decades of practical experience in designing and installing green roof systems.

Always trying to stay ahead of the crowd, I was pleased to hear the announcement at the end of the conference that ZinCo will be coming out with a new line of products, all made from natural materials. As the presenter said, it seems a shame that standard green roof technology requires that we use petroleum based products for the various drainage and protection layers, when the ultimate goal is increased sustainability of the project. These new products will, instead, utilize bioplastics, as well as the use of natural fibers like coconut.

On the first day of the conference, a ZinCo representative took us on an excursion to several green roofs around Hamburg. I've written an article about one of those here: "A beautiful example of residential green roofs at Wohldorf-Ohlstedt near Hamburg"

Singapore, city of green + Portland, city of policies

The one thing that came up over and over again, not only in almost every presentation, but also in its passionate and extroverted representatives, was the city-state of Singapore. There were two representative from the Skyrise Greenery Initiative Scheme, which works with the local government to offer incentives to developers with green roof and wall projects. As a consequence, many prestigious firms have done some amazing work in Singapore recently (I spoke with reps from WOHA and Tierra Design at the conference). It was clear that the plant specification for the tropical climate of Singapore was well removed from the German discussion of sedum carpets, however.

On the other side of the planet, the City of Portland has made a name for itself in the world of environmental policy with its Ecoroof Program. They were awarded with recognition from IGRA, along with several other innovative firms, projects, and professionals.

developments in plant selection

There seemed to be a growing interest in steering away from traditional sedum plant selections, with new research showing the favorable results of a more diverse selection of vegetation, including native plants.

Of course, this 'trend' that I speak of could have been merely a reflection of my own excitement for exploring native Italian plants in green roof specifications. Here at Emu, we are considering green roofs for two upcoming projects, one of which would be located in a landscape heritage area. We believe there is great potential in the application of green roofs in historically sensitive Italian landscapes, particularly on sites with no pre-existing structures of historic value.

I had the pleasure of meeting a group of researchers from the University of Bologna who, as I understand it, are beginning some tests on native plants in a green roof setting in Bologna. I hope to keep you updated on any developments there in the future.

You can also look forward to much more discussion of green roofs here on our blog, as this is a new area of research for us. Hopefully this summer we will begin testing some plants and substrates for two sites - one in the Pianura and one in the Apennines. We welcome any discussion on this subject, and look forward to sharing our experiences.

Mariana Pickering

Emu Systems, 6145 Broadway, Denver, CO, 80216