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September 11, 2009 @ 12:09 pm
Europe’s Greenest City?

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I had heard of Sheffield (a city in north central England) before but haven’t been there and didn’t know much about it until I came across various authorities referring to it as the UK’s greenest city or Europe’s greenest city. So, of course I was curious and wanted to learn more by doing some research for this UK-focused post. Sheffield blog warns that, “Sheffielders are rightly proud of their city and are always happy to extol its virtues at any opportunity,” and we all know greenness is fairly subjective and difficult to measure.

sheffield

However, Sheffield has some great statistics in its favor; particularly in terms of natural greenery. Creative Sheffield notes the following:

  • Despite its urban location almost three-quarters of the city is taken up by natural vegetation and waterways.
  • More than a third of the city is located in the Peak District National Park – no other city has a National Park within its boundary.
  • In addition you’ll find 150 woodlands and 50 public parks all within Sheffield and it is rumoured that there are 4 mature trees to every person living here!
  • Over 44 per cent of Sheffield residents live within a five minute walk of a wood and half the city’s population live within 15 minutes of the open countryside. Imagine that!

All of this is quite impressive for a city of over 500,000 people. The handy pie chart from the referenced site shows the details including the 72% of greenspace, woodland and water referred to in the first bullet point.

sheffield-greenspace

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August 20, 2009 @ 1:39 pm
Japan’s Hanging Gardens

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hanginggardensFukuoka City, Japan has experienced impressive growth over the years but failed to conserve green space in its city center. According to various articles I have read, the ACROS Fukuoka building was to intrude on the last remaining strip of greenery in the city center. Fortunately for Fukuoka’s residents, the developers hired architects Emilio Ambasz & Associates to design a symphony hall, office and retail complex that actually added green space to the city. Built in the 1990’s, the ACROS (”Asian Crossroads Over the Sea” – Fukuoka lies across the water from South Korea) was and still is a very innovative structure. Perhaps taking a cue from one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (rendered by artist Mario Larrinaga at right), the park facing side of the building is an enormous terraced garden/green roof with thousands of plants and walking paths to enjoy them. Furthering this design aesthetic are reflecting pools connected by upwardly spraying water jets that create a ladder-like climbing waterfall and serve the functional purpose of dimming the ambient noise of the city.

The staircases and seating areas are perched among the greenery and the higher you climb the better the views. This sky park contains 100,000 ft2 spread across 15 stepped one-story terraces. At the apex, you can enjoy 360 degree views of the city, harbor, mountains and river. THe gray wedge at the foot of the building has many purposes; it’s a dramatic entrance, provides ventilation exhaust for the underground floors and serves as an elevated stage that turns the terraces into a massive outdoor ampitheater. At the same time, this recreational area provides a refuge for birds and insects and allows people to escape the endless, bustling streets of the city to “smell the roses.” More structures like this in our densely populated cities around the world would be beneficial to everyone. The energy savings from the insulating properties of green roofs/”hanging gardens” and capturing of rainwater runoff are particularly beneficial in hot and humid climates like that of southern Japan.

fukuoka1

greenroof-bookFor 40 inspirational case studies and beautiful photos of large-scale green roof projects around the world, check out this book: Green Roofs: Ecological Design And Construction. It would look great on your coffee table and as you can see at left, the ACROS building is featured on the cover

August 12, 2009 @ 10:23 am
New Most Popular Post

RewardAugust’s “Got Water? Wait Until 2025…” post has been quickly riding up the ranks and just became my 3rd most popular post this week, surpassing my July post on Toronto’s Green Roof Bylaw. You can link to my most popular posts at left; at its current pace, the water post may well reach 1st place. The water post permalink is here. You can also read it on my featured tab along with my first feature article on Masdar City in Abu Dhabi (or click “UAE’s Supergreen City” permalink here).

August 11, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
It Pays to Install Green Roofs (Part 2)

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Yesterday in part 1, I talked about the tax incentive provided for green roof construction in NYC. Today I will touch on a variety of other existing and proposed programs around the U.S.A. This is likely not an exhaustive list so feel free to comment and provide links to additional information. I discussed Toronto’s program in this previous post.

Existing Programs 

Chicago: Developments with green roofs receive fast track permitting and the city provides a number of favorable financing options. A grant program offers up to 50% of the cost or $100,000, whichever is greater and the green roof must cover 50% of the net roof area of the building.

greenroof-cityhall

Los Angeles: Beginning on July 1, 2002, all City of Los Angeles building projects 7,500 ft2 (700 m2) or larger were required to meet LEED “Certified” standards. Green roofs can contribute several LEED points.  

Minneapolis: They charge stormwater usage fees to commercial and residential property owners based the amount of impervious surface area on the building. However, buildings that improve stormwater management, such as by installing a green roof, receive a 50% credit against these fees.

Philadelphia: Provides “a credit against the Business Privilege Tax of 25% of all costs actually incurred to construct the Green Roof, provided that the total credit shall not exceed $100,000.” The green roof must cover 50% of the rooftop or 75% of eligible rooftop space. Read More…

August 10, 2009 @ 10:58 am
It Pays to Install Green Roofs (Part 1)

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I’m not even talking about the energy savings, cost savings and environmental benefits though. I’ve talked about these advantages on my products page but now I’m going to focus on tax credits. A number of places have mandated green roofs under certain circumstances; Toronto, Tokyo and Switzerland to name a few. Another approach that’s often more agreeable to building owners and developers is the voluntary opportunity to receive tax credits.

The program I’m most familiar with and closest to home is the New York State incentive passed by the state legislature last year. It offers building owners in New York state cities with a population of one-million plus (i.e. New York City only) a tax credit equal to $4.50 per ft2 when they install a green roof. Generally, this would cover about 25% of the costs (materials, labor, installation and design) associated with building a green roof. The one-year property tax credit is capped at $100,000 and the green roof must have at least two inches of growing media and cover at least 50 per cent of available rooftop space.

greenroof-skyline
According to comments from Storm Water Infrastructure Matters (SWIM) in this article, “the environmental benefits of the legislation are measurable. Each 10,000 square foot green roof, for instance, can capture between 6,000 and 12,000 gallons of water in each storm event, the evaporation of which will produce the equivalent of between a thousand and two thousand tons of air conditioning — enough heat removal to noticeably cool 10 acres of the city.”

Just think what it would be like if all rooftops supplemented the green space in New York or your city. Despite its massive size and positioning as the heart and lungs of New York City, Central Park only covers 843 acres or 1.32 mi2 (3.4 km2). Meanwhile, Manhattan contains over 950,000 buildings spread over the island’s 22.96 mi2 (59.5 km2). Certainly streets, parks and other non-roof structures take up some space but all those roofs could create a network of green space that is multiples of Central Park’s size.

Tomorrow’s post will highlight other green roof incentive plans.

Photo: 416style via Flickr

August 7, 2009 @ 10:37 am
Malaysia Focus Part 2: GTower – First Internationally Recognized Green Building

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gtower

Now leasing, GTower on Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) is the first Malaysian building to receive an international green certification. Singapore’s Building & Construction Authority has given it provisional status as a Green Mark Gold rated building. The building is a 30-story twin tower owned by Goldis Berhad (Goldis) and was built at an estimated cost of RM470 million ($134 million). It is a mixed-use development containing a 180-room 5-star hotel, 100,000 ft2 of general office space, another ~400,000 ft2 spread amongst 112 CEO duplex suites and numerous meeting rooms. Additionally, there is a private club, lobby bar/café, rooftop bar, other food & beverage outlets and a wellness floor with gym, yoga, spa and pool facilities.

The building is designed to maximize energy and water efficiency. According to Colin Ng, Head of Corporate Investment at Goldis, energy efficient building systems will cut carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60% (Source: The Green Channel). The IT infrastructure alone is expected to produce 30% energy savings. They installed 3Com’s Intelligent Building Solutions (3CiBS) products which combine state of the art hardware and software that optimize network capacity while reducing power consumption and carbon emissions.

After construction began, Goldis brought on a consultant to implement green features. This Architecture Malaysia article provides more details. Five areas were addressed with a multitude of technologies and installations: Read More…

July 23, 2009 @ 11:47 am
The Swiss Green Roof Invasion

You should expect a decidedly international flavor on my blog in the coming weeks as I continue to receive visitors from around the world and am sticking to my promise to cover each originating country. 23 countries are represented so far with recent visits from Bulgaria, Italy, Ireland, Singapore and Spain.

Since the 1970’s, green roofs have become ever more popular in Switzerland. Successful city pilot programs in the 80’s and 90’s have led to sustained campaigns and federal policies have been carried out at the city level. Basel, for instance, requires green roofs on all new developments with flat roofs greater than 100m2. According to a paper titled “From Pilot to Mainstream: Green Roofs in Basel Switzerland,” Basel had 1711 extensive green roofs and 218 intensive green roofs that covered 23% of the city’s flat roof area by 2006. Additionally, the latest campaign is expected to save 3.1 gigawatt-hours of electricity annually.

Extensive green roofs are non-recreational, contain limited growth plants, require little maintenance and are of a shallow depth (several inches); making them lighter and easier to install on existing rooftops. Meanwhile, intensive green roofs are often recreation friendly, more garden-like, require higher maintenance and are deeper (at least 8 inches); making them more common for new construction. To learn more you can actually go on a Green Roof Safari across Germany and Switzerland – no kidding.

I’ve discussed many benefits of green roofs on my products page, but one I didn’t mention was cleaner urban air and I can anecdotally confirm that Switzerland has some of the cleanest air I’ve breathed in all my travels (~30 countries). Another benefit is their potential contribution to biodiversity. Recently, Switzerland began to emphasize this use to conserve various plants and animals. The picture below from LivingRoofs.org shows Zurich’s rail platform roofs which were designed to resemble a stony desert in order to conserve a rare, local lizard.

zurich_rail_roof

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July 12, 2009 @ 3:18 pm
Toronto’s New Green Roof Bylaw and Continued Eco-Incentive Program

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As referenced in the “Thank You” post this is will be my first in a series of country posts. I’ve chosen to cover Canada first since it accounts for my 2nd highest page view total (the U.S. is leading). I’m also pleased to add Turkey to the list.

May 26th was a wonderful day for Torontans who like clean air, clean water, efficient buildings and aesthetically pleasing rooftops. Toronto became the first city in North America to pass a law requiring construction of green roofs on new developments. This requirement will be attached to all projects with 2,000 m2 (21,528 ft2) Gross Floor Area and above. It will be applied to all new building permit applications after January 31, 2010 for residential, commercial and institutional projects with a roof coverage requirement ranging from 20-60% of available roof space as building size increases. After January 31, 2011, the law will be applied to all new industrial projects with a roof coverage requirement of 10% up to 2,000 m2. Available roof space is defined as total roof area excluding areas designated for renewable energy, private terraces and residential outdoor amenity space (to a maximum of 2m2/unit). Click here for more details. This new initiative marries well with Toronto’s existing eco-roof incentives…
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July 6, 2009 @ 10:32 am
Rhinebeck’s Supergreen Building
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Courtesy: Omega Institute

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) was conceived by the Omega Institute in 2005 as a living machine that could replace an aging septic system in Rhinebeck, NY. Opening this month, it was designed and built from scratch at a cost of $3.2 million to meet the highest sustainable architecture standards. OCSL will receive LEED Platinum certification and is expected to become the first U.S. building to receive the Living Building designation, meaning it has no negative environmental effects.

Since Omega’s primary mission is to offer holistic educational programs focused on wellness and personal growth, the building is not only a natural wastewater treatment system (the Eco Machine™) but also contains a laboratory and indoor and outdoor classrooms for eco-lectures. The Eco Machine™ is designed to treat over 5 million gallons of wastewater annually. The treatment process involves 5 steps:
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