Monday, December 10, 2012

Small Roof, Big Egos. Not enough room for us all.

Clearly, I took the job in the Mid-Atlantic working for Magco, as a green roof specialist.  Many times in my life I have had an unbalance: score high in school, score low socially.  Have a great social life, but my job is just OK.  Here was a chance to really get the job I could eventually make my dream job... And hopefully the social part would follow.
My first project was the highly touted ASLA Headquarters in Washington DC.  It’s a pretty cool design!  The bulk of material was donated by manufacturers, we were contracted to install this monster project.  I was handed the plant list on day #2 of my new job.  Now, if you have ever worked with, or worked within the Landscape Architect community, you know they have been known to push the design, keep the challenge high and demand a quality execution.  And rightfully so.  As green roofs were just coming to be the newest sexy and sustainable technology, the NYC based firm at a lot to prove (and on such a signature building as that!).
The plant list was incredible.  While in theory some of the plants would survive on a green roof, most many not commercially available- esp in the quantity I needed.  When they were thumbing through pretty pictures, I believe they failed to ask the basic question of – can these be sourced.  It took me about 2 weeks to find the majority on the list.  But, the last 20-30% were unreasonable.  I went so far as to call range land specialists at University of North Dakota for seed sources!   …Which I was not able to get because of their classification on the invasive list, of course.  I had enough and offered substitutes to the LA.  Oh man, the backlash from that was just stupid.  In fact, I feel my BP rising after remembering the back and forth and unreasonable responses we had to deal with! I don't believe it.  
On the day of installation for the plant material, there was no plant schedule to prepare the groupings of species.  Instead, the LA came down from his NYC firm to point at each plant and each spot on the green roof, as my crew sat back waiting for him to make a decision.   At some point in the day, I planted a prickly pear cactus and the LA made me rotate it 90o so it would “fall back to the landscape.”  It drove my site super nuts!  I learned my lesson.  Never again was I going to install plant material without a defined plan (that is, if a green roof actually needs one).  Oh, and I won’t even mention the “intern” who came down to document the plants and begin to educate ME about them.  I had to leave him to it.  Ha!
Is their roof sustainable?  What makes it sustainable? I will be focusing on this topic a lot.
My final thoughts on this project- there was a lot of hype and bunch of money spent.  Now, there is a website, a web cam, and tours... This project certainly required an LA, but I truly do not believe an LA is needed on every roof project.