Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Winterized, but not slowing down

Today I write while listening to some rockin' holiday tunes (ha, don't judge) overlooking my green roof, dormant and buried under fresh snow. I am drinking hot tea, sweetened by some honey, produced by amazing bees whose home sits amongst a native prairie. In the midst of the winter season, we are surrounded by hints of the year's harvest. 
But this year's harvest was also cultivated by strengthening relationships which I observed at the annual green roof conference in November.  Most of my professional years have been in the industry, and I was once again reminded of all the colleagues I've met over the years- working on projects, building teams, sharing success stories. We work in a dynamic field which is in its infancy in comparison to some, and the variety of our professions still brings us to promote green roofs as a solution for whatever challenge a site might have. My connections are with manufacturers, growers, designers, engineers, researchers and marketers, which all bring their perspectives.
New prairie growing over 2 acres of building
AD Greenroof was brought on to some fantastic projects this growing season! One owner used her green roof to hide the building in the landscape.  Another wanted the roof to be designed as an amenity so they could increase occupancy rates faster than the other downtown buildings. A homeowner wanted his existing vegetated roof to have more diversity, friendly to the butterflies.  A facility manager recognized the value of ongoing, responsible management of their roof, and set aside the proper funds to pay for such services.  More designs are also in place to manage most of the storm water on site.

This is networking season, setting up time to build on partnerships, and evaluate opportunities. I look forward to sharing time with you

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Oasis for Monarchs in the Middle of a Corn Field

On a recent trip to Nebraska to service a new installation, I anticipated how the roof would mature in its first summer. I specified the proper soil depth to meet the native plant and succulent requirements, we added the very special mycorrhizae, the irrigation worked fairly well, and we were fortunate to have an abundance of rainfall this season. 
The building sits beyond turf grass neighborhoods, surrounded by corn fields. Driving to the building at the bottom of a hill, one cannot see it clearly as it was designed to blend into the landscape.

Once I got to the roof, my first observations included great coverage already at 60% and a nice balance of the fall grass plumes and flowering perennials. The best surprise coming from these roofs, however, was the new ecosystem we created for the butterflies and bees! These creatures found their oasis atop new construction, and quickly! I'm not talking about seeing one pollinator, we saw hundreds fluttering about! (Do you know how hard it is to photograph or video a bunch of monarchs?! Surprisingly difficult!) Did we witness a snippet of the severely declining Monarch population migrating south? Were they already living close to the site? I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing the Xerces Society will be happy to hear we have a new habitat, in a very desired place in the Mid-west!

Often times, I get caught in my daily routine working in the green roof industry, and forget that the decisions we make will impact others. Sure, there are lists of plants that attract certain insects, and I even blogged about this topic back in April, but many species are not suitable for a green roof micro-climate.  In this case, I'm proud of the consulting I provided this client, and was able to build a unique palette beyond the typical systems out there, making a huge impact on the local environment. And, it appears that nature is the real winner this time!
Contact Angie Durhman with any questions you may have about this project or blog.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Seasons Shift

There are many indicators that Fall has arrived.  School is in session, state and county fairs are wrapped up, the nights are getting cooler.  While certain parts of the country may still have some hot days in the near future, green roof plants know the days are getting shorter! 

If you have a green roof that was planted with more than just an extensive Sedum palette, you can probably see the fall asters blooming, ornamental grasses thriving, and Allium seed heads providing texture.  The photo on the right features milkweed, white snakeroot, and purple cone flower growing on a roof in Wisconsin.  

Another Fall indicator is the Living Architecture Monitor's free issue!  AD Greenroof LLC is featured on page 34.  Feel free to read it here!

It's not too late to reach out for some fall maintenance!  Email

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pickin Weeds

It is certainly that time of year to talk about maintenance and efficient management of your green roof!  I visited several this week in Chicago and Minneapolis. The Target Center roof is 2.5 acres full of natives and succulents- robust this time of year!  With the regular and excessive rainfall, we haven't even turned on the irrigation on 3" soil!  The short video was shot on my phone on Friday, 7-18-14.  The video links to AD Greenroof's facebook page.  Please check it out!

The photo on the left shows some aggressiveness from Cassia on Target Center's roof.  Cassia (partridge pea) is a biennial, meaning it produces vegetated growth in year one, then in year two it flowers, sets seeds, and dies.  We have noticed increased populations and spread of this particular species across the roof over the years and try to manage it properly to keep ecosystem balance.  What about the bugs? On Friday, I was bombarded with grasshoppers, bees, some flies and even birds. Where else are they going to hang out downtown? :)

This week, I also completed some maintenance for the Met Council on their Farmington, MN waste water treatment site.  It's a lovely green roof, with some volunteer milkweed plants right in the center! The research team is starting data collection and AD Greenroof completed a plant survey earlier this year. 
Do you have a green roof and have questions regarding its care?  Please contact and share some photos if you can. We look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Rains and Roofs

Rain. Rain. Rain….well, at least in Minnesota!

In the Twin Cities, we are experiencing the wettest spring since 1891. This week alone we will exceed 12” of rain. With prolonged saturating rain events every few days since winter thaw, the Mississippi River is expected to rise seven feet in the next few days. The creeks are flooded, and after this weekend’s rain, even more streets will be closed. Some farms have already declared their crop failures for the year. And, extreme flooding up North usually means problems for the cities along the southern flow of the River.Weather factoids and jumping in puddles are fun, but this is serious business for the region that was not designed to manage this much water.

This week we held a green roof symposium designed to drive policy and promote them across the state.  Ironically, listening to the news after the event, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency stated that excessive flooding was the cause of runoff from all the roofs and other impervious surfaces coupled with aging storm water infrastructure not able to manage the volume. Vegetated roofs can alleviate some of this!

Is this the chaotic event that is needed to drive change?

We are building a task force to make an aggressive plan to reach policy makers and work with them to create incentives for green roof construction.  Cities that are growing hundreds of roofs have programs in place already to provide rebates and grants for installations- and are starting to see the positive effects of reducing impervious surfaces. 

Contact if you are interested in motivating the politicians and agencies to build vegetated roofs!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Green Happenings

Spring is a very busy time for green roofers!  I will keep this short but wanted to share some events coming up that may be of interest to you!

First, AD Greenroof will be finishing the planting of an acre green roof in Nebraska on June 6.  It has undulating soil depths, and will be full of natives.  The perimeter plants will be our favorite drought tolerant succulents and wildflowers may thrive there, too! 

The MN Green Roofs Council has partnered with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities to create a star-studded policy event on June 19 at Hamline U.  I will be speaking about a local case study, the Target Center, and discussing the new MIDS Stormwater Calculator.  Hope to see you there!

But, if "policy and a pint" is not your thing, perhaps biking for a pint is!  On June 22, we are hosting a bike tour of 5 green roofs in Minneapolis, ending at a brewery. 

Also, National Roofers Contractor Assoc has asked me to present a webinar on (what else?) green roofs on July 19. Feel free to register in the link provided.

We continue to collect some awesome data at Penfield in St. Paul.  Measuring storm water performance and tracking temperature is ongoing. Abbey the Intern, has complied a wonderful local literature review!

With all this going on, it's important to stay focused on maintenance, quality installations, and partnering with the right people to get the job done safely.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Green Roofs for Pollinators!

Since you are reading my blog on green roofs, I assume that you basically know what they are, and may know of one in your area.  You may also know about pollinators-those wonderful insects (bees, moths, butterflies, etc.) that are essential for production of seeds and fruits of native plants and crops.  You may even be aware that pollinators are in trouble. And if the pollinator populations are in trouble, our food crops are too….  We may have to start hand pollinating our veggies and cereal plants!

Let me briefly discuss what’s happening AND what we can do to help.  

As cities and suburbs sprawl, there is less native land available for these pollinators.  Turf grass really holds no ecological value for the pollinators- they are looking for flowers with nectar and pollen.  Further, impervious surfaces (rooftops, parking lots, streets) are not inhabitable for the species either. In addition to the lack of natural ecosystem habitats, distance between them, and parasitic mites, pollinators have another challenge.

Research is suggesting that plants grown with specific pesticides are killing colonies- either from hives with direct contact during the spray application, or systemic (plant retains the active ingredient and the pollinators absorb as they contact the plant).  Now, I’ll restrict myself from completely geeking out, but the class of insecticides is call “neonicotinoids” (think nicotine for bees) and the active ingredient is Imidacloprid.  BayerAg makes this, and is common in many products you may buy over the counter at a box store: Merit (grub control), flea and heartworm control for dogs and cats, and Confidor (used on many fruit trees, commercial vegetables, and ornamentals).  Commercial growers who supply large numbers of ornamentals for big box stores probably use these insecticides to manage their crops.  For those “green-thumbers” out there: home gardeners, professional landscapers, Master Gardeners…Anyone who has bought a plant for in their yard or around their business, we have probably unknowingly been planting harmful plants!            Yikes.  

Armed with knowledge you can work to change this in your personal and professional life.  Just start asking the questions at the garden center “Where do my plants come from? How were they grown?” Consider going elsewhere if you aren’t comfortable with their answer. As a general rule, grower of natives and certified organic growers of crops are likely in the clear. Of course, if you start your own seeds, you have ultimate management control :) Once you find a garden center that you trust, select plants like Coreopsis, purple coneflower (Echinacea), rough blazing star (Liatris), and milkweed (Asclepias). These are also good green roof plants when designed properly! 

I am excited about an upcoming green roof that will be planted soon.  We are using natives and wildflowers to cover a building intended to blend into the existing landscape.  There are some shallow areas where we’ll be growing succulents, too, so this one-acre roof will jam packed with safe food for our pollinators!

Are you interested in selecting healthy plants for pollinators on a green roof?  Contact AD Greenroof or start here: