Green Roofs - Living Architecture Monitor - Spring 2010 - (Page 1)

FROM THE FOUNDER FROM ROOFS TO LIFE RAFTS THOUGHTS ON SUSTAINABLE ROOFING AND THE DOCTRINE OF HIGHEST AND BEST POSSIBLE USE t its core meaning, the concept of sustainability must involve the notion that we perpetuate life, indefinitely – without hindering future generations’ ability to thrive. Now imagine you are suddenly cast adrift on a floating roof – a large life raft, let’s say – and this is now your home. The raft is the basis upon which you must sustain yourself. Should your raft be floating within a city, things might easier, but not necessarily better. Urban areas now constitute about two percent of the surface of the planet but consume about 75 percent of global resources by importing them. Of course, on your life raft, you can’t import oil, can’t order pizza or even turn a tap for water. Your life raft must sustain you – indefinitely, along with future offspring. Given this scenario, how would you design your roof raft? The landscaping industry has been working to develop a new Sustainable Sites Initiative rating system to improve the sustainability of its practices (page six). Now, the Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing (CEIR) has embarked on a mission to explore more deeply what it means to contribute fundamentally to a more sustainable society (page four). CEIR is spearheading an effort to establish a credit-based ranking of different sustainable roofing options, along the lines of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED standards. This life-raft scenario may reveal some of the fundamental elements that constitute a truly sustainable approach to roofing. As such, your raft may include: Structure: Your raft must sustain the impact of waves without leak- A Shelter & Recreation: Plants will provide you with basic materials to make a shelter from the sun, the wind and rain. You’ll also need space to run, love, sleep and play. ing or rupturing. Water: The average person cannot live longer than three days without water so you’ll need to capture and store water on your raft and use it wisely. Waterproofing: If you want to capture precious rainwater and keep your raft from sinking you’ll need a superior waterproofing membrane and ensure it was installed correctly. Food: You’ll need to grow food. Your raft will therefore need to be about an acre in size – bigger should you plan to produce meat. You’ll also want insects in the growing medium so you can eat them when times are tough and compost capability to maintain nutrient levels in the growing medium. Energy: For light and heat. Solar panels can be used to capture the While far from perfect, this scenario emphasizes what we really need in a future sustainable roofing or landscaping industry – and soon. About 25 percent of the land area of most cities is displaced as roof space. Around 10 percent of those resulting roofs are larger, flat roofs of which about four-billion square feet are either re-roofed or newly constructed in North America each year. Clearly not all roofs are capable — structurally, economically or socially – of becoming self-sustaining “life rafts.” Context informs what is sustainable. Different scales and climates are also clearly important. Hence some roofs will be better suited to providing renewable energy, food or biodiversity, while others reflect light and collect water. Another idea that may guide us in future deliberation is the doctrine of “highest and best possible use.” It means considering the best, most optimal long-term use of roof space first and when necessary, working our way down the multiple performance functions that can be attained given the current state of technology, the building, and its site and community context. This is in contrast to the “least first cost” doctrine which governs so many building decisions. Inherently, rating systems reflect the comparative values we hold and the interests of those who participate. Given this, let us collectively use our research and design skills to develop better products and forge new policies to derive the greatest benefits from our available roofing assets. If we were to actually stop and think harder about how our roof spaces could be permanent, life-supporting homes rather than mere cover from the elements, we are certain to open up new opportunities for better standards, codes, research, design, manufacturing, installation and maintenance practices rooted in the fundamentals of sustainability. In the process we'll likely find that the most sustainable roof is, ultimately, the roof that sustains you. Sincerely light of the sun and store it for use at night with solar thermal providing hot water. Steven W. Peck, GRP Founder and president, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities LIVING ARCHITECTURE MONITOR SPRING 2010 1

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Green Roofs - Living Architecture Monitor - Spring 2010

Green Roofs - Living Architecture Monitor - Spring 2010
From the Founder
Roofing Industry Research Summit
New LAM Editorial Advisory Board Kicks Off
On the Roof With Steve Windhager
Green Philly
Taking the Pulse
Greening the Green Roof System
More Bees, Please!
Dampening Green Roof Fire Risk
New Online Tools for Green Roof and Wall Professionals
New Corporate Members
GHRC Professional Development Calendar
Building Green Together

Green Roofs - Living Architecture Monitor - Spring 2010