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Environmentalism and green roofs

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Environmentalism and green roofs

  1. 1. GREEN ROOFS AND BEEHIVES Becoming a Greener PlanetBy: Frances Garrity and KurtSwanson
  2. 2. 1Green Roofs and BeehivesEnvironmentalism and Green Roofs Environmentalism is by no means a new “trend.” Actually, was it ever really considered atrend? Some could argue that it’s “rooted in American philosophy,” a “quintessentiallyAmerican” ideal (WebEcoist). Henry David Thoreau made note in his book, Maine Woods, thatconservation of and respect for nature and the federal preservation of forests was important. Thatwas in 1864. However, the importance in becoming “eco-friendly,” a mainstream term, was notpushed in front of our eyes until Vice President Al Gore informed the United States that ourmistreatment of natural resources is causing global warming, a dire threat, in the 2006documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” . Thus began our road to becoming extensively “green,”using earth-friendly resources and recycling them. A plan to create a friendship between human and nature is the use of vegetation onrooftops. For hundreds of years, this idea has been in effect, particularly in Europe due to idealclimate conditions. European home-owners have grown their own produce right on their rooftopsfor a long time. This has several advantages: saving money, reducing pollution and rain run-offby 50 to 95 percent, and supplying homes for wildlife ( Now, with the time,energy, and money spent, this idea has grown significantly and has transcended worldwide. Withhelp from the government, the market for green roof products and services in Europe is a multi-million dollar industry. In 1994, 9 million square meters of green roofs were constructed. In2001, it grew to 13.5 million square meters! Today, the industry is still going strong. In NorthAmerica, “thanks to education and policy support,” the green roof industry is now also growingrapidly ( Specifically in the U.S., the green building market was up from 2008 to2010, and “again even more significantly in 2011” (D. Minsky). According to the NationalAssociation of Home Builders, “green homes made up 17 percent of the overall residentialconstruction market in 2011, and that number is expected to grow to between 29 and 38 percentof the market by 2016.” Industry professionals report that there will be an even steeper increasein green home remodeling- “34 percent of remodelers expect to be doing mostly green work by2016, a 150 percent increase over 2011.” To better understand why these numbers are so significant, let’s provide the informationof what a green roof actually is and what it can do. Green roof systems involve a high qualitywater proofing and root repellant system. It includes a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweightgrowing medium, and plants. The plants are pre-prepared in movable, interlocking grids. Thegrids can be loosely laid or built up to be installed separately. The roofs can provide not onlyprivate benefits, but public benefits as well. Majority-wise, they are installed in public buildingsto insulate and collect water for re-use in heating and cooling, among other reasons. With this,the economy also benefits from the preservation of energy. For bigger cities, the green roof industry can have a huge impact on the economy. U.S.building owners need to pay attention to the following statistics. Buildings account for (D.Minsky): - 65% of electricity consumption - They account for 36% of energy use - 30% of greenhouse gas emissions - 30% of raw material use - 30% of waste output, at 136 tons annually - And 12% of potable water consumptionBy: Frances Garrity and Kurt Swanson
  3. 3. 2Green Roofs and Beehives Green roof technologies not only “provide the owners of buildings with a proven return oninvestment,” but they can also provide opportunities for “significant social, economic, andenvironmental benefits” (D. Minsky). The down-side to the green roof trend: cost. Consumerswant to be cost-efficient and they want their resources to remain convenient. The extreme cost ofinstalling a green roof, not to mention the necessity of local government approval in the case ofpublic buildings remains a barrier to becoming 100 percent “green.”It’s Not Easy Being Green With the ever-growing demand in natural and economically-driven products, it’s nosurprise that hotels are trying to drive the force of being “green” by finding new, exciting, andinnovative ideas to take going eco-friendly to the next level, including pushing the boundaries ofthe green roof system further. How about a green wall to go with that green roof? Chicago, Illinois is known for its green roofs, but only has a handful of green walls. Therarity is due to cost and climate. Currently, a “boring” tower standing 26 stories high with fewwindows resides on North Michigan Avenue. However, the chief executive of Strategic Hotelsand Resorts, Laurence Geller, plans to “re-vamp” what is known as the InterContinental Chicagohotel by putting up a 9,800 square foot green wall. This wall has to be approved by the CityCouncil. Alderperson, Brendan Reilly, whose ward includes North Michigan Avenue, said thathe would bring up an ordinance authorizing the wall (among other improvements requested).Should the City Council approve the idea, a frame will be finished winter of this year, and theplants will be hung by spring. The green wall would be the largest in North America. It would be wrapped around 10 ofthe 26 stories, and be covered in thousands of plants that would grow year-round in “concealedtrays hung perpendicular to the wall” (M. Harris). The wall is also planned to be lit up at night.With all the improvements being made to the hotel, Geller expects the cost to range from 2 to 3million dollars. The landscape designer hired to build the wall is Anne Roberts, who has neveractually built a green wall before. Roberts hasn’t finalized the plant hybrids to be used, but she has stated that evergreensand native plants will be part of the mix. The need for tolerant plants is extremely important asthe wall faces west, which means it’ll be extremely hot in the summer, and it’s also near the lake,which creates high winds. The first year is expected to be “trial and error and effort” (M. Harris).Roberts is also working with Green Living Technologies (New York), which has experience withgreen walls and botanical gardens. The plants will grow indoors, and will be slowly rotated overseveral months to orient them to the condition they will be placed on the wall. The really interesting thing about the wall is that the irrigation system is driven by an off-site computer. And when the temperature drops below zero in winter, the system will be drained.Maintenance will be required 2 to 3 times a year. Geller’s goal is to attract more tourists, make more money from the publicity, and lowerelectricity costs. The issue is that the water bill will likely increase, as the rain collected on theroom will not be enough to meet the needs of the wall. Geller’s final point was stated as, “We’regoing to do it because it’s right, and we may make a lot of money. All I need is a quarter-pointmore of market share to get a 20 percent return. And if I don’t get it, I don’t get it, but at least I’llhave made the building better.” As a financially smart, well-informed businessman with a highlyskilled team, I’d say North Michigan Avenue will gain in popularity, and InterContinentalChicago hotel will be a prime Midwest tourist destination, as long as the plants remain alive.By: Frances Garrity and Kurt Swanson
  4. 4. 3Green Roofs and Beehives While the green wall pushes the boundaries of the green roof downward, another trend issitting right on top: apiaries, or bee yards. Hotels are finding yet another innovative way of beingeco-friendly on the roof by placing beehives for multi-purposes. The beehive phenomenon iseven more current than the green wall. Hotels are now employing beekeepers to collect honey forseveral uses, like in their spas and restaurants. The importance of this comes from the recentalarm that was sound by the United Nations in March. Bee colonies have declined as much as 85percent in some areas, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Pesticides, air pollution,parasites, and the loss of flowering plants are the main causes of this epidemic. What should benoted is that 100 crop species that provide 90 percent of the world’s food, over 70 percent arepollinated by bees. However, despite the interest to save bees, the colony numbers continue todecrease. The “beekeeping movement” serves 2 purposes: save the species, and bring hyper-localhoney to guests staying at the hotels implementing apiaries. Even the President and First Lady ofthe U.S. jumped into the trend by serving Honey Ale, which was home-brewed with honey fromthe White House beehive. Nonetheless, it’s the hospitality industry that has taken the reins on themovement. Hoteliers are the ones who understand the importance of localized sourcing. 18 Fairmont Hotels have added apiaries. Most of them reside on the roof, but some arelocated on other ledges and balconies as well. A few “sweet” facts on certain Fairmont Hotelsare as followed: - In Washington, D.C., the on-site hives are named Casa Blanca, Casa Bella, and Casa Bianca - In Newport Beach, executive chef Chad Blunston works with beekeepers to extract honey for use in his restaurant, Bambu - In San Francisco, 50,000 bees produce honey for the afternoon tea serviceRosemary McClure, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times experienced first-hand what it waslike to stay at a Fairmont with an apiary: “Last month I stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Icould look down from my 20th-floor room and see six hives- and about half a million bees- in thecenter of a third-floor balcony herb garden. The bees quietly went about their business within 20feet of the hotel pool and within 50 feet of the mammoth Vancouver Convention Centre.Meanwhile, I snacked on a selection of the hotel’s delicate honey truffles, Bee’s Knees. In thedining room, I found a small jar of honey on the table at breakfast.” Something that was not brought up in McClure’s article was the implications of havingbees near guests. How often are people stung by the bees? What about the hotel guests that arehighly allergic to bee stings? I suppose the highly allergic type would steer clear of a hotelhousing an apiary, but then that’s a loss of business for the hotel, which could be a substantialloss of money. Rooftop beehives are the best option, but there’s a great concern for those hotelsthat place the hives lower and within 50 feet of a crowd. With those concerns set aside, the bottom line was put down by the editor of Bee Culture,Kim Flottum, “The hotel wins, the bees win, beekeeping and beekeepers win, the local florathrive, folks who never thought about where their food comes from get a little insight into thatside of the business. It’s all good” (R. McClure). In regards to rooftop apiaries, there are other types of businesses besides those related tohospitality that have benefited. For example, Chicago’s City Hall helped pave the way to thewidespread trend by having 2 beehives for Italian honeybees on their green roof. MichaelThompson, the beekeeper would collect approximately 200 pounds of honey annually. TheBy: Frances Garrity and Kurt Swanson
  5. 5. 4Green Roofs and Beehiveshoney would be separated into jars and sold with the proceeds benefitting the Chicago CulturalCenter projects. In regards to the general use of green roofs, schools have also adopted the system. Forexample, Community of Peace, a public school in St. Paul, Minnesota has installed a green roof.Elk River, Minnesota’s Twin Lakes Elementary School has also installed one. Both schools havebenefited greatly with the immediate improvement they found to the inside and outsideenvironment. Electricity costs have decreased, and improvements in heating and cooling systemshave been maximized.Dynamic Duo of Information Two expert opinions were necessary in obtaining information on the beehive-specificarea, along with the green roof trend area. The first interview was with Diane Klemme, thedirector of Family and Consumer Science Education at UW-Stout. Diane also happens to be anamateur beekeeper with a small amount of honeybees located in her own backyard. Dianementioned how important it was to learn about the decline in the honeybee population. Bees playsuch an important role in our ecosystem, that it would create terrible repercussions should theybecome extinct. She finds that hoteliers adopting apiaries at their hotels create a wonderfulopportunity for honeybees to get attention, and provide an opportunity to learn how importantthe bees are to our ecosystem. Her only concern on the matter was the repercussions that couldpop up should guests get stung over and over. She wasn’t positive how widespread this trendwould get, but she was very optimistic that it could positively affect the honeybee population,and so the idea should be well-adopted nation-wide. We needed to get an expert opinion on adopting a green roof system. Derek Dachelet, thedirector of external relations at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College, provided insight onwhat it would mean to install a green roof on the Agriculture and Automotive building oncampus. He said the plan of purchase was put into a referendum for the school, but it was foundthat the system would be far too costly- almost 4 times that of a standard roof. Also, the drainagesystem required for the retaining pond that would have to be put into place was cost prohibitive.The plan was to get a green roof for insulation and a water collection system to go into aretaining pond, which the water would then be utilized for heating and cooling purposes. In thefuture, Derek was hopeful that with the plans for building expansion, there would be aninvestigation of green roof implementation, along with a self-sustaining energy system- a windturbine. However, this plan is leading down a road of 10 or more years for now. After an onslaught of all the information found, it’s believed that “going green” won’t goaway any time soon. Every option will be explored for every product for a new way to preservenature’s resources- items sold in stores, cars, houses, etc. People will work through everypossible option to reduce negative effects from our water and carbon footprint. Green roofs andgreen walls may very well be the face of every building, every house. Beehives and otherpersonal ecosystems will exist on every rooftop to save money, to save insect/animalpopulations, and save nature itself. These green trends, new and old, are just the beginning. Andit’s up to us, the human race, to pay attention to what’s happening around us. We have to mindhow much water we use, how much resources we use. We have to come to terms with the factthat global warming is real, but there are ways to slow things down so that we’re not hit by ameteor that came through a gaping hole in the ozone. Recycling, turning off the sink whilebrushing your teeth are a couple things we can do to support the earth, but sometimes we have toBy: Frances Garrity and Kurt Swanson
  6. 6. 5Green Roofs and Beehivesstop and smell the roses to remind us what we’re here to do. Research and paying attention arethe keys to staying ahead of what’s to come in becoming a greener planet.By: Frances Garrity and Kurt Swanson
  7. 7. 6Green Roofs and BeehivesReferencesDachelet, Derek. Director of External Relations at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College.Fennimore, WI. Interview took place on November 12, 2012.Green Roofs for Healthy Cities North America., Melissa. Living green wall planned for InterContinental Chicago. Building Design &Construction. Retrieved on November 14, 2012Klemme, Diane. Director of Family and Consumer Science Education at University ofWisconsin- Stout. Menomonie, WI. Interview took place on November 12, 2012.McClure, Rosemary. Hotels get into beekeeping business. Los Angeles Times. November 20,2011.Minsky, Deborah. Home Improvement Eco-friendly Trends on the Outer Cape. ProvincetownBanner. March 30, 2012. Retrieved on November 13, 2012.By: Frances Garrity and Kurt Swanson