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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Green Roof Fiasco

It's been mayhem around here.  And not the fun kind of mayhem that results in cooked oatmeal dropping on your head or supergluing a magazine to a coffee table. 
Just some of the specimens
in the Vertebrate Collection

The green roof leaked over the weekend into the Vertebrate Collection.  The Vertebrate Collection houses thousands of bird and mammal specimens from around the world, and we're all keeping our fingers crossed that water didn't get into the sealed cabinets to damage any of the specimens.

Enter Sherlock Holmes

Folks from all over campus who are involved with the green roof either in installation or maintenance have converged upon the prairie to determine the cause of the leak.  Rain and snow had never penetrated the roof before - so why now? 

Was the irrigation not running properly?  Was the drainage system damaged somehow?  An evil green-roof gremlin, up to no good?  

Although all of those possibilities seem plausible, none were the culprit.  

Upon installing the boxes to hold the green roof leak sensors a couple of weeks ago, the contractors cut through both of the water-protective membranes on the roof (they should have only gone through one).  To make matters worse, they didn't seal anything up to protect from the elements, thereby creating a hole in the roof.  

Who loves some good irony?

The water-protective membranes (2 layers of orange material) were both cut through to install the
leak monitoring boxes.  Only one of the membranes should have been cut.

Green Roof Damage Control

Anyway, this is a problem that I assume doesn't come up often in green roof design and maintenance.  But it is a teachable problem, nonetheless.  Dorothy will go into more depth this week as the details unfold - so stay tuned for a lesson on green roof damage control.

Digging up the plants surrounding the three leak monitoring boxes to access the problem.

Hopefully the plants can be reinstalled later this week.

Written by Brenna Wanous, Berry Center


  1. Ugh!! We have been teaching this for 10 years! Typical built up GR .. Too many layers (let's be frank here, I don't know what the built up is, how old etc) this is a perfect example of how a modular system w the look of a multi layered system could of cleaned up the new to access the waterproofing.

  2. Yes the modular system would have been easier to clean up and rightfully so considering modular systems create a breeding ground for leaks and root bound plants.

    Please stop using fear tactics and misinformation to sell poor quality materials. When you sell quality you don't need to use fear.

    I firmly believe your brash comments here and elsewhere are not making you as successful as you could be.

    In case you are wondering I am not affiliated with this project.


  3. @Anonymous
    I could not agree with you more that the negative sales approach and fear tactics exhibited above (and on every similar forum on the web) are not how this industry should be operating. Unfortunetly some folks see this as their only outlet to have themselves heard and the only opportunity to find any work in this industry. Rather than adding constructive comments, or selling on the benefits and values of their system, assembly, or product they are bashing others, spreading false rumors and inflated claims about their competition. From what I’ve seen and heard this group is literally shoving their way into projects.

    I wonder when people like this will realize that this approach is not going unnoticed. This industry is still too small to push people around like this individual is (actually you should never act as the person above acts) and these rotten apples out should be pushed out by others by those who like the idea of selling on the merits of your product. I believe the industry should stand up against such approaches and individuals to make sure they are called out publically on their tactics, lies, and misinformation as you have done here. Passing this false or misleading information onto the design and construction community might make that sale possible today but it is hurting the industry as a whole. It amazes me that this individual cannot see this. Individuals like this are a “flash in the pan” in the bigger picture if you ask me.

    I also have nothing to do with this project. I have just noticed a certain person who seems to want to REALLY sell green roofs and will do anything that he has to, regardless of truth, to make himself look like an expert. It is unfortunate. What happened to friendly competition?

    - Let's play nice

  4. There are certainly pros and cons with both systems of green roofing. However, we installed the green roof in the way we did to not only LOOK like a prairie, but also FUNCTION as one.

    I suspect a modular roofing system would not allow for the root growth you see in the large picture in this post - note that the roots are growing through the landscaping fabric, which was approximately 8 inches below the surface. A great sign that the environment on the roof is appropriate for the plants, and would be deterred by a 3-4 inch deep modular system.

    Were it not for this unfortunate incident of human error, this green roof would be considered a massive success in its first year. The plants have survived and thrived better than we could have expected. Grasses are twice as large, forbs are flowering voraciously and we've also been able to evaluate which shrubs do not succeed in this environment - all observations that are part of a healthy experiment.

    Thanks for your feedback, I'm happy to hear more about the benefits of modular green roof systems if you care to share!


  5. Oh, no! That is such a waste. How is the condition of your roof now? Have you found more reasons as to why your roof got a hole? Anyway, if we are going to talk about such roofs’ benefits, here are some of them: they can contribute to the reduction of global warming, can be more durable and insulated, and can save more energy and a lot more. I hope your experiment becomes successful this time around.

    Corbin Linder

    1. Corbin, the green roof was removed and reinstalled this summer (2012), and by the time winter arrived, it was doing quite well! We saw surprisingly low plant mortality during and after the reinstallation, and folks who didn't know the roof was torn out couldn't visually tell the roof underwent such extensive overhauling. Spring will give us a better idea of how the plants fared through the process.

      You'll find more information about the source of the problem here:

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