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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Prairie Reconstruction

The past two days have been impressively productive on the green roof.  Once the leak monitoring system was check out (see "The Last Leak Test"), the landscape fabric, gravel, irrigation system and growing medium have been put back on, and today the pathway and boulders were reinstalled.  Take that Humpty Dumpty!

Some photos to tell the story:

The crew laid a layer of growing medium and then the drip irrigation system, to be followed by another layer of "soil."

The massive conveyor belt that moved the growing medium onto the green roof. 

The pavers are patiently awaiting reinstallation.

Pathway going back in!  The construction company followed the original blue prints to match what was in place before.

Hauling boulders to put back on the green roof.

It's starting to look like normal!

The crew is mounding up the hills again to mimic what the prairie was like before.

The plants will go back in on Tuesday, September 4!

Written by Brenna Wanous Marsicek, Berry Center


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Final Leak Test

The roof passed its first leak test with flying colors (see "Moment of truth") and its second, and its third. These last two were to find leaks in the top membrane, and were, like the first, accomplished by flooding the roof and letting the water stand for at least 24 hours.  But—how to tell if there’s a leak in the top membrane when we know there’s none in the bottom? A leak in the bottom membrane would result in water in the collection room (Oh No!), while a leak in the top membrane would only mean water between the membranes. Invisible? Yes. Undetectable? NO!

The roof was designed and built with a leak detection system specifically to pick up leaks in the top membrane BEFORE there’s a hole in the bottom membrane. 

Here’s how it works:
Between the two membranes is a screen that looks like ordinary window screening (see the screen in the photo below). A wire is attached to the screen, so that it can be electrified. Above the top membrane there are also wires—generally around the periphery, including around the drains—so that when the surface of the membrane is covered with water, and the wires are plugged in, there is a continuous electric field above the membrane. The electric fields of the screen below and the water above should be completely separate, unless there’s a hole allowing water to connect them. 

Here’s a photo of Adam (International Leak Detector) looking for leaks. The two poles are used to measure the current on the surface. Leaks cause a change in resistance, which is read on the meter around Adam’s neck. Should there be a hole, it can be pinpointed with the two poles.

The test took only about 20 minutes, as Adam walked back and forth. There was a short period of suspense when he stopped walking and poked around, but it turned out to be water running over the lip of the drain, not water running through a hole in the membrane. What a relief!     

To maintain the roof from now on, we’ll be hiring Adam’s employer now and then to re-run the test. They can do this through up to six feet (!) of material above the membrane, so long as the membrane surface is thoroughly wet. This way, we’ll never again discover a leak using the flood-the-collection-room detection system. 

Written by Dorothy Tuthill, Berry Center

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Hold Up

In the west, a hold up can have a couple of meanings.  Think stage coaches and canvas bags with a big $ on the side.


But in the context of the Berry Prairie, it refers to the lack of progress on the green roof this week.  The green roof still looks like this (below) largely because everyone is being extra careful to make sure the membrane system is 100% waterproof.  A worthy cause for a hold up, most certainly, but still a bit of a rain on the parade.

Interesting Landscape Additions
But we do have an additional "accessory" outside the Berry Center, which right now is more decorative than functional:

This bad boy is the conveyor belt that will facilitate putting the soil back on the green roof.  Because part of the patio surrounding the green roof is part of the roof, we can't back a big truck right up to the edge of the prairie, lest we create bigger and more destructive problems should the truck fall through the roof into the Vertebrate Collection.  Slightly worse than water damage.

The growing medium is held in these bags, cinched up tight to prevent weed seeds from blowing in and medium from blowing away.  The medium and the conveyor belt should be in action on Tuesday, the 28th.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Written by Brenna Wanous Marsicek, Berry Center

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Par for the Course

Yesterday we took a trip out to the Jacoby Golf Course in Laramie, where the 4,400 plants from the green roof were taken for temporary lodging which the roof is being revamped.  Like the rest of the country, Laramie has struggled with drought this summer and keeping the plants alive in a drought, in pots, in an open, exposed area, and in an odd environment in which plants are subjected to random incoming golf balls, is a challenge.

Plots of Pots

As you learned in Kyle's overview of the green roof removal process, each plant on the roof was placed into individual pots to prevent roots from growing together and us having to rip them apart when they are replanted on the roof.  

There are ten groupings of plants at the golf course, which represent the ten sections of the green roof from which the plants were systematically removed and labeled.

Making It Rain

Overhead irrigation is necessary to supplement the natural (practically non-existent) rainfall.  Plants are watered more than they would be on the green roof because they're in pots.  Soil in pots warm up faster than it does in the ground, and soil in the ground allows for seepage sideways and up and down - pots don't share their water.

Par for the Course

Overall, the plants are quite dry.  Some have shriveled up and died, leaving no trace except a pot full of bare soil.  Grasses are crispy, cushion plants are brown, Oregon grape is all but extinct in this small population.  But as Dorothy said, the green roof plants faring no worse than the prairie plants outside of Laramie.

Some of the plants, like the cacti, Erigeron, Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) and Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) are doing rather well despite their hardships.  In fact, the Liatris (Liatris punctata) is even flowering in its new setting - it hadn't on the green roof before!

Cacti don't mind!  Heck, they're built for this.

Surprisingly, the Geum have started to resprout rather happily in their new setting.

Liatris is blooming amongst the grasses

But really, if plants can survive this ridiculous situation, they're the toughest of the tough, the best choices for a green roof and for a xeriscaped garden in the Rocky Mountain west.  The plan is to start reinstalling the plants on the green roof on August 27.  More soon!

Written by Brenna Wanous Marsicek, Berry Center

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Progress and Variety

The green roof's first membrane has been proven waterproof!  Hooray!  Now the next layers of metal mesh, which is a component of the leak monitoring system, felt and membrane #2 go on.  Below you can see that one section of the green roof is receiving its second membrane already. 

Variety Hour

And because we've had FAR too much orange in our pictures this week and last, here are a few to switch up the biodiversity:

Bombus huntii, or Hunt's bumble bee gathers pollen from a non-native Echinecia near the Berry Prairie. 
We installed a new Penstemon Biodiversity Garden in the alley behind the Berry Center

A bat has made the Berry Center at least a temporary residence!  Neat little guy!

Written by Brenna Wanous Marsicek

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Moment of Truth

The re-roofing of the green roof has made great progress.  Over the past week, the roofers have pulled the roof layers apart, dried out the innards, and laid the bottom layers of the roof back on.  This morning when I arrived at work, they were "buttoning up" the roof, meaning they were sealing up all of the seams in the bottom waterproof membrane.  

Now, in the moment of roofing truth, the crew is flooding the Berry Prairie.  The best way to see if a roof leaks is to try to make it leak.

Everyone is holding their breath now.  The plan is to let the water sit over the weekend just to be sure there aren't any slow leaks.  Then come Monday, should everything pass inspection, the next layers of the roof - metal mesh, felt, second waterproof membrane, will go back on.  

And after that?  Prairieland once again!

Written by Brenna Wanous Marsicek

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Step By Step

As you may have seen, the Berry Prairie is undergoing a bit of a face lift. Literally! The entire surface of the Prairie has been removed. With approximately 4,300 individual plants and 62 species to account for (not to mention the tons of substrate) how do we make the necessary repairs and maximize the potential for the Prairie to return to the beautiful native landscape we have grown to love? It’s ‘easy’…Methodically, step by step.

The Fun Part:

With the original design plans in hand, we began by dividing the Prairie into 10 sections and assigning each section a plastic marker color with a corresponding tag. Kyle gave each species a number and with the help of his advisor, Dr. Greg Brown, and the Berry Center’s summer gardener, Joseph, he walked the roof identifying and tagging plants with their designated color and number. Over three sunny days each pant was given a new color and number coordinated name tag. 

All 4300 plants were labeled prior to transplanting

The Hard Part:

Each plant, some very small and delicate, had to be removed, potted and transported to the holding area. Fortunately for us, we had an awesome crew from Highland Landscaping that understood the sensitive nature of the plants and the project. 

Plants being systematically transplanted by the Highland Landscaping crew

In just over 20 hours all plants had been removed and transported, arranged by section and settled into their new home at the golf course. Smiling up at the sun with a fresh drink of water, the first part of their tumultuous trip complete, the plants anxiously await their return to the Berry Prairie. 

All 4300 plants are at the Golf Course for temporary storage, where they are under an irrigation regime.

What to do with the ‘dirt’:

Removing the plants was relatively easy. No new age technology required just shovels and buckets, sore backs and sweat. Then what do we do with the remaining 3,000 plus square feet of substrate? Shovels and buckets…No Way! We get a Badger!

Large vacuum truck to remove the "dirt" from the green roof

The Badger truck is an impressively large vacuum. According to its operator, it generates more vacuum power then an average tornado and can pick up a 100lb boulder at the end of a 400ft stretch of hose. There is more to it than just the awesome power of the Badger, the vacuum technology allowed us to remove the substrate in layers. First we removed the planting material and then the underlying gravel bedding. Removing the substrate in layers allows us to reuse the material saving valuable time and money.  Once the truck was full the substrate was transported to the golf course where it awaits with the plants to return to the roof.  

The process of removing the substrate involves hours of vacuuming
Written by Kyle Bolenbaugh, MS candidate, University of Wyoming


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Layers and layers

Now that the green roof is pulled up, it gives us a chance to take a look at the multiple layers that lie beneath the gravel and green.  Here's a quick peak at a couple of those layers.  The orange is the waterproof membrane. 

The blue shown below is the insulation.  Turns out the innards of the roof aren't as wet as originally suspected!  That's good news for the building, and for keeping the project on its timeline.

More soon!

Written by Brenna Wanous Marsicek, Berry Center

Monday, August 6, 2012

Plastic Surgery

Apologies for the long hiatus between posts!  Things have been busy at the Berry Center, and then yours truly went on vacation.  The nice thing about long breaks is that things change quite a bit over that timespan, and that is most definitely true with the Berry Prairie!

Not too long ago, the Prairie looked something like this:

Now the Prairie is looking more like this:

If you recall, the Berry Prairie experienced a major set back this summer when one of the contractors cut through both waterproof membranes that protects the building below from the water and dirt above. This allowed water from the irrigation system to enter the roof and the room below.  

Now, the green roof is entirely relocated and the contractors are pulling up the membranes to fix the water damage below.  Pictures of the relation process will be available soon.  

The team is expected to complete their project by mid to late August, allowing for the plants to be reinstalled well before first frost.  Keep your fingers crossed that it plays out that way!

Stay tuned!

Written by Brenna Wanous Marsicek, Berry Center