Category: Shelter

A city of green roofs: the bird’s-eye view

We have long espoused the power of visuals to convey a new idea. Truly, a picture is worth 1000 words. But, it goes deeper than that. Art speaks the language of our heart and enlists our emotions in imagining a different reality. In that spirit, the very talented Gordon Griffin, a sometimes contributor to GOforChange, created this wonderful video called, “What would it look like?” Enjoy! And let us know what you think in the comment section.


4 Myths and 1 Important Truth About Greenroofs

photo: courtesy Furbish Company

I’m consulting on a community poolhouse project and the design team is considering a 6,000 square-foot greenroof. The building committee has gotten nervous about this kookie technology: is this decision going to be cursed by future generations? Turns out, there are at least 10 acres of greenroofs in the D.C. area alone. People have figured them out and are installing greenroofs to slow down and filter stormwater, provide a cooling effect and supply a green habitat, among many other benefits . I spoke with two leading experts in our area: John Shepley from Emory Knoll Farms and Rick Truett from Furbish Company . Here are the myths and their answers:

Myth #1. They are expensive and need specialized maintenance.

Yes, they are expensive; they can run roughly double the cost — or more — of a conventional commercial roof. But they also protect the roof’s membrane from the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays , wind, and extremes of temperature fluctuations. This can double the life of the membrane — or more. Rockefeller Center in NYC has greenroofs from the 1930s that are still on the original membranes. Another important consideration on cost results from systems thinking . That is, for sites that have challenges handling rainwater (aka, stormwater) in conventional ways, greenroofs are a godsend. (See Myth #4 below for more on this.)

Upkeep is minimal. A 10,000 SF mature roof would require 1 to 2 person-days per year, maximum. For the first two years, there would be a bit more maintenance to get it to maturity, but not that much more. On a little roof of less than 2,000 SF, the initial work would be would be 3 days the 1st and 2nd years, then a half-day or less every year after that.

Myth #2. In Europe where they are more common, greenroofs are on buildings with trained, equipped, full-time maintenance staffs. They have to rake leaves in the fall, remove pollen-related detritus in the spring, pick up dead branches throughout the year, reseed or replant bare spots, and fertilize wearing safety harnesses when near the roof’s edge.

I have done tiny, 300 square-foot additions with greenroofs. Continued

Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity

photo courtesy of: CHH
Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity is a “non-profit housing organization that works in partnership with families in need of housing to build simple, decent and affordable homes. Houses are sold to qualified homebuyers at no profit through no-interest mortgage loans.” CHHumanity has completed more than 120 homes and has housed more than 300 families. There are job opportunities, internships and school programs to help any person at any age get involved and be a part of strengthening all Baltimore communities. You can also help by donating recycled building supplies or buying goods for your own home improvement project from the ReStore . 100% of purchases go toward the next Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity project.


photo arranged by: alyssa
Amanda Lopez was the first Ecobroker Certified real-estate agent in Baltimore City and County, specializing in energy efficiency and sustainable design of Baltimore properties. Lopez of City Life Realty located on West 36th St. focuses on already-established historic communities, such as Hampden, Belair-Edison, Dickeyville, Arcadia and Bolton Hill.

Checkout an artical in bnet

Baltimore ReStore

photo courtesy of: ReStore
Baltimore ReStore is part of Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity developed to generate funds for more projects. "Providing quality products at discount prices to preserve our environment and keeping valuable items out of our landfills." You can find building materials, plumbing, flooring, cabinets, doors, windows, tools, furniture, lighting and more. Located in East Baltimore behind Johns Hopkins Bay View at Eastern Ave and Kane Streets . Find a list of other salvage centers in the surrounding area here .

Heathcote Community

photo from:
Heathcote is an intentional community located in Freeland Maryland just 30 mile north of Baltimore City. It sits on 112 acres some of which is in a community land trust the other owned by several community members. All of the houses and communal facilities are renovated farmhouses and old grain mills. Additional houses have been built using straw bale. There are many efforts within the community to use renewable resources and become energy independent. Whether you decide to live at Heathcote or just take part in one of there exciting permaculure classes you can always expect to enjoy and organic/ vegetarian meal(s), some of which is fresh from the garden, music, hiking, lounging in a stream-side hammock or helping out with some of the many natural building projects. Heathcote is a drug-free and smoke-free community and is currently looking for members. To find out more about everyday life at Heathcote one of its members has started a blog called Hippie Chick Diaries . You can also go to their website or take a visit to the farm.

Furbish Company: Green Renovations for Lucky’s Warehouse

photo by: alyssa

A few weeks ago, GOforChange visited the Furbish Company headquarters to tour their newly-renovated Lucky’s building, a green office space south of downtown. This Brooklyn warehouse was originally used as a wood mill, then became a convenience store warehouse in the late 1970’s. It is now home to several sophisticated systems and practices of ecological design and efficiency. As the developer and owner of Furbish Co., Michael Furbish approached the project by honoring the building’s existing integrity. He added only what was needed to update and enhance the structure’s inherent environmental sustainability.

Working with a hydraulic engineer revealed that the building was sitting on 8-feet of water, which quite often would spring up through the floor in the basement. Most people would see this as a problem, but with careful calculation and several hundred feet of tubing, a geothermal system was installed to assist with more than 70% of the building’s cooling needs.

Heat for the building is provided by a solar hot water system that transfers heat gain from the sun to a storage cistern that sits on the roof. Continued