“Green” scientific investigation helps to inform intelligent Green Roof design


Courtesy of PP Systems

The Green Roof...a seemingly simple concept that underlies an impressive collection of beneficial functions in our sometimes rapidly changing environment. Often the green roof serves as an essential component in sustainable building practices, providing an astonishing array of benefits that range from mitigating building heating and cooling costs, storm water runoff, noise, and urban heat islands, to removal and sequestration of air pollution and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to the creation of urban island habitats for a wide variety of fauna (macroinvertebrates, insects, birds, small mammals), to pure aesthetics with associated human health benefits (Oberndorfer et al. 2007, Getter et al. 2009).

Determining the right physiological fit for a given eco-region, and thus enhancing survivability of plant selections, is an area of ongoing research in the development and design of green roofs (Lundholm et al. 2010). Conversely, a poorly-suited plant selection can become an expensive and time-consuming setback in terms of optimal functioning of the green roof system. This is the work of Jeff Licht of Botanicals Nursery, a green roof specialist dedicated to the creation of regionally-appropriate green roof solutions based on native plant selections and soil mixtures (see Licht 2008, Licht and Bergweiler 2010). Teaming with Chris Bergweiler, Applications Scientist at PP Systems, we approached one aspect of this problem using PP Systems’ CIRAS-2 Portable Photosynthesis System to gather representative physiological data from plants growing in a model green roof.

An array of native species were sampled under ambient conditions on two occasions in 2009: near the perceived physiological maximum phase (1 June) and early senescence phase (9 Sept). Data are means (n=6, summer; n=3, fall) ±1 SD unless otherwise noted. A subset of the data is described below, with emphasis on environmental controls of temperature and water regulation.

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