Monday, May 5, 2014

Green Roofs: Evaluation and Comparison of Four Diverse Green Roofs in Four Countries

By Lani Walker

For one of my projects in my Sustainable Architecture class, we were to select one sustainable practice and analyses four different examples of this sustainable practice.  I chose green roofs, due to their beauty and variety of applications on buildings.  I selected four very different buildings, a municipal building (GENO-Haus in Germany), residential building (The Solaire in New York), commercial building (Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall in Japan) and a museum (California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco) with famous green roofs.  The green roofs on these buildings come in a variety of sizes.  The smallest project I reviewed was the Solaire with a 9,400 sq. ft. green roof.  The next smallest project is the GENO-Haus with a 30,000 sq. ft. green roof, while the California Academy of Sciences has a 197,000 sq. ft. green roof and the Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall has a 320,000 sq. ft. green roof.  It was interesting to see how these projects ranged from smaller to very large in size.  Another difference in these projects was the way the green roof was integrated into the building.  The green roofs at the GENO-Haus and the Solitaire are conventional green roofs just located at the roof of a tall building.  However, the green roofs at the Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall and the California Academy of Sciences are integrated into the design of the building.  These roofs are almost the star of the building, adding to the overall design when viewed from the street level.  I believe it took much more innovation, creativity, time, and money to create the terraced green roof on the façade and the wavy green roof form.
            Regardless of the design, all of these green roofs have helped in the ‘green’ movement worldwide.  The GENO-Haus built its green roof in 1969, making it a very early example in Germany of using a living roof.  In 1994, the Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall was ahead of its time by designed this beautiful terraced green roof design which climbs up the entire south façade of the building.  The Solaire in New York was the first ‘green’ residential building in 2003.  Then in 2007, the California Academy of Sciences green roof became famous due to its interesting mound form and the fact that it was designed by a world-wide famous architect.  All of these projects became examples of successful green roofs for designers to model after.  Also, I think these famous projects raised awareness and appreciation for green roofs from the general public. 

            Furthermore, all of these projects have benefited the environment and the people inhabiting these buildings.  The green roof at the GENO-Haus is accessible and open to the public.  Although it does not appear to have much seating for the public, it has a simplistic and geometric design that provides all the environmental benefits of a green roof (such as cleaner air and a good use for rainwater).  The green roof on the Solaire is a very impressive because it is part of a larger sustainable design for the building.  With all the sustainable systems working together in the Solaire, the demand for electricity has been lowered by 67%, resulting in a lower electricity bill for tenants.  Also, the green roof at the Solaire is well designed with walking paths and places to sit and relax.  The green roof at the Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall is my favorite of the four projects because it celebrates the green roof through modern design, while keeping the essence of a conventional green roof.  The green roof is used like decoration on the south façade, climbing up every level of the stepped building.  Another element I think is successful in this green roof design is the designated gardens for activities such as meditation, escape, and relaxation.  The green roof is not only providing environmental benefits at each terrace, but it is providing psychological benefits for the building inhabitants.  Similar to the green roof at the Fukuoka Prefectural International Hall, the green roof at the California Academy of Sciences is a decorative element in the design which also provides environmental benefits.  The skylights monitor the temperature and the green roof cleans the polluted California air.  In all, these four projects are famous because they benefit the environment, their community, and the green movement in general.    
Figure 1: Images of Four Diverse Green Roofs in Four Countries.  By:  Lani Walker


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