Friday, June 1, 2007

Temperatures are rising in NYC...

And with the heat comes the smell. Yesterday I took another route to work - Smith street - and ended up on the garbage run. All the cafes and restaurants put out their waste, and occasionally a bag splits emptying food on the pavement. So I was dodging food spills and garbage trucks on my bicycle....I find the stench stomach-churning...aargh!

It's getting hot and humid - apparently not yet as bad as it gets in July, but enough to make me feel less full of the joys of the city. With the miles of tarmac, paved areas, and black roofs, the urban heat island effect is a stark reality - the city is several degrees warmer than the surrounding country.

That's why I'm interested in green roofs. Not only do they reduce stormwater runoff by 30% or more, absorb CO2 and mop up pollutants - they insulate buildings very effectively. We went to go and look at a green roof today in 6th avenue at a Cook & Fox Architects. Apparently the day they were installing the green roof the roof temperature was 170 'C - and after they had laid the soil bags it was 100 'C ! (would be interesting to measure again now that the plants are fully grown). They opted to use a very low tech and cost effective system using bags filled with expanded shale (stone) and a little compost. They laid the bags flat, made holes in them, planted the Sedum plugs and viola! in only one year they had 75% plant cover. And it looks amazing.

Natalie looking out over the rooftop from the office (above).

A simple system: bags of expanded shale (special light stone) with three holes and planting in each.

The office of Cook and Fox is a real inspiration - they have refurbished their floor of the building according to sustainable / green architectural principles. They explained their design approach and showed us a range of products they used for the interior - icestone (70% recycled glass), paperstone (made of post-consumer paper waste, makes an excellent work surface), laminated woods, and laminated bamboo (stunning - looks like delicate inlay). All made from recyceld or renewable resources and without nasty resins /solvents. It was an inspiring visit.

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