6 Green-Roof Myths – Busted!

I’ve had a keen interest in Green-Roofs for over 20 years and with the current changes coming in my life it may be the perfect time to explore this passion in more detail!

Wrapping up 2012

After my post Accepting Life Unconditionally back in September, I had a short burst of posting activity and then fell off again…2012 has been a tough year…major ups and major downs.  As 2012 draws to a close my goal for January is to update folks on all of the major projects I started last year and to start planning for 2013.

I began this blog with the intent of documenting my journey into Biophillic Design, the “understanding the human-nature connection and designing with that in mind“.  My focus has been on my immediate surroundings, my house, and neighborhood, and my community.

Given the massive personal changes that occurred in my life during the last 9 months, my journey has been more inwardly focused than I expected it would have been when I started this in March. The turn of the new year offers a fresh start, if even just a calendar event, it gives us the opportunity to review the last year, appreciate and show gratitude for the happy events, accept the hardships and take the lessons offered from both into the next year.

When I look at the last year at the highest level I have definitely begun to shape my physical surroundings to be more in sync with Nature – which will be the focus of my upcoming posts. But the biggest lesson for me from last year is to live in sync with the Natural Rhythms of life. Birth, Death, Love, Loss, Gratitude and Acceptance.

Starting in My Own Backyard

In the spirit and practice of breaking things down into manageable next steps, I thought I would focus very locally for my initial biophilic design research.  Throughout the years I’ve collected books, magazines, URL’s on environmental/sustainable topics that interest me that I would read later – when I had more time.  Well, based on what I learned writing my Time, Brain Damage and Choices post, I can’t really expect to have more time in the future than I have right now.

I have a fairly large space in my backyard, so why not use it to run some experiments?  I can use these little mini-projects to focus my research and put what I learn into practice.

  • Solar Electricity – I have a south-facing roof on my garage that I think would be perfect for a few solar panels.  This is a timely project since there is currently a “solarize” initiative in my neighborhood!
  • Eco-Roofing – I’m planning to modify my existing deck and add shelter, why not eco-roofing?  I’m passionate about this subject and would love to get my hands dirty on a project.
  • Rainwater Collection – I already have 3 large rain barrels, but I have new area in back of my new garage where I could build an elevated system and use drip irrigation into my new garden.
  • Food Production– I’m planning to devote most of the backyard to raised beds for growing food most of the year.  This is already a very engaging project!  Some of the mini-projects will include:
    • Irrigation Planning & Building
    • Raised Bed Design & Building
    • Plant Selection & Companion Planting
    • Starting Seeds (Inside & Outside)
    • Seed Saving & Sharing
    • Hoop Housing
    • Cold Boxes
    • Canning & Preserving (assuming anything grows)
  • Composting –  I’m lucky enough to live in a city that has weekly curbside composting, but given my big plans for the food production part of my yard, I will need to spend more time composting.
  • Bird, Bee & Butterfly Habitat – This has been a long-time interest of mine, I want all non-veggie plant selections to encourage local habitat.

Overall, I want to include principles like running water, re-use, and recycling throughout all the projects.  I want to try to keep my new materials purchase down, take advantage of sources like the Rebuilding Center, Scrap, and, my own backyard.  I have a deck I’m going to deconstruct, about a million red bricks (not kidding) from some old paths, and thousands upon thousands of good size rocks.

OK – I have my rough plan – now it’s time to get to work!

Why Biophilic Design?

The term “biophilia” literally means love of life or living systems, and biophilic design is about understanding the human-nature connection and designing with that in mind.  This appeals to me on many levels.  I’m an Engineer by training and an Environmentalist at heart.  My life has been a study in contrast, compromises, and now, my journey towards enlightenment.  In order to help understand why I’m drawn to understand biophilic design, I want to share with your some of my personal background.

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life working in a highly technical field.  A field rooted in science, logic, and mechanics.  My chosen occupation has been devoid of any consideration for, or interaction with, nature.  In fact, the products I’ve spent my time designing, building and selling, have relied on the mass destruction of trees.  I live in, and love, the Pacific Northwest, and yet when I drive to the beach and see the clearcutting scars, I feel deeply responsible for my part. From the very beginning of my career I have recognized the dissonance between the choices I was making and the intrinsic, biological understanding of the beauty, importance and vulnerability of the natural world around me.

Before embarking on my oh so rewarding career, there were the many many many years (some would argue too many) spent at a technical university in one of the most beautiful settings in the country, San Luis Obispo, CA.  I split my time between the large, cold, concrete mechanical engineering building learning how the world functioned according to the laws of physics and mathematics, and blowing off steam exploring the abundant and breathtaking central coast beaches, mountians and trails. And before that blissful yet grueling interlude, being the product of a 70’s style divorce,  I spent my life going between Butte, MT and Palm Springs, CA.

Butte, Montana
Palm Springs, California

Both located in amazingly beautiful natural areas.  Both existing in complete incongruity with their natural surroundings.

Butte, best known for, and most dramatically illustrates, a turn-of the century, hardscrabble  “Company Town”, that was completely spent by the time I came along in 1968.  The 70’s and 80’s  in  Butte were a time of depression, decline, and the realization that they had a very big mess on their hands and nobody responsible willing to clean it up.  The corporation that created that mess, the Anaconda Company, (initially known as the Amalgamated Copper Mining Company,  later bought by ARCO, and now owned by BP) had moved on to more fertile grounds in South America.  In the 80’s Butte was declared the largest Superfund Site in North America, due to the heavy metal groundwater pollution that caused the rivers to run red when it rained.  The Berkeley Pit in Butte contains some of – if not the – the most toxic water on earth.  In the 90’s the city finally admitted the tap water was unsafe to drink…who knew your water wasn’t supposed to be tinted red and smell funny?

Butte and Palm Springs have some things in common, they both have lakes (albeit Butte’s lake full of heavy metals instead of golf balls), mountains, trees and…um…air.

Living the Good Life

It’s easy to see that Palm Springs stands in stark contrast to Butte. Palm Springs was, and is, posh, glamorous, self-confident and relaxed.

I guess you could say, though, they have something more important in common, they both owe their successes to the exploitation advantages realized from their natural surroundings.  For Butte, it was the rich earth that seemed to provide an endless supply of copper, silver and gold that drew hundreds of thousands of eager for work  immigrants, and eager for profits corporations.  For Palm Springs, it’s the warmth, clean air and natural beauty, combined with the proximity to Los Angeles – and the very important  fact that it sits on a massive aquifer that enables the many splendid man-made golf courses, lakes, lawns and pools to continue to seduce the rich and famous and keep it lush and green while sitting in the middle of the desert.  Without all that water, now topped off by the Colorado River (while parts of Colorado are in drought), Palm Springs would be barren.

There is something else that connects Butte and Palm Springs – electricity.  Air Conditioning made the greater Palm Springs area inhabitable year round, and that required electricity, and moving electricity required copper – copper from places like Butte.

Walkerville, Montana

Anyway, back to Butte…I began my formal education (if you consider kindergarten formal) in Walkerville, Mt. I ended up attending 5 grade schools in Butte by the time we moved out of state. I had a pretty good “lay of the land” and by the age of 12 felt I understood what Butte had to offer me…I was not in love.  I was not broken-hearted when my Mom, Sister and I moved to Spokane Washington before eventually ending up in Palm Springs. I would miss the family we were leaving behind, but there was nothing about Butte for me at that time that represented anything but hopelessness.

Given my parents’ divorce, after we moved my Sister and I still had the opportuntiy to spend most holidays and summers in Butte while growing up.  I will share more about life in Butte, then and now, in future posts.  Suffice it to say I have enormous respect for the people of Butte, their character, their fortitude, and their ability to see past the obstacles and stark realities of what is staring them in the face and hang-on to hope that Butte will once again be rich, vibrant and important.  At one point in history Butte was known as the “Richest Hill on Earth”, it played an integral part in supportting the war efforts by supplying critical metals when we needed them most, and due to its immigrant make-up,  it was one of the most culturally diverse and lively cities in “its day” (okay, that “day” was in 1916 – but still).

Butte has a future, I believe that out of the ruins and decay something beautiful can grow, I believe that man’s instinctual Biophilic Nature, “love of life”, combined with science and technology will fuel clean-up and restoration innovations that will once again put Butte “back on the map”.  This time Butte can make a name for itself by leading the way towards saving the environment instead of aiding in its destruction.

Which brings me back to this post’s introductory question: “Why Biophilic Design?”  I have a wealth of knowledge, insight and firsthand experience when it comes to science and technology’s ability to shape our environment.  I have the openness and willingness to explore how I can put my skills to work to “do no (more) harm” and instill that spiritual practice in my everyday life.   I have the honesty to say, and most importantly mean, “I can do better”.

1st Entry!

My first entry was intended for January 1, 2012, a nice “clean” beginning.  Good intentions (a.k.a overly ambitious goal setting).  Given that I’m only 81 days, 1944 hours, and 116,640 minutes behind…I’m going to “breath in”…”breath out”….and acknowledge that clean beginnings are just like clean endings and unicorns.

This blog is about my journey into biophilia.  What is Biophilia?  Glad you asked.  The term “biophilia” literally means “love of life or living systems.”  We will be exploring this topic together in excruitating (fun/lighthearted/humorous) detail throughout this blog.  I must stress this is a journey and this entry is the very beginning.  I’ve been through a major transformation over the last 4 years, and although much has changed in my life, I feel that the work I’ve done so far has just gotten me to the point of real enlightment, real growth, and real happiness.  I feel it’s finally time to put the work into exploring my passions and seeing where that leads me.

This journey will involve spirtual explorations (lots), scientific findings (think graphs and excel), environmental topics, human interest and motivational stories, food and health, random geeky stuff,  and most of all it will be my attempt to genuinely document my experiences.

I’m learning to set “manageable goals”, and my goal this week was to write and publish my first ever blog entry ().  My goal for my next entry is to share my plans/goals/aspirations for this up-coming year.

 Life Lessons:  Set Manageable Goals & Life is not “Clean”