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World Green Roof Conference (Shanghai, Day 3)

This is the 3rd post in the Shanghai Journal by guest blogger Renee Toll-DuBois of Earth Our Only Home who recently traveled to Shanghai to attend the World Green Roof Conference and the 2010 World Expo.  All text and photographs courtesy of Renee Toll-DuBois.  Previous posts can be read here (day 2) and here (day 1).

The World Green Roof Conference itself was a one day event at the Tongji University bringing together researchers, academics, installers, designers, urban planners, consultants, developers, and representatives from government agencies. The group of international delegates, many of whom are THE green roof advocates and leading experts in their countries pushing for national standards, policy incentives and wider engagement. We represented at least 10 countries (PRC - mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong-, Singapore, Mexico, Japan, UK, Germany, US, Italy, Korea, Australia, Colombia), spoke many languages on our buses and all proceedings were in either English or Chinese (Mandarin). Simultaneous translation through headphones was provided as needed. Our numbers swelled to nearly 500 for this day at the University (compared to the two busloads of nearly 100 people the day before) as we were joined by many students, faculty, and government officials.

The morning involved the necessary formalities with a number of distinguished academics and politicians welcoming the delegates and underlining their support for roof greening. The afternoon was two concurrent sessions in which presenters took 15-20 minutes to present their research. I have listed a sampling of the research topics at the end of this entry.

Our Conference host, Wang Xiamin, Professor and Association President of International Rooftop Landscaping Association, mc'd the proceedings. Dignitaries included Zhou Ganzhi a member of the Chinese Academy of Science and Academy of Engineering and a former Minister of Constructio; Luo Zhewen, Vice Director of the Expert Committee of National Historic and Cultural Cities; Cao Nanyan, Inspector, Division of Urban Construction, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development. It is clear that there is high level support for city greening and an interest in zero carbon development using 'high-technology'. There is also much interest in the development of home grown roof greening products.

Interest in green roofs appears to be about making cities more liveable, addressing the evident air quality problem plaguing China, and some about providing alternate park spaces of beauty and relaxation for residents of the ubiquitous high rise buildings although there was some discussion about dealing with urban heat islands, food production. Water conservation and biodiversity are still lower down the agenda.

Recent progress in roof greening in China was highlighted during the awards ceremony. The winner of the 'World Roof Vegetable Garden Best Town Award', Chengguan Town in Hebei Province, now has 100,000 square metres of rooftop vegetable gardens.

This was clearly a national recognition event with state-run media present as the other awards were given out:
  • World Green Roof Best Organization (Green Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference organization)
  • Best Unit (Greening Committee Office directly under Central Authority),
  • Best City (Minhang District, Shanghai, where 150,000 square metres of green roofs were installed in 2009 alone)
  • Best roof rice garden farmer (Mr. Peng Qiugen from Yang Xunqiao Town, Shaoxing County in Zhejiang province)
  • Innovative Technology Award (Hainer Roofing System Co, Ltd - whose work we visited later in the week; Quanzhou Mingjing Plastic products Co, Ltd Roof afforestation fast series products; and Mr. Zhao Dingguo for his research at Shanghai's Academy of Agricultural Sciences on Disposable Lightweight Green Roof Sedum Plant Technology)Ecological Restoration and Innovation Product Award (Intalok Green Slope Technology, Ltd)
  • Best Circular Ecological Economy Livable City (Ciping in Shandong Province
  • World Best Roof Garden Award that went to Dongguk University in Korea
After a communal lunch served in their cafeteria - home-made food served on metal trays, with any waste collected for compost and the trays easily washed and re-used.  We returned for an afternoon set of presentations divided into two concurrent forums.

There were many interesting presentations, again translated from Chinese and English to the filled student auditorium. What struck me most was both the fact that each country was doing its own research and the value of exchanges of findings such as these and the preponderance of using one plant - sedum - as the green roof plant of choice. I was interested in Dr. Jim's research into native creepers to achieve a sustainable green living wall - he has encountered ones that can grow eight stories! Also the challenge in Hong Kong and Singapore of lack of ground land drives their resourcefulness to explore skyrise plantings. A conference will be held there in November of this year.

The incentives offered seemed to be similar however from country to country - easing of building restrictions such as height or width, tax rebates, grants and loans, and legal mandating. This is a rich topic to be explored much more in order to successfully extend the reach and application of living walls and roofs.

The third observation I made is that there is very little research being presented looking into the combination of technologies such as water and energy, energy and air quality. This seems an important next step especially as development in India and China continues at the scale of cities as large as Shanghai and Mumbai. If the urban planners can incorporate these multiple ecologically-based technologies into the design at the start, there seems to me to be the opportunity for an economy of scale and a cost effectiveness that warrants further exploration. From this gathering, it is hoped that my sponsor, Dr. Weber, who is a voice for such an exploration, may find one or more pilot projects to begin to generate some data and parameters from which to develop useful metrics.

Here is a sampling of the diversity of presentations on research we enjoyed:
  • Green Roof Technology, Plant Species Richness, and Rainwater Management: Aspects tested in Berlin Germany given by the top green roof expert Professor Mannfred Koehler, also co-Chair of the entire conference as president of the World Green Roof Infrastructure Network
  • Study on Impact of Light Green Roof on Roof Temperature by Zhao Dingguo
  • The Greening of the Highrise Environment in Singapore: An Overview of Policy and Projects by Dr. Tan Puay Yok,
  • Italian Green Technologies, Projects, and Style by Riccardo Rigolli, Italian Hanging Garden Association
  • Green Roof regulations and Incentives by Jiang Taihao, professor Dept. of Landscaping, Dongguk University Korea
  • The Initiation and Impetus for a Sustainable Green Roof Movement in Hong Kong by CY Jim, professor, University of Hong Kong
  • The Green Roof Trend in Japan by Kenichiro Fujisaki, Lecturer Dept of Applied Biological Science, Nihon University, Tokyo Japan
  • Green Roof Technology and Drinking Water by my sponsor, Dr. Karen Weber, President, Earth Our Only Home
  • Study on the Heat Tolerant Quality of 4 Green Roof Plants by Wang Zhaolong, Ph.D. Shanghai Jiao Tong University
  • Study on Ecological Benefits of urban Green Roof Garden by Wang Xiaolin, Professor, Taiwan
  • The Creation of a Code of best Practice for Green Roof Installation in the UK by Jeff Sorrill, Centre manager, The Green Roof Centre, Sheffield UK
  • Intalok Flexible Eco-Slope protective technology by Zhang Yushun, President Intalok
  • * Hainer Wall Blanket by Yu-Lu, president Shanghai Hainer Architectural technology
  • Selected Green Roof projects from Germany and the US- Key Factors for Success by Joseph DiNorscia, president and managing Director Skyland USA Llc
  • The Tao of Sustainable Green Roofs in the Tropics by Ho Wan Weng, Managing Director ZinCo, Singapore
  • Green Roofs and Green Walls as a Tool to Revitalize Urban and Building Residential Spaces by Monica Perez Baez, PhD, Dept of Architecture and Design, Kyoto Institute of Technology Japan
  • The Chinese Roof Afforestation: Present Situation and Future by Wang Xianmin