Blue Green Buildings
Green Buildings in relation to Blue Green Buildings
Many of us will have quite extensive knowledge of Green Building design, which, like other “Green” developments, has grown out of the environmental awareness and consciousness which now includes many Green Social & Political Movements. I would like to suggest that a further jump in awareness is emerging in pace with our growing understanding of ecology, and that ecological buildings, which we could refer to as Blue Green design, constitute a new pattern for creating living structures. As Solaroof is a part of this new pattern of living structure design, I therefore refer to our general concepts as being part of the Blue Green solution. I wish to explore with you how Solaroof empowers the Blue Green solution; making it an opportunity to radically change our built world and transform our lifestyle while restoring the planetary ecology.
We have many Green products today that emphasize the minimum impact of these products on the environment, during manufacture, use, reuse and disposal through recycling. Green products are also associated with use of non-toxic materials in production which has been important in reducing the occurrence of “sick building” syndrome. This syndrome made us more conscious that there is an internal building environment, which, like the external environment, can become polluted. This understanding emerged and caused great concern once builders began to use good vapor barriers as an energy conservation measure. Conservation, reuse and recycling are also Green strategies that apply to the construction of buildings.
Green Buildings have high energy conservation standards. An excellent review of these targets for the most advanced buildings that are now designed is provided by the Florida Solar Energy Center. Energy efficient buildings are good environmental products because their production and operation is far and away the largest consumer of energy (significantly greater than the transportation sector and dwarfing the manufacturing sector); thus our buildings effect our environment – both biosphere I, which is our natural, and biosphere II, our built environment. Our built environment seeks to secure us comfortable and productive working and living spaces, but at present this is achieved with a very large penalty to the environment.
After infiltration, the next important transformation of our building stock was achieved through construction codes calling for high insulation standards for walls and roofs. The next priority area for significant savings is in the development of energy efficient window, or “glazing systems” technology. However, the progress in energy reduction for cooling has been very limited. Glazing systems and roofs present the greatest source of thermal gain and thermal loss and energy standards have placed severe restrictions on the area of glazing – even when very expensive windows of the highest technical specifications are used.
I intend that the term Blue Green will trigger in people’s mind the image of a roof covered by the living leaf canopy of plants that are grown by means of circulation of water based solutions to the roof; as nutrients in water for the plants and as a water based cooling liquid that controls the growing environment. It seems to me that the term “Green” is becoming a consumer marketing slogan for almost every kind of “environmentally friendly” product. If we say Green Roof this term will not bring to mind a building a living green roof with active Liquid Solar systems. Thus I felt that the term “Blue Green” would be distinctive and cause people to look beyond what we know as Green and strive to make a creative leap to the living structures that are the new, breakthrough pattern which we are seeking.
Blue Green Buildings where living plants and water working are integral to the proper functioning of the building.
I was building my “solaroof” for greenhouses when I realized that the plants should be growing in all buildings so that the advantages of the Blue Green solution would be universally available and the benefits could grow in proportions that would have a restorative effect on the Global Ecology and local environments. For this purpose it is logical that plant growing could be located at the roof level, where they can do the most good and where, in the tropics, they can grow without the need of a “controlled environment”. Then as you go north (and if you want winter crops on the roof) you bring the crop production inside the roof and cultivate the crops in a Growing Space? which, like a greenhouse is a controlled environment space. Then I asked myself “What kind of roof has a structure most adaptable to this method?” and the vision came to me of a Space Frame? structure. It provides a safe construction for working over the rooftop or “in” the roof space. I have become convinced that this concept is the key idea and I have referred to it as the “Solaroof Garden” to bring emphasis to the “green” aspect of the concept and its dependency on living plants to perform the functions of solar energy conversion.
However this term is also unable to create the correct impression since there are many buildings with gardens and plant growing systems covering the roof area. This has become an accepted methodology for reducing the thermal overheating of roofs and of course the crop must be watered – so there is the water working component in these designs. The distinctive aspect of our Blue Green concept is that our structure and building envelope are extremely light and efficient and the cladding in one or two layers is transparent and designed in a way that not only supports the growth of plants physically (as do conventional roof gardens) but also provides an ideal growth environment for the plants and integrates them into the control of the interior comfort conditions within the building. The plants are not growing “external” to the built environment but they are an integral component of the building’s functions. The Solaroof is not covered by soil beds, but rather by a Leaf Canopy? and soil is avoided to maintain the very light weight of the Solaroof structure. The root zone environment for the plants is contained in Growing Channels? where aeroponic cultivation feeds and waters the roots with Bio Nutrient? liquid. These Growing Channels? are opaque but they occupy less then 10 percent of the roof area and thus the shading by the growing system and structural system is minimal. Thus the majority of the shading produced by the Blue Green concept is provided by the leaf canopy through which daylight may enter and reach the interior of the building.
If we were to try to convert a state of the art roof garden into a Blue Green concept then there would be a transparent Solaroof superstructure over the existing roof so that the roof would become the top floor level of the building and would be to the interior of the Solaroof. However, conversions of existing roof and roof gardens to the Blue Green concept may never obtain the intended level of integration of the garden space and plant Phyto Mechanisms? with the control of the building environment. A further problem is that conventional greenhouse enclosures on roofs will have none of the efficiency of the Solaroof; no active solar functions and have no bearing on the control of the environment within the building. In fact there are limited advantages or benefits to building conventional greenhouses on roofs or otherwise when one considers how simple it is to build a Solaroof enclosure instead.
Since Solaroof technology is based on plants it is affordable and accessible – it is not simply a re-statement of the ancient “sod roof” – but it is a concept for the new millennium. I believe that Blue Green concept (using photosynthesis) will be an important technology for development in both rich and poor communities. The findings of NASA concerning the power of plants to “process” radiative energy (together with their use of enriched CO2 atmosphere to enhance growth) are now rather well documented. The most unrecognized aspect of this process is the capability of plants to transmute the heat radiation of the sun into pure “transpired moisture” while remaining at a leaf temperature of about 72 to 78F degrees. This capability to generate moisture is five times more powerful per area than the best available “solar distillation process” and can create an abundance of clean water if, in a closed climate controlled process, the transpired moisture is condensed by the liquid cooled transparent cover (See Liquid Solar). No mechanical process can perform with such efficiency as the “living process” of plant transpiration in the production pure water while providing cooling. Evaporative cooling does not come close and air-conditioning is an order of magnitude less efficient. Therefore there are five aspects that Blue Green plant production on roofs can achieve: 1) biomass production 2) water production 3) cool roofs 4) control of the building environment and 5) modulation of shaded, cool daylight reaching the building interior.
I encourage everyone to consider the advantages of pursuing such innovation and not restricting our vision to projects that are modeled after the sod roofs that have been built in the past. We must now utilize with care a much improved set of technologies that are based on life science rather than physics, mechanics and chemistry. Very carefully, with respect for the mysteries of life and our limited knowledge we must avoid ignorant tampering with the intricate fabric of life and not apply half baked biotechnologies such as the GM products that are promoted by multinational corporations. I call upon all professionals and educated people to mobilize in action that would lead to the termination of these ill advised projects (to support the Union of Concerned Scientists and other organizations with similar goals) and to educate people to the methods of food self-sufficiency that are possible through the Solaroof methods and similar methods that are available and well proven. We need natural, organic, intensive gardening methods rather than deadly, toxic agricultural practices that are destructive to the ecology and are degrading the land around the world. Cities feeding people, Perma Culture?, Silvi Culture? and sustainable harvesting from wilderness lands and rain forest protection is a formula that can deliver a sustainable future for our children.