As I type from my home in Toronto, it’s pouring outside, capping off a cool wet summer that featured several deluges that ground the city to a halt. As extreme weather events become ever more frequent in urban areas across the globe, how can cities adapt? One solution is to ‘green’ our infrastructure by creating vegetated surfaces on buildings that help to capture and mitigate stormwater, absorb and deflect blazing heat, and even provide essential food to urban dwellers.
These benefits, and others, were addressed last week in fantastic San Francisco, at the 11th Annual CitiesAlive Green Roof and Wall conference hosted by Black Current Marketing client Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. Under the thematic umbrella of ‘Securing Urban Resiliency with Living Architecture: Food – Water – Energy’, over 700 professionals – from architects and landscape designers, developers and roofing professionals, to engineers, academics and policymakers – showcased the industry’s most amazing and resilient projects, shared the most up-to-date research, and evaluated the leading policies that are driving the implementation of beautiful, functional, valuable green roofs and walls across North America and around the world.
The event’s most exciting announcement was delivered right off the top by prominent city Supervisor David Chiu. Working with ultra-effective non-profit urban planning organization SPUR, San Francisco has committed to a new Green Roof Roadmap that sets out essential steps to bring a critical amount of plant-topped buildings online across the city. Demonstration projects, simplified permitting and other enablers in the workplan now need to be implemented to ensure those who plan and design green roofs can build them too. We’ll be excited to see and hear how San Francisco’s plan progresses at CitiesAlive 2014 in Nashville.
Another CitiesAlive highlight was the green roof and wall themed ‘Nightlife’ event at the iconic California Academy of Sciences, where delegates viewed the venue’s spectacular undulating green roof while hundreds of local citizens answered green roof and wall clues to win prizes in the CitiesAlive scavenger hunt. What a great opportunity to engage local citizens and build support for the new green roof roadmap – kudos to the outstanding Local Host Committee, a team of volunteers from across the San Francisco region who brought passion, creativity, funding and energy to many aspects of the conference!
From all accounts, CitiesAlive San Francisco garnered rave reviews. An entertaining panel discussion lead by local design star and lauded organicARCHITECT Eric Corey Freed challenged designers focused on sustainable design to stop apologizing for doing the right thing, and to learn to reframe the questions to get to ‘yes’ for ecologically sustainable design decisions by their clients. Great stuff. The truly exciting TransBay Terminal project in central SF, featuring a 5.4 acre public rooftop park, was another local project highlight that thrills. A new CitiesAlive Student Design Challenge saw over 2000 people vote online for ten international submissions that redesigned a community centre to make it greener and safer for local children; congratulations to the winning team from Guatemala’s Universidad Francisco Marroquin who took home the grand prize of $2000 cash and VectorWorks software downloads.
From visually sumptuous and educational guided tours of green roof and walls in the region, to stellar programming around the urban resilience theme, to new Green Roof Professional training courses and a hopping industry trade show, CitiesAlive San Francisco was a truly exciting place to be. My personal highlight, after the long days of the conference came to an end, was a tour of green roofs and walls in Sonoma County – including the gorgeous Awards of Excellence winning Ellis Creek water treatment plant rooftop by stellar local designers Symbios Design – which ended with a wine tasting lunch at which I shared stimulating conversation and lots of laughs with a wonderful group of engaged and energetic green roof professionals. These are the happy moments of our lives … and in this case it took place right next to a lush and lovely green roof.
Thanks San Francisco for a wonderful conference! And see you next year in Nashville!
Black Current Marketing would like to especially thank conference partners the City of San Francisco Planning Department and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, GRHC’s corporate member sponsors and association and media partners for bringing invaluable funding and support to CitiesAlive.