Concrete. Steel. Green? Our knowledge of cities and urban environments rarely includes living organic matter. Cities have been beacons of industry, commerce, and culture – but rarely do we associate them with plants or sustainability. But this is about to change!

My passion and curiosity towards designing greener and more sustainable cities was the main motivating factor on why I decided to return to graduate school and pursue Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. However, my eagerness to learn everything about the “green infrastructure” field is so niche that I had to take it upon myself to carve out my own means of education for this.

This fall, I took on an Independent Study course that examined “Marketing, PR, and Policy of Green Roofs.” This was inspired by Denver’s citizen-led mandate that created an ordinance for any new commercial building over 25,000 sq. ft. to incorporate a “green roof” to battle climate change issues like stormwater runoff and the Urban Heat Island effect. I became inspired that citizens and policy makers were working together to create healthier cities!

In part of this Independent Study, I had the opportunity to attend the Cities Alive conference in Brooklyn, New York. Thanks to my school University of Colorado at Denver, I was sent as an envoy to represent our school and the advancements being made in this field here in Colorado. My experience was eye-opening to this emerging industry – which showcased the latest technology and innovative designs in regards to building “green.” Hosted by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, this conference brought together industry-leading professionals who are completely flipping the status-quo of our built-environment.

The conference itself, was a series of keynotes, a trade show, and informational break-out sessions pertaining to various policies, advancements, and emerging designs in the green roofs industry. I had the opportunity to meet legendary Architects, like Ken Hyuang and James Wines, and was able to partake in intimate discussions with them about the next generation of designers. They stressed that at an educational level, not enough is being taught about how we can incorporate ecological services into our design-thinking. I took this to heart, and am determined to integrate green-thinking principles to all my educational and professional endeavors.

My Main Take-Aways from the CitiesAlive! Conference:

  1. The Future is Green! This growing-industry is a holistic and cross-disciplinary approach that requires the work of engineers, architects, designers, horticulturists, city planners, and more.

  2. Policies will help advance Green Building and Infrastructure. Just like in my city of Denver, new policies and regulations will help pave the way for the future success of sustainable cities.

  3. New Technologies are emerging everyday to make these installations more affordable and widespread. With more demand, more materials and ethical installations are on the rise.

  4. Green Buildings and roofs are versatile and can solve a lot of urban issues. From urban food farming, pollinator resources, plant therapy, and creating more thoughtful green spaces, we can improve the functioning and well-being of cities from a multi-faceted approach.

  5. We have to design with nature in mind! So many thought-leaders at this event came from dynamic backgrounds and yet still shared the same message – we need more GREEN in our world.

Having fun on the kids play roof! Designed by HighView Creations

Part of the conference also provided tours of Green Roof installed all around New York City. I had the opportunity to take a tour of Etsy HQ and their Biophilic Design Integration (read about my experience here) as well as connect with the designers of High View Creations who have installed multiple green roofs all over NY. They have tailored their work to bring green spaces to places that need it most – women’s shelters, day centers, psychiatric wards, all while utilizing government grants available to help with funding.

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A trip to New York wouldnt be complete without a visit to Central Park! Thanks Olmstead & Vaux for your contributions to the Landscape Architecture history.
A trip to New York wouldnt be complete without a visit to Central Park! Thanks Olmstead & Vaux for your contributions to the Landscape Architecture history.
View from the Green Roof at a psychiatric hospital - Designed by High View Creations
View from the Green Roof at a psychiatric hospital - Designed by High View Creations
Food planter boxes waiting to be planted at the Green Roof at a psychiatric hospital - Designed by High View Creations
Food planter boxes waiting to be planted at the Green Roof at a psychiatric hospital - Designed by High View Creations
Kids play roof - Designed by High View Creations
Kids play roof - Designed by High View Creations
Kids play roof with exploratory bridge - Designed by High View Creations
Kids play roof with exploratory bridge - Designed by High View Creations
Play tower on the Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations
Play tower on the Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations
Aerial view of Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations
Aerial view of Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations
Portable tree planters allow for the space to be versatile for various events. On the Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations
Portable tree planters allow for the space to be versatile for various events. On the Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations
Edible varietals and their markers help kids in the urban environment understand where food can come from. At the Kids Play Roof - designed by High View Creations
Edible varietals and their markers help kids in the urban environment understand where food can come from. At the Kids Play Roof - designed by High View Creations
Taking a tour of the Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations
Taking a tour of the Kids Play Roof - Designed by HighView Creations

 

Thank you Cities Alive and UC Denver for the opportunity to learn about this fascinating field. I take everything I have learned and eager to include biophilic and ecologically-minded principles into my design learning. I look forward to see where this industry is headed!