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Free symposium offers public tour of metro green roofs

Built by Robert L. Byrd in 1951 to complete a prairie-style architectural aesthetic that also reduced summer temperatures, the Winnie Mae Home in Oklahoma City has evolved today into a ‘garden style’ sub-canopy green roof structure. Built on a slope, over the garage, it will inspire all do-it yourself homeowners. Photo provided.

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

Hosted by the City of Oklahoma City, the public is invited to attend a free Green Roof Symposium from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 12 at the Cox Convention Center, Ballroom C. The symposium’s goal is to increase understanding of how vegetative roof systems, or “green roofs,” can be designed, installed and maintained to offset environmental problems in urban areas, such as air pollution, storm water runoff, and biodiversity loss.

International and local experts in industry, policy and research will offer information and advice to architects, designers, developers, building owners and others interested in green roof technology.

Jennifer Gooden, director of the Oklahoma City Office of Sustainability and Russell Claus, City of Oklahoma City Planning Director will open the event.

“A properly designed and installed green roof can increase energy efficiency, reduce the urban heat island effect and improve storm water quantity and quality,” said Gooden.

Urban areas experience higher temperatures and more storm water runoff than surrounding areas due to the amount of paving and rooftops that have damaging effects on the natural environment.

Alternative green roofs can increase the energy efficiency of buildings by absorbing heat, which decreases air conditioning loads and reduces energy costs. They also capture and evaporate rainwater to alleviate stress on the sewer system and nearby watersheds.

In Session 1, keynote speaker Dr. Reid Coffman, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, will address “Oklahoma and the 21st Century City” Policy and Planning.

The program includes a presentation on how new green roofs are advancing urban development, followed by a panel discussion featuring experts Steven Peck, President of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, Toronto; Paul Kephart, owner of Rana Creek Design, California; and Jeff Bruce, Landscape Architect, Kansas City.

“Vegetative roofs save communities money by providing essential green infrastructure,” said Coffman. “As Oklahoma City grows it must possess environmentally responsible development to attract and maintain the twenty-first century citizen. The OKC Green Roof Symposium will initiate the already emerging field of green roof technology for local citizens and professionals.”

In an interview with Inhabitant design weblog, Paul Kephart said, “People are beginning to recognize the importance of sustainable design and planning and construction. They are starting to see the economic benefits, as well. Having spent 20 years doing this and now seeing it as both “main street” and “mainstream” is really a rewarding and fulfilling experience.”

A Researchers Coffee will include presentations on current green roof research investigations, followed by a group discussion with Bruce Dvorak, Assistant Professor Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning at Texas A&M University.

Also, Lee Fithian, Professor in the Division of Architecture, University of Oklahoma: David Hopman, professor, Graduate Program in Landscape Architecture University of Texas-Arlington; Richard Sutton, research expert University of Nebraska and member of the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities; Jason Vogel, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University and Reid Coffman.

“Green roof technology evolved in Europe to mitigate ecological stresses from urban development such as flooding, urban heat islands, air pollution, and drought prevention,” said Dvorak. “Now, in North America, green roof research is beginning to demonstrate benefits.”

Session 2 will discuss the design and implementation of green roof projects, followed by a panel discussion on current success stories, barriers and future opportunities. Speakers include Jeff Bruce, Landscape Architect, Kansas City, Paul Kephart and Richard Sutton.

The afternoon will include a bus tour of Chesapeake Energy’s, “Central Park,” a turf-topped parking structure; the Winnie Mae House, a 1950s residential sloped green roof, built by architect Robert L. Byrd; and Cardinal Engineering’s downtown Oklahoma City designed roof garden and green roof.

“Green roofs provide areas of ecological services that sequester carbon, minimize heat absorption and decrease air conditioning loads in commercial buildings, while capturing and evaporating rain water to alleviate stress on the sewer system and nearby watersheds,” said Gooden.

The event is presented by the City’s Planning Department and Office of Sustainability, with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.

Full registration includes morning sessions, an exhibitor’s lunch, and afternoon tours of three metro green roofs, or participants may register for the morning sessions or tour only. The free symposium requires registration, available through July 10 at .

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