The green movement has taken over our way of thinking. From hybrid cars traveling the streets to reusable shopping bags being offered in grocery stores, we find these green initiatives everywhere we go. With the big push from various organizations and government legislation, this is a trend that we will hear about for years to come. Some of us have gotten used to hearing about the green revolution, but to the people who know how to make money by being green, it’s music to their ears.
To contribute to the cause, many cities are encouraging the installation of aesthetically appealing, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly garden roofs. Green rooftop contractors have been cashing in on this trend as the industry grows, and some have been utilizing new equipment that blows away traditional installation methods - literally.
By pairing up with pneumatic blower truck owners, contractors are saving time and money, and truck owners are expanding their services and increasing profit as well. It’s a situation where everyone wins: contractors and truck owners profit, and customers get exactly what they want in less time than ever.
With the United States being relatively new to this growing trend, demand for green roof contractors, landscape architects and installers can be expected to grow as well. With an existing building, an engineer must first determine if a building’s structure can accommodate the weight of being retrofitted with a green roof. For new buildings, architects must work the concept into the plans. Contractors choose the material and vegetation based on the customer’s needs and location, and after installing the initial waterproofing and drainage layers, they prepare and apply growing media to the roof. Later, the contractor and landscapers may return to plant vegetation.
Of these jobs, the greatest advances have been made in the process of applying the growing media. The old method - and the one still employed by a number of contractors - involves using a crane to hoist material to the roof, where a crew of workers uses wheelbarrows to haul, dump and spread it, making it as even as possible to ready it for plantings. Some roof designs are complicated, and oftentimes impossible, with this method. Let’s say the project requires going up six stories, across the roof, and then down two stories into a courtyard. A crane just won’t cut it, which leaves installers to haul the material up through an elevator and spread it by hand. By this stage of the building’s construction, transporting garden roof materials through a nearly finished interior is not typically a welcome task and can actually damage the building. Even without the risk, the time involved makes the job especially prohibitive.
But there’s another way that’s much faster, easier and takes fewer workers than traditional methods. Furthermore, it spreads material more evenly and can even handle the above courtyard scenario without giving pause.
In this method pneumatic blower trucks park on the ground level and deliver materials to a building’s roof through a blower hose. A work crew simply drives the truck to the building, pulls the hose up to the rooftop and applies the material - aggregates, mulches, compost or any variety of soil blends for rooftop gardens - by blowing it smoothly and evenly across the needed location. Grid setups for pathways are no problem with the blower hose, either. Depending on the truck specifications, the material and the project conditions, the product can be delivered straight up 150 feet or more.
As an added advantage, some pneumatic blowers are capable of Terraseeding, a process patented by Express Blower in which the truck injects seed and fertilizer into the growing medium, combining the steps of laying dirt and planting vegetation. This enhances germination because the seed is planted rather than exposed on the surface.
Portability also makes the trucks an ideal option for installing green roof growing media. Only two people are needed to operate and install the growing media with this method - a mere fraction of the crew needed with the traditional method. When the job is done, the crew simply breaks down the hose and continues on its way. The end result is a smooth, even application of material in less time and with considerably less effort than traditional methods.
The soil mix, mulch, compost or aggregate is loaded into the truck, which parks at the site and delivers the mix directly to the roof, where it’s applied evenly without the need to spread it by hand. The truck also could be loaded with material onsite.
Subcontracting the material application can save money and time - and free your crew to perform less tedious work as well. On the flip side, green roof contractors hesitant to subcontract may consider purchasing a pneumatic blower truck. Some are moving this route to continue to provide an all-in-one service to their customers, but to provide it in less time and for less expense. As with any investment it’s important to do a cost analysis to calculate return on investment on purchasing versus subcontracting.
With a focus on the environment and conservation, along with greater knowledge of the long-term financial benefits, it’s no doubt that green roof contractors, installers and architects will see greater demand in coming years. And that pace will only increase as more cities require green rooftop space. Fortunately, material installation methods are advancing alongside the green revolution, making a positive impact not only to the environment, but especially to an operator’s bottom line.