A Critical Review of Twenty Years of Green Roof Plant Research in North America

In this Special 20th Anniversary issue of the LAM, I am going to reflect on the state of plant research over the past 20 years: how it started, what's been accomplished, and what the future holds.

Our green roof research program at Michigan State University (MSU) began 20 years ago when Clayton Rugh and I were involved with Ford’s green roof in Dearborn. This project provided the opportunity for Clayton to leave MSU in 2006 to become the managing director of XeroFlor America. Prior to the Ford installation, we had some German publications translated into English and we took a couple of trips to Germany in 2001 to educate ourselves. We didn’t really know what we were doing in the beginning and I don’t think anyone else did either. For example, we attended the first ASTM meeting of the green roof systems subcommittee in Dallas during 2001 and after four hours we still hadn’t agreed on a definition for a green roof.

When we heard that there was going to be a green roof conference in Chicago in 2003, we had to be there. This is where we first became involved with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), first met Steven Peck, and first learned that other institutions such as Penn State were also conducting green roof research. Realizing the importance of research, Steven held a meeting for anyone interested and the GRHC Research Committee was born shortly thereafter. The second GRHC conference was held the following year in Portland, Oregon. This conference was memorable to me because the trade show and poster session were held in the hotel parking garage. One of my graduate students wondered why we even came to an event with these accommodations and I told him that everyone here was making history and that this will make a great story someday. That someday is now.

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