A small green roof in Ridgefield WA

by | Nov 3, 2016

A few weeks ago, I just happened to be in Ridgefield WA. I was speaking at the ecoroof summit in Portland. So I took the opportunity to nip over to see a green roof shed in the making.

Many of you reading this may not be aware that once a member we provide email support. So a few days before I left for the USA, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Washington state asking me some questions about how to do certain things. Serendipity that I would be just down the road so emailed back and said I would come and visit!

Green roof shed in Construction in Ridgefield, WA

Ridgefield, Washington green roof

Green roof shed in construction in Ridgefield

I spent a pleasant Sunday with Norman Farrell and his partner. Not only did we discuss green roofs and his project but, they being birdwatchers too we went birding. A pleasant few hours were spent at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge.

Green roof Guide – why did you buy and how did you find it

I was interested to find out from Norman, an ocean away and the other side of continent, what made him join the guide. John and I are English and it always surprise us when people from these shores join up. We know that quite a few North Americans have taken forward projects using the guide. We also know that there are others from around the globe who have done so. But being in there in person it was a chance to delve a in a little more detail.

It’s great to be here in Ridgefield. And it is great to see your project in real life after all the email exchanges. What interests me is that you decided to the buy the guide produced in the UK for a project in Washington State? What made you hit the BUY button?

As I looked at printed green roof sources I found many which were beautiful and exciting. They often included inspiring case studies and ideas. However, I found the published material short on nuts and bolts. They were lacking in  details.  For instance there was little info on  suggested framing lumber sizes. There was little proven methods to configure the “green” part of the roof which did not rely on using commercial system or employing a contractor. These were all  out of our budget. The guide description, outline and the general materials on the website looked like they would answer my questions.  And more to the point less that the price of most books. It felt like a good offer.

So you had never heard of either John or I but trusted that what you would get in the members section would help you take you project forward?

In the members section, I found the practical details I needed to to begin the physical part of the project. I needed to know how much framing would be required to hold up the roof. The suggestions for minimum sizes for studs and roof joists were specifically what I wanted to know. That let me make out a bill of materials and layout the framing on paper. The discussion of roof slope and edge details let me choose a roof slope and plan how to integrate the roof edge with the roof I planned to build. There are many ways to execute a green roof, I realize, I just wanted specifics on a method that had actually worked and was something an experienced homeowner could do themselves.

By watching all the videos and reading the Guide, I had a clear enough picture of the end product that I felt confident to go forward.

We only get to hear about who buys the guide when someone emails us with a question which you did back in March this year. How did you find the email support?

The email responses to my questions have been timely and friendly. The ensuing discussion puts me in a better position to make a choice that’s right for my project. 

Obviously we have some ‘unique’ terms in the UK? Such as Arris rail!  How did you resolve the Arris rail issue?  

After calling several lumber yards and fence material suppliers, I did eventually realize that an Arris rail was not available in the States. I preferred to work with the smaller lumber I already had on site and tried ripping a 2 x 4 (75mm x 150mm) on 45 degrees. Lay the 2×4, long face down on the table saw and rip lengthwise at about 1 3/4 inch width. This lops off a triangular section, which you can set atop the larger piece to approximate the profile of an Arris rail. I used outdoor rated glue and small finishing screws to join the two pieces and was very happy with the result.

Would you recommend the guide to people in the North America even if it was written by a pair of Brits with a very English perspective?

I do recommend the Guide for North Americans even with your disclaimer! There are differences in materials availability and construction conventions around the world but those can be sorted out with a bit of ingenuity.  Of course there is some email support if needed. The Guide takes a straightforward approach to design and construction so users are not likely to be caught in a “you could never do that here” situation. Some in the States might be put off by metric dimensions though once I figured out the materials I needed, I never needed to go back to metric dimensions to build the project. It might be worth adding US equivalents for dimensions and other units. Though to your credit, I didn’t see anything specified in “furlongs per fortnight”.

Well I am looking forward to see how the green roof develops. What soils Norman uses and what plants he and his partner finally choose. We would love to here from anyone else from around the globe, who has taken up the challenge of what a couple of English guys have written here. So do get in touch.