I had the opportunity this week to spend a day in the Twin Cities – a gorgeous fall day in the land of ten thousand lakes. Part of my reason for being there was to meet with our thermowood partner, Superior Thermowood. However, I was able to squeeze in several other activities while I was there.
The day started out with a meeting at Wood from the Hood, a company that will be supplying us with urban wood for our Boulevard wood products. Owner Rick and Cindy Siewart have built a vibrant urban lumber business. Ten years ago they began collecting logs from trees felled in the City of Minneapolis, and have gradually expanded to accepting logs from homeowners and tree services from the entire Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Initially they milled the urban lumber and sold it to craftsmen and builders in the area. Over time they’ve expanded to create a series of consumer products made from the locally harvested wood. They are one of the few companies across the country that have managed to create a business in urban lumber – they deserve credit as true pioneers, and we look forward to continuing to support their efforts.
Wood from the Hood will be collecting ash logs from around the Twin Cities and rough milling them for us. Unfortunately, the Emerald Ash Borer has reached the area and municipalities are proactively removing ash trees to proactively deal with the problem. Wood from the Hood has been turning down many of these trees, as they didn’t have demand for the amount of material available. We’re extremely pleased that they have additional milling capacity, and look forward to converting it to thermally-modified Boulevard products.
From there I headed over to the Recycling Assoc. of Minnesota/Solid Waste Assoc. of Nort America (SWANA – MN chapter) conference. We were on the agenda in the “Innovative Recycling and Reuse” session. I introduced the combination of thermal modification and urban wood as a way to reduce the demand for South American hardwoods, as well as upcycle trees that would otherwise be chipped or mulch. While most of the group had never heard of ipe, it wasn’t hard to convince the audience that we’re really onto something with the concept of Boulevard wood.
If you think recycling and waste removal is mundane, you should see some of the creative and forward thinking programs that were being discussed. One of the other speakers spearheaded a program at the Univ. of Minnesota that kept more than 100,000 lbs. of student end-of-the-year throwaways out of the landfill, distributing the usable material to non-profits in the Twin Cities. Another speaker discussed the educational programming they’ve created to teach recycling to the elementary- and middle-school crowd. These are topics that truly affect us all!
By the way, the topic of my presentation was “Wood, technology and doing the right thing”. If any group would like to hear the 20 minute presentation, either live or via the web, just drop me an email.
This rooftop renovation just took a walk on the on the wild side! Pennsylvania Building Associates, owners of the property at 1275 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C., needed to hide some mechanical units on their roof. Architect Hickok Cole suggested a green wall to create a decorative “screen.” Gregory Long ofCapitol Greenroofs (who took all the pictures here) worked and James Davis Construction to create this 42′ x 8′ free standing vegetated wall. The image below was taken midway through the summer, approx. 6 months after the initial installation.
The wall, shown below several months after install, is comprised of 92 vegetatedVGM3-10 modules planted with a mixture of drought tolerant perennials including Heuchera americana, Coreopsis verticillata, Allium, Carex, Pholx and Sedum. Each module has 8″ of growing media, which will provide good insulation for both the cold winters and hot summers of Washington. Capitol Greenroofs opted to use Tournesol’s VGM Media Block on the front half of the module (the front 4″), which they commented allow for a better grow-in.
The VGM modules were hung on the frame using stainless steel mounting rails, and the the entire custom 4″ and 6″ tube steel support structure was mounted to the concrete roof deck. Capitol Greenroofs installed a fertigation system with a Dosatron injector and a 55 gal. barrel that holds water soluble fertilizer. The fertilizer, by Plantex Solutions, is 17-5-17 and contains several different micronutrients. The system is run off a Hunter controller, and each row of the living wall has a remote zone controller. While this is relatively complex, it points out the need to have an experienced professional collaborating in the design, and performing the installation and maintenance.
Capitol Greenroofs also incorporated our FRP Wilshire pots along with CWM modular container irrigation system (seen to the left and to the right of the living wall) to create an instant oasis on the rooftop. Tournesol is proud of our ability to provide a “one-stop-shop” for both designers and contractors greening a rooftop.
Our partners, Tom and Sheila Boyce from DeepStream Designs, visited us from Florida last week. It was a great opportunity to show them our facility and give them a deeper understanding of our products and processes. While they were here, they shared with us images from one of their latest east coast Tournesol installations.
Rockefeller Center’s Summer Garden
Our Wilshire Rectangles and Urban square planters were a perfect choice for this location – easily adding green to the urban environment and being able to stand up to the abuse of a heavily trafficked restaurant. Placing them on casters enabled easy and fast reconfiguration of the space – critical for this multi-purpose location!
The Urban Collection is sleek, simple, elegantly proportioned and tapered to work with most modern designs. The Wilshire rectangles are a straight-walled product that when placed next to one another appears as a long continuous wall. Both are available in FRP fiberglass and lightweight GFRC concrete, in a huge range of sizes and durable enough for most installations.
We’ve been working with DeepStream Designs for years, and appreciate them including us in this high profile location!
Jon Willingham, our regional sales rep in Southern California, recently was at a meeting in Long Beach and realized he wasn’t far from one of the first projects he worked on when he joined the company in 2009. He stopped by to see what the project looks like today, and how our product is holding up.
The project was known at the time as The Lofts @ Third & Promenade, but is now simply referred to as The Lofts at Promenade. It was designed by Jon Cicchetti Landscape Architects and installed by Enzo Caserta Landscaping. Both their teams have done a lot of work with us over the years, and have proven to be very valuable partners.
Our Urban Collection pots, in 36″, 30″ and 24″ squares, as well as 24″ and 48″ rectangles, continue to look great five years later. The tricky thing about fiberglass pots and planters is that nearly all of them, no matter the quality, look good when they go in. The mark of a quality product is how they hold up over time.
When we started manufacturing large planters in fiberglass in 2003 there weren’t many quality lightweight options available. We understood the needs of commercial designs – pots have to look good, hold up, and not be a headache for the owner. We started with walls twice as thick as the typical fiberglass products available at the time, and applied a high-quality paint system to make sure that it looked good for the life of the project.
We’re proud of the work we’ve done, and continue to look in on our jobs to make sure that they are performing to our standards. Since this project was installed we’ve continued our lead in the commercial landscape market, moving on to add lightweight GFRC concrete to the lightweight materials we manufacture in. Jon W. was happy to see the pots he sold when he started were still looking good – and so are we.
Here’s yet another spectacular green wall using our VGM green wall system - this time at The Nanjing South Railway Station, People’s Republic of China . Adorning the entire length of a prominent high retaining wall near the station, the majestic VGM Green Wall is part of an effort to beautify the station for the Summer Youth Olympic Games, being held this month in Nanjing. The Nanjing South Railway Station serves four major high-speed railway lines and a network of other railway lines traversing China. It is the world’s second largest railway station in terms of GFA (Gross Floor Area) at 458,000 square metres (4,929,871 square feet) with 28 railway platforms. Solar panels capable of providing 7.17 megawatt of electricity cover the majority of the railway station roof and the VGM Green Wall covers 12,000 square feetof the retaining wall. This bold statement in sustainability sends a welcome “green” message to international athletes and visitors arriving for the Summer Youth Olympic Games 2014.
Boulevard Wood – Now Upcycled & Class A
If you’ve read anything from us lately, you’ll have heard about our Boulevard thermally modified wood . The story is getting even better! Our supply chain is finally coming together. We can ensure our starting lumber is not from FSC forests, but from the city! We’ll be taking urban wood, which otherwise would be chipped or made into mulch, and using it as a starting point for our Boulevard thermally modified wood. Every urban log we start with not only saves a tree in the rainforest, it saves a tree in the forest as well – truly an example of upcycling.
Originally developed for our bench and table site furnishings , Boulevard wood is now available in tiles , decking and dimensional lumber . We’ve recently had it tested, and in addition to a 25+ year lifespan, it also has a Class A flame spread rating. It possesses all the performance advantages of ipe’ and other South American hardwoods, but none of the environmental baggage. We’re especially pleased to be one of the only domestic producers of thermally modified products, keeping production jobs in the U.S.
We’re looking forward to the opportunity to share Boulevard with you and your customers. Contact your sales rep for samples, or see our ad in this month’sArchitectural Record and Landscape Architecture magazines .
The Village at Chandler Fashion Center, Chandler, AZ is a showcase of revitalization and how pots can add life and landscape to any hardscape. The Villages, surrounded by numerous restaurants and retail spaces, had seen a decline in sales. Some vacant retail spaces had become available for lease. The owner, Macerich, wanted to create an outdoor destination area that would attract crowds, and one that could be used for, and flexible enough to handle, various events from outdoor vendor markets to birthday parties. Mike Faulkner, of SmithGroupJJR, to ok on this project to revitalize the underperforming outdoor courtyard space. Space constraints and the need for continued customer access during construction was a challenge. “Designing in raised planters and usage of the huge Tournesol Downtown collection pots allowed us to add landscape, shade and a modern look and feel without disruption to the facility. The pots are a great way to add landscape to any space that would typically require tearing out and replacing hardscape.” Other major design features include a new splash pad, shade parasols, outdoor lawn terraces, site furnishings and attractive night lighting. Because visibility of The Villages had also been an issue, SmithGroup specifically designed a space that would stand out in a big way. They chose a bright burst of colors – fluorescent lime and aqua. Faulkner said “Adding color to the space was a primary design goal which the client latched on to. The pots look amazing! And, allowed us to bring in variegated agaves, purple and good flowering Lantanas and Mulga trees.” According to Mike, the client loves their new space and retailers are already scheduling outdoor events at The Villages.
Tournesol Siteworks is pleased to announce that Geoff Neary has joined the team as inside salesperson for our Northwest region. But, even more exciting for us, he will also be acting as our first dedicated Project Manager, responsible for estimating, providing technical support and coordinating manufacturing for large, complicated projects throughout the country. We’re excited for him to make an impact quickly, providing support to customers on especially difficult jobs.His background as an estimator and project manager for Green Effects in Seattle (where he worked with Tournesol Siteworks on several large, complicated projects) makes him uniquely qualified. Geoff also brings an insider’s perspective to the job having worked in the landscape industry for over 30 years. He hopes to “close the loop” having been on both sides of the process and raise the bar on the manufacturing end.
Geoff’s experience allows him the ability to analyze clients plans efficiently and with an eye toward production. Here, he can help our manufacturing team work with a customer’s specs to see what will work, what might not, where might there be issues, how can we build it better and make sure it is right.
“I want production to double check everything. I am there to make sure there aren’t any surprises for the guys in the field. When you are installing a project on a downtown high-rise with a crane, you need to get it right the first time.” From an childhood in New England to raising his own family in Seattle, Geoff knows that from coast to coast competition is fierce and we need to make sure that the quality of our product is top notch from design and production to delivery, installation and years later on site!
Geoff is looking forward to working for Tournesol Siteworks. As he says it, “it is not a planter company, not an irrigation company, not a green wall company – it’s all of them. Chris (Lyon) is not afraid to move into new areas, be it bike racks, recycling bins, or wood decking and tiles. It is exciting to be a part of company that has its eye on the horizon. And, not a small segment of the horizon, but 180 degrees.”
Geoff is particularly excited about any projects that bring landscapes into downtown areas and enhance city livability. And, as we all like to hear, Geoff is excited “to be a part of a company that is constantly growing – it’s a cool place to be!”
“We’re fortunate to have Geoff join our team”, says Chris Lyon, president of Tournesol Siteworks. “He was a loyal (albeit demanding) customer, and understands what it takes to run a project smoothly. He’ll be able to raise our game immediately!”
You can reach Geoff at extension 158 at our office (800.542.2282), or contact him via email – gnearyattournesolsiteworks.com
Things are happening in the Windy City! This summer I had the chance to spend several days traveling with our regional sales representative Brian Mitalo, visiting customers, specifiers and distribution partners. I was greeted by spectacular summer weather, an interesting, dynamic business environment, and one of the greenest cities that you’ll have the chance to visit. The landscaping throughout the Downtown area is really spectacular – you can tell that the city has made landscape maintenance a priority. The plantings along Michigan Avenue, the Millenium Park, flower baskets and hanging planters adorning every outdoor cafe – these people are serious about making the city green.
One of the companies we met with has been responsible for a number of green roof installations throughout the Midwest, including several huge projects out near O’Hare airport. Kurt Horvath and colleagues at Intrinsic Landscaping have installed several projects using Tournesol material, including a TerraScreen interior living wall at Pirch Interiors in Chicago and several large lightweight planter projects. They mentioned that things have got so busy quoting projects this spring that they have had trouble keeping up. Nice to hear our customers are keeping busy!!
As I was driving to another appointment, I happened upon a project that had just been installed with our VertiGreen 3D Modular trellis system at a Mariano’s grocery store. The installation had only been installed the week before – but it looks terrific!
It might not look like much yet, but within a few years, the vines should cover the trellis nicely. To get a perspective on the change, a few pictures below of another Chicago project – the Rivers Casino project. The first picture was taken several months after installation three years ago. The second was taken this summer.
Brian and I spent a good deal of time talking about our new Boulevard structural wood tiles and decking as we were meeting customers. The architects at Wolff Landscape Architecture (located right near the river) were excited about the concept, but stressed that it would need to be Class A fire rated (it is!). Up to that point, they’ve only ever been able to specify ipe because of this requirements. They do a lot of roofdecks in wood, so they’re looking forward to using it.
We also spent some time with one of our local distributors, Mark from Lake Street Supply. They are the closest shop to downtown, and have great relationships with all the contractors working down there. Mark has built a fantastic business by being willing to try new things and find new products for his customers. We appreciate that in him – he thinks that Boulevard could be an exciting new product for them.
We took some time for fun, too. This view from the John Hancock building shows just a few of Chicago’s many green roofs. In total, there are over 350 vegetated roofs in Chicago providing more than 5 million sq. feet of green roof coverage.
On our way out of town we caught up on another installation from last summer. The city installed hundreds of large concrete planters around the entrances on the departures level. They are both decorative, as well as serving as a force barrier. To keep maintenance to a minimum, each one is outfitted with our CWM container irrigation system. The plants look terrific – as do plants all over the city.
It was great to be in the field and see what’s going on with our partners and customers. I could see from their activity levels that the construction market in the midwest is really gaining steam. We’ll continue to work to be part of it!!