News Column

Green Roof Still Struggling to Take Root in Texas

April 29, 2013

Representatives of Texas A&M University-Kingsville suggested new ideas last week for how to construct a live green roof above Amigos Del Valle, an effort that has been ongoing despite numerous roadblocks.

Augusto Sanchez Gonzalez, a research associate with the university, gave city commissioners an update at a meeting Tuesday: The project was progressing, but planting details had been a challenge.

San Juan gained approval in 2010 for a TAMUK-administered grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to create a roof of grasses and shrubs above the city-owned Amigos Del Valle building at 600 W. First St. The university would then study runoff and other aspects of the roof.

But the building required heavy work to make the roof strong enough to hold foliage, as well as general structural repairs. The city went through multiple rounds of construction totaling more than $150,000 in 2011 and 2012, but then still struggled to find a vendor who could create a green roof within the building's weight limitations.

So engineers and TAMUK representatives hatched a plan in January to use specialty trays and lighter soil to make the project a go again. TAMUK took over the responsibility of finding vendors.

"Basically A&M Kingsville extracted that part of the project for us because we were having such trouble," City Manager J.J. Rodriguez said. "But obviously even for them there are difficulties finding the proper vendor and manufacturer. I'm anxious just to finalize and get this stuff planted and see what the results are."

Gonzalez said Tuesday that he and his colleagues had been working on trying to create the specific tray shape needed for planting on the roof, but believed they had found a company in Canada that manufactured them.

They will include a variety of plants to see which die and which thrive, Gonzalez said, most of which will be native grasses with some small shrubs.

Also at the meeting, city leaders signaled there would be legal action involving previous issues at the site.

The city had previously blamed contractors trying to bolster the roof for not properly securing the site before a March 2012 hailstorm destroyed library materials and other city property being stored there. Commissioners voted Tuesday after a closed executive session to authorize city attorneys to proceed with filing litigation.

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Elizabeth Findell covers PSJA and the Mid-Valley for The Monitor. She can be reached at efindell@themonitor.com, (956) 683-4428 or on Twitter, @efindell.

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BACKGROUND

Earlier chapters in this story:

--Work to begin on San Juan green roof

--San Juan's green roof hits a red light

--San Juan moves forward on green roof; Amigos del Valle still homeless pending bathroom rebuild

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Source: Copyright Monitor (McAllen, TX) 2013