ASLA To Install Green Roof On Washington, DC, Headquarters

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Conservation Design Forum to Collaborate on Design, Installation, and Monitoring


Washington, DC, April 4, 2005—The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is replacing the roof on its downtown Washington, DC, headquarters building with a green roof. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc., will lead the design process, collaborating with Conservation Design Forum to develop the design and specifications for the approximately 3,300 square foot roof surface. Gensler will provide architectural services relating to the roof access.

"Landscape architects are leading many green roof projects across the US and abroad, so it's only fitting that ASLA provide a demonstration project on this sustainable technology that can cure so many urban ills," said Nancy Somerville, executive vice president of the ASLA. "We hope to provide a catalyst for more green roof development in Washington and beyond."

A green roof is a roof substantially covered with vegetation. Since the 1970’s, green roofs have increasingly become part of the European landscape, where there are over 100 million square feet of planted roofs today. Faced with soaring and unpredictable energy costs and the desire for higher performance buildings, more U.S. building owners are opting for green roof technology.
Studies show that green roofs provide incredible economic, environmental, and esthetic benefits. Green roofs:

  • last up to twice as long as conventional roofs and also require less maintenance;
  • save significantly on heating and cooling costs; HVAC equipment on new or retrofitted buildings can be reduced in size; amount of standard insulation can be decreased;
  • insulate for sound;
  • significantly reduce stormwater runoff and provide water filtration;
  • improve air quality;
  • reduce the urban heat island effect;
  • provide esthetic amenities for tenants and neighbors;
  • restore bio-habitat in urban areas;
  • and provide many other benefits.

“With new technology, green roofs can be put on new or old buildings,” says Drew Becher, Washington, D.C.’s Associate Director of Parks and Recreation. Becher, the former chief of staff of the Chicago Park District who is credited with the “greening” and beautification of much of Chicago’s public realm, went on to say “Chicago, Portland, Seattle, and Boston have issued green roof guidelines, which shows that the technology is becoming more popular and mainstream. Many cities are realizing that instead of investing in expensive sewer infrastructure underground, they can require new developments to have green roofs, whose beneficial water retention systems help reduce storm runoff, cutting down on sewer overflow into rivers and streams.”

ASLA received a number of very strong submissions in response to its request for qualifications. “We were amazed by the tremendous experience demonstrated by these firms,” said J. Kipp Shrack, FASLA, chair of the ASLA’s Green Roof Task Force. “This green roof demonstration project is a great way to share this expertise among the profession and with the public.”

“Our firm is very excited in taking the lead for the ASLA to have a green roof on their headquarters,” says Michael Van Valkenburgh, FASLA. “It is an important symbolic step for the organization to affirm our Society’s commitment to the green movement and environmentalism, but also to see a way that the issues of design and habitation can be folded into the investigation. It would be a wonderful thing for ASLA to have one of the first green roofs in the neighborhood and we think it could potentially contribute very positively to the image of the Society, as well as the reading of the building in the city fabric.”

“The project is intended to be a highly visible demonstration of the practical benefits of vegetated green roofs, and to highlight the critical role of landscape architects in the greening of buildings in urban and suburban environments,” says David Yocca, ASLA, of Conservation Design Forum.

Founded in 1899, ASLA is the national professional association for landscape architects representing more than 15,000 members. Landscape architecture is a comprehensive discipline of land analysis, planning, design, management, preservation, and rehabilitation. ASLA promotes the landscape architecture profession and advances the practice through advocacy, education, communication, and fellowship. ASLA is a co-sponsor of the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities’ annual meeting May 4-6, in Washington, D.C. Learn more about landscape architecture online at, and more about green roofs and the May green roofs conference at

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. (MVVA) has directed the design and construction of more than 350 landscapes for institutional, public, and private clients across the United States and in Canada, France, and Korea. MVVA has offices in New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Conservation Design Forum is an ecologically based planning and design firm focused wholly on the sustainable integration of water into the context of built and natural environments. They are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Gensler is a leading global architecture, design and strategic consulting firm, with 1,800 people and offices in 27 cities across the U.S., Asia and Europe. Gensler currently has 426 LEED accredited professionals on staff. Fast Company magazine calls Gensler “one of the world's most influential design firms.”


Karen T. Grajales
Manager, Public Relations 
tel: 1-202-216-2371