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Vegetative Rooftops Come Alive

Green roofs are growing in more ways than one, as more commercial businesses are opting for green vegetation over traditional flat-roof materials on both new and existing buildings.

They have long been popular in Europe, especially in Germany, Switzerland, and France. Now many North American cities are livening up their rooftops, including Chicago, Cincinnati, New York City, Portland, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. A survey released by the Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) reports that corporations recorded 889 projects in 40 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces in 2016. In fact, the U.S. capital is home to an impressive array of rooftop gardens and has set a goal of 20 percent green roof coverage by 2020.

The popularity of green roofs is being fueled by tax incentives, but also by economic and environmental benefits. Soil and vegetation helps insulate roofs, keeping buildings cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Plus, green roofs dramatically reduce storm water runoff. Consider the fact that rainwater hitting a traditional roof flows into gutters and eventually into storm drains. In a green roof environment, that water is captured and utilized for nurturing plant growth.     

Green roofs are also becoming faster, easier, and more cost-effective to construct. Loading heavy soil onto rooftops of multi-story buildings once required moving bagged or bulk soil mix to rooftops by crane, man-lift, or service elevator. Today, more construction crews are using high-powered blowers and hoses. 

Express Blower, Inc., of Fairfield, Ohio, manufactures a range of equipment used for the construction of green roofs. The company’s truck-mounted machines include five self-contained models powered by a dedicated John Deere diesel engine. Two models feature a material box about 34 cubic meters (45 cubic yards) in size, and two larger models hold about 53.5 cubic meters (70 cubic yards) of material. The fifth model is a high-powered compact skid-style unit.

Express Blower’s medium-duty and heavy-duty models are ideally suited for green roof construction. Using long stretches of hard pipe or hose, they can deliver soil and aggregates to rooftops more than 30 stories high and place the material right where it’s needed — no extra handling required.

The mighty machines were used in the construction of several large green-roof projects, including the Target Center, a multi-use arena home of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves. In Ohio, they installed green roof material atop the Liberty Center shopping complex in Fairfield. 

Back at ground level

Express Blower equipment has long been used for landscaping, erosion control, and seeding. In addition to soil mixes, the machines can blow mulch, soil blends, composts, and aggregates into place. and granular additives into the stream of soil. This “blown-in” application, called Terraseeding®, is a fast way to achieve quick germination over large areas, making it ideal for erosion control and the establishment of new lawns and wildflower beds. Terraseeding can also be used on rooftops. “There are different types of green roofs,” explains Jason Wedmore, national account manager for Express Blower, Inc. “There are those with a thin layer of soil and drought-tolerant sedum plants, and then there are fully landscaped rooftops with walkways and courtyards. Our customers have found pretty diverse ways to use the blower trucks, and having high-horsepower engines powering our machines gives them a lot farther range.” 

After years of powering its equipment with a competitive engine model, Express Blower recently transitioned to John Deere Final Tier 4/ Stage IV engines. The PowerTech™ PSS 6.8L engine powers two medium-duty (MD) models — the TM-45MD and TM-70MD. The PowerTech PSS 9.0L engine powers the company’s two heavy-duty (HD) models — the TM-45HD and TM-70HD — as well as the new SKHD, a heavy-duty, skid-style unit. 

“Our customers have found pretty diverse ways to use the blower trucks, and having high-horsepower engines powering our machines gives them a lot farther range.”— Jason Wedmore, Express Blower, Inc.

The recent switch to John Deere follows suit of its sister company, FINN Corporation of Fairfield, Ohio, which has been powering mulch blowers and HydroSeeders® with John Deere engines since 1975. Both companies purchase John Deere engines from Superior Diesel in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

Superior Diesel provided engineering assistance during Express Blower’s recent transition to Final Tier 4/Stage IV. “Because of the increased size of the components, we had to get much more creative in the packaging of our unit,” says Brendan O’Connor, product manager for Express Blower, Inc. “The support of both John Deere and Superior Diesel has helped us immensely in doing all of that engineering work. The service has been outstanding.”  

Both companies sell blowers internationally and rely on the John Deere global network of dealers to support customers overseas. “During the process of searching for a new engine supplier,” says O’Connor, “we received positive feedback from customers about John Deere. The international support network of dealers seems to be better than our past engine suppliers. We know that our customers are going to have good service and support from John Deere.” 

Distributor: Superior Diesel in Rhinelander, Wisconsin;


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