A Conversation with Rob Tilson, President of Tilson Group

Posted in green roof, Interview on April 27, 2016
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Rob Tilson of Tilson Group

As part of World Landscape Architecture Month, we were so happy to sit down with Rob Tilson, President of Tilson Group in the greater Washington DC area. Rob is one of the original green roof specialists in DC, and his company is a full service landscape firm that provides both residential and green roof services. In addition to having a landscape architecture background and running a landscape contracting firm, Rob is also a fellow with the American Society of Landscape Architecture (ASLA). Impressive, isn’t it?

We spent some time chatting with Rob about landscape architecture and green roofs recently, and he had some really interesting things to say! With his background in both landscape architecture and contracting, Rob is uniquely suited to provide some perspective on both the design and installation of landscape architecture projects.

One of the things we talked about is trends in landscape architecture. It’s really important to know where the industry is and where it’s going as we all plan for the future. One big trend is sustainability as people embrace building and design techniques to ensure a healthy, functioning environment. In fact, Rob mentioned that the ASLA headquarters in Washington, DC has a green roof. And when the professional organization for landscape architects has a green roof on its building, you can see just how committed the industry is to sustainability and embracing new technology for environmental benefits.

Another important trend, according to Rob, is “creating outdoor environments and spaces to live, work and play in.” In Washington DC in particular, Rob discussed the fact that every new building now has to have a green roof. This is a great opportunity for Rob and his business as well as landscape architects in general – “outdoor living spaces on rooftops are popular, including grills, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, intensive plantings with trees and traditional extensive green roofs.” Even renovated buildings now have to have a certain percentage of their roof be green. And as Rob points out, “green roofs are good for the environment with savings on heating and cooling costs of 30-35%.”

rooflite semi-intensiveBut it’s more than just environmental benefits. “Green roofs really enhance the urban quality of life,” Rob said. As more people are living in urban areas, developers and architects are recognizing this and making a commitment to creating outdoor spaces with green roofs to provide that better quality of life.

So how does growth media fit into the green roof trend? Rob has experience using different growth media products, but “we prefer the rooflite product,” he said, which he calls “the Cadillac of soils.” We are flattered! He mentioned a recent project where the landscape architect was concerned that they were planting in the dead of summer with 100-degree weather and how that would affect the survival of the plants. Guess what? They used rooflite, and as Rob assured the landscape architect, “the root mix of plants will love it and thrive.” And they did! On a recent visit to the project site, Rob said that the trees and plantings were looking great and filling out. We love to hear that!

So how can Rob help you with your green roof project? Well, he and his company have an impressive range of experience. “We’ve been installing green roofs since 2009, and we’ve installed 750,000 square feet of green roofs,” said Rob. Tilson Group has handled some amazing green roof projects, including the US Coast Guard headquarters, the City Center DC project, Park Van Ness – a new condominium complex in DC, and a retrofit green roof on the International Monetary Fund building.

Green Roof

In addition to green roofs, Tilson Group also designs and builds residential gardens and components. One really noteworthy residential project they worked on was the South Korean ambassador’s garden, which was designed by the landscape architecture firm Lee & Associates, with a manmade stream bed, waterfall, and custom-built Korean tea house.

Thank you, Rob, for taking some time to talk with us! Interested in hearing more about Rob’s services at Tilson Group? You can find them at and reach them at or (703) 242–6077.