August 03, 2010

Becca Shopiro '12 waters the newly installed 'green roof' at the Dana Engineering Building.

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By Julia Ferrante             

LEWISBURG, Pa. - The view from the third floor of the Dana Engineering Building at Bucknell University just got a little greener.

About 150 trays of soil and sedum - a variety of hardy, flowering plants - were installed Thursday on a 600-square-foot portion of the roof on the east side of campus, laying the groundwork for the University's first "green roof."

SEED project
Initiated by environmental studies major Becca Shopiro, a rising junior, the green roof project is part of the Campus Greening Initiative's Sustainable Energy and Ecological Design (SEED) Project Program and will serve as a testing ground as well as a living, learning laboratory for students interested in green building, said Dina El-Mogazi, director of the Campus Greening Initiative. Shopiro supervised the project this summer as part of a McKenna internship, which supports environmentally oriented student projects

"Sedum is a plant that survives all sorts of conditions," Shopiro explained. "When it rains, water usually hits the roof and flows into gutters and into stormwater drains. With a green roof, the water stays in the soil and transpires. It absorbs up to 90 percent of the runoff in a small storm. The extra water goes through the bottom of the roof as runoff only after the soil is saturated and only if it is a large enough storm."

Shopiro got the idea for a green roof from her high school in Buffalo Grove, Ill., where she helped one of her teachers assemble a green roof as part of an advanced placement environmental studies class. Last year, she contacted El-Mogazi for help with a similar initiative at Bucknell, and the two secured $16,000 in grants for materials, labor and engineering from the Degenstein Foundation, the College of Engineering and the Provost's Office. Weston Solutions Inc. and Green Grid, an environmentally-focused redevelopment company, installed the roof.

"The big lesson for me is that any student can come up with an idea, and they can pursue it," Shopiro said. "The environment at Bucknell is that you do not just learn in the classroom. You can learn so much by finding a project like this and pursuing it."

One of several green projects

El-Mogazi has been seeking proposals for small-scale demonstration projects to promote green building on campus, she said. Previous SEED projects have included the installation of solar panels near the "Mods" student housing complex west of Route 15 and a native garden at the Environmental Center. Other planned projects include a "rain garden," which incorporates stormwater filtration and is an alternative to water retention ditches commonly found around parking lots.

"This is educational but also helps us implement these initiatives around campus," El-Mogazi said. "The facilities department will also get some experience with maintaining a green roof. So when new buildings are built, they will be familiar with the technology."

The roof will serve as a research laboratory for students to study how it absorbs heat and insulates the building, El-Mogazi said. The second phase of the project will include a door to the roof and instruments to measure temperature and soil moisture to determine how much the green roof is contributing to energy conservation.

Testing ground
Associate Vice President for Facilities Dennis Hawley said the green roof will provide valuable information to University officials, especially as they develop plans for an addition to Dana and for a new residence hall on the east side of campus.  

"This is not only a demo project for students," Hawley said. "This will show us what it means to take care of a vegetated roof."

In addition to the environmental benefits to a green roof, it makes sense from a facilities perspective, El-Mogazi said.

"There is a lot of wear and tear on a roof with ultraviolet radiation," she said. "In this case, a green roof covers that and extends the life of the roof."

The second-floor roof on Dana was chosen because it is flat and has southern exposure but also because it is visible from classrooms and offices in Dana. A group of students in one of El-Mogazi's "Ecological Design" classes proposed the same location for a green roof as part of a class project a few years ago, she said.

Contact: Division of Communications 


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