November 13, 2009

Green Roof on Acopian Engineering Center Provides Environmental and Educational Benefits

Daniella Colon ’10 and other students have researched and helped design the project

The grass is always greener…on the roof of Acopian Engineering Center. A 588-square-foot section of the building’s roof has been planted with a specialized lawn that will bring environmental benefits to the building and educational opportunities to students.

Civil engineering major Daniella Colon ’10 (Bronx, N.Y.) and students in LEAP (Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection) and SEES (Society of Environmental Engineers and Scientists) researched and helped design the roof. It is planted with sedum plants, hearty native grass species that store water in their leaves, allowing the vegetated roof to thrive with minimal maintenance. The plants are expected to flourish for several years.

A green roof has environmental advantages, such as prolonging the life of the roof system (by blocking UV rays and protecting against acid rain), slowing the rate of storm water runoff, removing impurities in the storm water runoff, reducing the “heat island” effect, and insulating the space below the roof. Additionally, it can be a buffer against external noises and provide a habitat for wildlife.

The vegetated roof installation also is being incorporated into the classroom in a variety of ways. For example, students have been using it to measure storm water’s rate of runoff and effects on interior and exterior temperatures. In order to maximize the research opportunities, a scaled model of the roof is also available for running tests.

Colon has been the driving force behind the project. She and other members of LEAP and SEES are very involved with the campus composting and organic gardening projects and were looking for other, related projects.

As part of an independent study guided by David Brandes, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Colon spent the summer researching green roof concepts and attended a workshop on green roofs in New York City. Arthur Kney, associate professor, and Anne Raich, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, also have provided guidance.

George Xiques, manager of sustainability and environmental planning, and Mary Wilford-Hunt, director of facilities planning and construction, played a critical role in making this project a reality. They chose an architect–Spillman Farmer Architects of Bethlehem–and worked with the College to find funding.

Colon contributed to the design process and recommended a small section of Acopian’s roof because it was flat, visible, accessible, and a reasonable size for a pilot project.

“I definitely learned a lot of about what really goes into the planning and completion of a real-world project,” says Colon.

Other students involved in the project include civil engineering majors Anthony Belgiovine ’12 (Mahwah, N.J.), Tomas Concepcion ’11 (Effort, Pa.), Lindsay Getches ’11 (Wakefield, R.I.), Diana Hasegan ’10 (Tirgu Mures, Romania), who is also pursuing an A.B. with a major in economics and business, Daniel Moran ’11 (East Blue Hill, Maine), Joshua Sadlock ’12 (Harrisburg, Pa.), and Jeffery Shoemaker ’10 (Schnecksville, Pa.), and electrical and computer engineering major Daniel Miller ’11 (East Amherst, N.Y.).

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