The project removed the existing roofing ballast of an approximately 1650 ft² section of flat roof on the Student Union Building and replaced it with an earth and vegetation “living” Green Roof. Since the Student Union Building is a mixed-use building and is supported in part by student fees, its administrative group has more authority over physical changes that are requested of it. Architectural or structural changes of this type must be approved by UI Facilities Architectural and Engineering Services.
The main goal of the construction of our Green Roof was to demonstrate to University administrators and the University community that current buildings can be retrofitted from old, sizzling hot conventional roofs to more environmentally friendly areas that will have a distinct role in diminishing the urban “heat island” effect on campus. In doing this, the University "lost" an ugly, rock-covered roof and gained an attractive plant filled area that can be observed by all.
It is our contention that this project will become a very popular area to casually observe, study and use as a research tool (used by diverse academic departments), all while supplying the University with a model that can be duplicated on other existing roofs as well as being designed into future new building projects.
The success of this project will also send a message to the community that may lead to incentive plans provided by the City of Moscow, Latah County, the State of Idaho and many other agencies and philanthropic organizations. These potential future incentives could come in the form of matching funds for grants and cash incentives that would promote similar future projects.
We also feel that this area will immediately become a very popular site to view by curiosity seekers who have found out about it from the various promotional and informational items that will be spread around the community and the region in the way of media exposure. This exposure alone will promote more projects like ours on campus and in the surrounding community in the future. Our project already has the support of many individuals including staff, faculty and students and local government decision-makers. This project draws considerable attention from within our region, prompting a domino effect that will spread and advance campus sustainability.
Architecture that promotes sustainability is currently absent on the campus of the University of Idaho. This project was the first of its kind in our community and is justified by its many benefits to our learning community and the environment surrounding it.
Some of the benefits of this project are
- Reduced load on the sewer system by diminishing, and sometimes halting completely, the rush of runoff from a section of roof.
- Providing an additional layer of insulation, which helps protect the actual roof material from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and this area’s extreme daily temperature fluctuations, which may actually increase the life of the roof membrane.
- Improving the quality of storm water runoff.
- Providing additional habitat for insects, birds and other small animals.
- Transforming an unattractive section of roof into an accessible, appealing atmosphere that can be shared by the entire community, especially those neighbors who would be able to now include it in their view.
- Helping to prove the point that this example of sustainable architectural design actually provides an economical benefit to its owner, justifying its higher initial cost.
- Re-oxygenate the air.
- Reducing the urban heat island effect. The surfaces of green roofs filter and bind dust and other harmful materials out of the community’s air. Moreover, landscaped roofs improve the microclimate by cooling and humidifying the surrounding air.
- Limiting noise transmission.
- Allowing an opportunity to experiment with different types of plants, native and otherwise, to see what works best in this area and to establish a benchmark for future green roof development on campus and within the community.
- Offering an attractive alternative to traditional roofs while addressing growing concerns about our urban quality of life.
- Offering sustainable and regenerative roof landscapes where once we had barren deserts of tar, gravel and rock.
- Reducing energy and sewer costs.