Contact Us

Idaho Commons

The Idaho Commons
875 Line Street
Moscow, Idaho 83844
Phone: (208) 885-CMNS
Fax: (208) 885-(6210)


Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Dr.
MS 2540 

Commons Hours

Friday*: 7 am-8pm
Saturday*: 9am - 8pm
Sunday: 10am - 12am

May be open later for after-hours events scheduled in advance.
See Holiday Hours

Student Union

Student Union
709 Deakin Avenue
Moscow, Idaho 83844
Phone: (208) 885-INFO
(208) 885-4636 


Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Dr.
MS 4251  Moscow,
ID,  83844-5251.

SUB Hours

Friday*: 7 am-8pm
Saturday*: 9am - 8pm
Sunday: 10am - 12am

May be open later for after-hours events scheduled in advance.
See Holiday Hours

Image of the Green Roof at the Sudent Union Building

Green Roof Project

Student Union Green Roof Project

The Green Roof Project at the University of Idaho installed a planted Green Roof on a 1650 ft² section of flat roof at the Student Union Building. This tri-leveled piece of roof is located due south of room 210A on the south west corner of the building.

The roofs smaller size and partial shade made it a suitable site. The roof is structurally capable of holding the additional load that was added by the green roof materials and is sheltered from high winds. It is very accessible and can easily be visited by design, construction, maintenance and research personnel.

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The roof is bound by a sizeable catwalk that is used for public observation of the project. The project provides valuable learning and research opportunities for academic and non-academic student groups and University staff and faculty.

 Moscow was named on of the "Top Six Cities to Find Green Rooftops" by

  • Project Goals and Description
    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.
  • Project Outcomes
    Following the installation of the Green Roof, we anticipate that a number of different colleges and departments will find uses for it as a study and research tool. Initially, we intend to monitor its performance in 3 ways:

    • Storm Water Run-off Volume Mitigation.
      We intend to comparatively meter the out-flow of the roof drains from the Green Roof and other existing roof drains. After considering the roof capture areas of each drain, we will be able to draw conclusions about the amount of water that the Green Roof retains and releases back into the atmosphere. Since the water that does actually run off of the Green Roof will be captured in a cistern and reused to irrigate the roof via a pump driven drip-leg irrigation system, we anticipate that very little, if any of this water will ever reach the municipal sewage treatment plant. Projections can then be made about other potential green roof applications around campus.

    • Overall Water Quality Analysis.
      We intend to capture water run-off from the Green Roof and existing roof drains and test each sample for comparative analysis to see how effective the Green Roof is as a pollutant filtering system. There are a number of potential measurements that can be made.

    • Ambient Air Differential.
      We intend to measure the comparative air temperatures (both inside and outside) to test the Green Roof’s effectiveness at controlling and moderating air temperatures. We anticipate that the Green Roof will show dramatic thermal insulating benefits between outside and inside air -- particularly in the summer months. And, we anticipate that external air temperature testing at the roof surface will demonstrate significant differences in ambient air temperatures – indicating the benefit of a green roof for mitigating so called “urban heat islands."
    Because of its visibility and relatively easy access, we believe that very soon other colleges and departments will find reasons to use our Green Roof as a laboratory. As examples, we could see the Green Roof being used as a location for delicate or native plant species cultivation, entomology studies, etc. It will provide an excellent controlled location for numerous exercises and experiments.

    The UI students that are going to be involved in this project are very excited about sharing the environmental, social and economic benefits of this project with the campus community. These results will be shared in the way of open forums and hands on observations of the site. This group will also be providing a much needed boost in labor to help construct the overall project. Observation will be the key to the success of this living entity.

  • Timeline/Workplan

    October 15, 2007 to November 30, 2007

    Make demolition plan; document existing roofing, structure and drainage system; identify recycling potential for discarded building material; verify local codes.

    December, 2007

    Finalize design, including drainage, collection cistern and captured water irrigation systems.

    January, 2008

    Finalize design, including green roof detailing, plant material specifications and water and air quality testing systems. Order all materials.

    February and March, 2008

    Start interior work, including drainage and cistern connections and the installation of flow meters. Weather permitting, start demolition and relocation of existing river rock roof ballast.

    April, 2008

    Finish demolition, if necessary. Begin construction by applying modular green roof components.

    May, 2008

    Install drip leg irrigation system. Plant chosen vegetation.
  • Plan for Future Action
    This Green Roof project will continue to grow, literally, alongside other sustainability projects here on campus. As different species of plants are tried on this section of roof, the best for this type of application will be discovered and set the standard for use in similar situations on campus, in the community and throughout the region. The accessibility of this roof will make it an easy site to observe and to continually monitor for research purposes.

    The staff of the Idaho Commons and Student Union will be dedicated to maintain the area just as it was part of the building and their regular duties. Maintenance needs should be minimal, but we will always have the staff and resources to take care of the site since it will now be included in a budget line item within our Building Services operation.

    The uniqueness of this project will give the UI campus community a great opportunity to monitor it 12 months of the year. Each season will give us a perspective that will differ very much from the previous one. Some seasons will allow us to watch a high level of activity, while others will demonstrate a lull in activity, but still give us the opportunity to interact with the system and learn from it. Each of the 3 initial testing and evaluating categories will be monitored individually by the participants as described earlier in the proposal. Periodic reports will be produced identifying the results of each testing program. A document will be compiled biannually, reporting on overall test results for all three categories. Annually, a cost/benefit analysis will be completed, testing the green roof cost benefits as compared to construction costs.

    The mini-ecosystem that this roof will become should show a positive and drastic change in both the air and water quality within its own little area. Along with the much lower temperatures that we will be experiencing at the roof level in this area, we expect to be able to monitor this evolving ecosystem for many years to come.
  • Participation and Support
    The majority of the tasks required for the completion of this project will be provided by students enrolled in the various departments represented herein with an emphasis on those involved within the departments encompassed by the Idaho Commons and Student Union. The students will be guided and directed by the following:

    Idaho Commons and Student Union
    Mark Miller, Assistant Director

    Mark will be the main administrator for the project and will own and oversee the project from inception to completion. After the construction is complete and the project is in demonstration, Mark will serve as the day-to-day project manager and he and his staff will monitor the Total Discharge Testing and maintain the project’s mechanical aspects.

    School of Architecture and Interior Design
    Bruce Haglund, Professor

    Bruce is the Green Architecture and Sustainable Development techniques specialist on the faculty of Architecture and Interior Design. Therefore, he will provide specialized design consultation in Green Roof construction details. Bruce will initially oversee the Ambient Air Testing Program.

    School of Landscape Architecture
    Steve Drown, Chair
    Gary Austin, Professor

    Steve and Gary both have professional and academic experience in designing green roofs and roof gardens. Steve and Gary will provide technical expertise as well as plant selection specifications.

    College of Art and Architecture
    Jay Pengilly, Technical Shop Director

    Jay will manage any ‘shop-built’ items that will be required and provide shop space and tools necessary to complete the work. And, as a former construction contractor, Jay will oversee the site work and labor management.

    Department of Biological & Agricultural Engineering
    Jan Boll, Associate Professor

    As a Professor specializing in Environmental Water Quality, and the current lead researcher on the Water of the West (WoW) Initiative, Jan is ideally suited to direct the water quality testing aspects of this project. He will oversee equipment specifications and testing methodology.
  • Team Member Qualifications and Interests
    Mark Miller
    Mark is currently the Assistant Director for Facilities and Operations for the Idaho Commons/TLC and Student Union. This position requires the personal oversight of all three of these facilities, which comprise approximately 250,000 ft² of space. He has a high interest in landscaping and has designed and developed all of the finished outside areas at his own home, which were all barren clay soil to start with. Within his designs, he has incorporated many sustainable systems including rainwater collection, gabion basket retaining walls and the use of recycled decking products.

    Tara Malmquist
    Tara is currently the Social Action Programs intern within the ASUI Center for Volunteerism & Social Action. The mission of her board is to carry on and continue to bring quality programming to campus to promote engagement in local, national and global issues, including sustainability initiatives. They will also support students seeking to serve as advocates for these issues. In March 2007 the center and the board collaborated to bring the inaugural Social Action Summit to campus, which included guest speaker Paul Loeb.

    Bruce Haglund
    Areas of Focus: Sustainable Architecture, Environmental Technology, Daylighting, and Design
    Education: MArch, University of Oregon, 1982; BS Math, Illinois Institute of Technology, 1968
    Experience: Chair, Department of Architecture, University of Idaho, 1993 – 1999; Professor of Architecture, University of Idaho, 1982 – present

    Steve Drown
    Teaches sustainable principles of site design to his LA students. He also serves as co-PI with Steve Hollenhorst of the Building Sustainable Communities initiative, which is establishing an M.S. degree in BioRegional Planning and Community Design, and an outreach program to assist Idaho communities and professionals with sustainable planning challenges.

    Gary Austin
    Gary has a degree in history and a masters in Landscape Architecture from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He has worked for the Army Corps of Engineers as a civilian recreation planner and landscape architect, then worked for a private landscape architecture firm (Purkiss-Rose Associates in Fullerton, CA) until he got his license and began teaching part time. He taught at UCLA and Cal Poly for a couple of years and then moved to Seattle where he taught at the University of Washington. He began a tenure track position at the University of Idaho in 1991.

    Jay Pengilly
    Jay is the master craftsman that directs the department of Art and Design technical shop. Together with his crew of highly trained helpers Jay helps hundreds of students each year to plan and complete class projects. He provides training sessions for students in all disciplines in the College of CLASS and oversees the Department of Art & Design’s technical faculties in sculpture and the Graduate Art Studios (G.A.S. House).

    Jan Boll
    Specialties include teaching in the areas of environmental water quality, hydrology, and irrigation and water management. Research areas include water and pollutant (nutrients, micro-organisms, and other chemicals) transport modeling, GIS applications, water quality monitoring, hydrology, soil and water engineering, watershed management, and whole farm planning. Career goal is to provide land owners in agriculture with sound management options to prevent or reduce water pollution while maintaining economic viability.