SciTech

Hamerschlag Hall pioneers green roof technology

Over the past 15 years, Carnegie Mellon has increased its efforts to preserve the environment. They have adopted a formal recycling policy and have been holding public awareness events like the annual Energy Fest. CMU?s most recent project, in collaboration with Green Practices, is the Hamerschlag Hall Green Roof. The addition to the building is an example of using earth-friendly technology to solve an earth-threatening problem.
The design for Hamerschlag Hall?s Green Roof began two years after the formation of Green Practices in 1999, a committee to increase environmental practices and programs on campus. The project itself started as a Small Undergraduate Research Grant proposal by three undergraduate students.
At the Green Roof opening on Friday, President Jared Cohon and a Channel 4 news helicopter were present to mark the event. The Tartan caught up with Diane Loviglio, the creator of the Green Roof Initiative team. She called the Green Roof project ?genuine,? saying, ?It was the students? involvement and passion that started it and kept it running, not the idea or donation from a big wealthy corporation.?
Green roofs provide several environmental and human health benefits. By replacing heat-absorbing tar with plants and grasses, green roof builders can substantially mitigate the phenomenon known as ?urban heat-island effect,? when urban areas are up to 7? F warmer than the surrounding areas. Increased heat contributes to smog and creates greater demands for energy.
Green roofs can reduce the negative effects of stormwater runoff as well by absorbing up to 75 percent of the rain that falls on them. Stormwater runoff ? which carries dangerous heavy metal contaminants into natural waterways ? has been identified as a major source of water pollution.
Green roofs are made up of lightweight soil, underlain by a drainage layer, and a high-quality impermeable membrane to protect the building. They have been shown to reduce urban energy costs and water pollution and naturally purify air.
Carnegie Mellon also plans to use the green roof for research. It has built-in instruments that study the performance of the roof with respect to stormwater flow and quantity, energy use in the building, and the urban heat-island effect. Cliff Davidson, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, led a team of students in building the instruments.
Building these green houses is ?challenging,? says Green Practices intern Ryan England, who worked under Davidson to help build the measurement instrumentation. ?The equipment is embedded in the roof, and we are hoping it will continue to feed us data for the next couple of years.?
The Carnegie Mellon team and the Green Practices Committee are not the only organizations that are beginning to build rooftop gardens on campus. Yale University and SwarthmoreCollege have also implemented rooftop gardens in their campuses.
Davidson placed emphasis on the continuing efforts that Carnegie Mellon and its community can make to help the environment. ?Carpool, drive less, lobby city officials for better public transportation,? he said. ?Other small things like not littering, gardening, lowering thermostats in the winter, eating less meat, eating organic foods, promoting environmentally friendly food like fruits and
vegetables at meetings, and catering a sufficient amount of food at meetings, not extra, can make all the difference.? Davidson hopes that through education and public awareness people will realize what a difference they can make preserving the environment.
The green roof is now accessible for the enjoyment all students, faculty, staff, and friends.