18 12 2009

Green Roof Dashboard
from Davis Center at University of Vermont

With a son who is a sophomore in college and a daughter as a high school senior, I have managed to spend a lot of time visiting college campuses over the past few years. One of the things that I have paid particular attention to (and seen an huge increase in during the past two years) is the focus on sustainability. My strong hunch is that schools are incorporating sustainable technologies because this generation of smart, college age youth demand it.

Many college campuses now sport LEED certification on at least one building – my son’s dorm at the University of Richmond (Lakeview Hall) is LEED registered and undergoing certification. It is one of nine buildings at the University which is either certified, or in process of being certified as LEED with the USGBC. Locally, Vanderbilt University completed the LEED certified The Commons at Vanderbilt residential housing complex in 2008. As I have traversed the country and seen what must be dozens of (mostly) smaller liberal arts colleges, I have seen organic gardens and solar panels at Whitman College, windmills and biomass generators at Middlebury, local and organic foods at Skidmore, a unique “homestead” intentional environmental community at Denison, beautiful rain gardens at Emory and the list goes on.

I also found a interesting resource online called the College Sustainability Report Card for 2010 (www.greenreportcard.org), This report card basically looks at environmental sustainability at over 325 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada based on 48 indicators used to evaluate performance within four categories.

One of those categories is “green building”. It was heartening to see that 44% of the schools have had at least one LEED-certified green building or are in process of constructing one and a whopping three-quarters of all of the schools have adopted green building policies that specify minimum performance levels such as LEED certification for new construction.

I was particularly interested in taking a closer look at some of the successes that I have witnessed at several of the schools that I have visited especially as they relate to green infrastructure. I found some additional information on Emory, Allegheny, Middlebury, University of Vermont and Macalester.


As a part of Emory University in Atlanta’s overall commitment to sustainability (with over 1 million square feet in LEED certified buildings), Emory has incorporated many innovative water-conservation technologies.. Particularly impressive to me was their implementation of rainwater harvesting and condensate recovery, especially in light of the fact that Atlanta suffered an historic drought event in the summer of 2007. On Emory’s whole campus they have to date included 6 cisterns with a collective size of over 350,000 gallons for both toilet flushing and for irrigation as well as a condensate recovery technology for over 4 million gallons of water per year.

In their new freshman residence complex including Ignatius Few Hall and Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Hall, rainwater and condensate collection is diverted to an 89,000 gallon reservoir underground which can provide adequate volume to provide 2170 gallons per day needed to flush all toilets int eh buildings. The rainwater is collected form the roof, then filtered and slowed through a bioswale system outsde of the building and then into the below grade cistern. The condensate harvest provides a reliable source of water to supplement rainfall during those months from May through September. It is estimated that the condensate harvests is adding 300,000 gallons per year to the system.

At the nearby Whitehead Biomedical Research Facility Building, completed in 2001, the engineers devised a system of piping condensate back into nearby cooling towers to use as make-up water. This system conserves water AND diverts 2.5 million (that’s 2,500,000) gallons a year from the sanitary sewer system.

Video About Emory University’s Sustainability Efforts


It seems to me that many, many schools are incorporating green roofs as that technology provides one of the most visible elements to show-off sustainable design. In every school we visited, if there WAS a green roof, it was highlighted on the student led campus tours. The green roof were touted for their well-documented benefits such as longer roof life, reduced cost of heating and cooling, stormwater runoff reduction and habitat.

Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania impressed me with the well designed green roof on the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts. It is located within the topography of the campus site allowing for a fully accessible roof (entering the building at the green roof on the high side and entering on a lower level to the main campus commons or quad –type area. The roof includes extensive and semi-intensive depths and features lawn space as well as sedums and native grasses with an interesting incorporation of stones and cedar decking through the rooftop.

University of Vermont, just on the edge of downtown Burlington, Vermont, recently completed the 186,000 s.f. Dudley H. Davis Center. The Center features a 19,000 s.f. green roof.

Middlebury College, also in Vermont, provided a sloped green roof above the Atwater Dining Hall. I was interested in seeing their notation that in addition to the traditional green roof benefits that I have seen listed in may locations, Middlebury includes improved acoustical insulation, noting that green roof systems can reduce airborne sound levels by 40 to 50 decibels.

Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota impressed me, not in size but in determination. The two green roofs on campus were the result of student designs and even some student labor! The first green roof at Macalester was a 300 s.f. tray system installed above a walkway between tow residence halls and the newer 1350 s.f. green roof on Kagin Commons. I happened to be on campus the day the Kagin Commons green roof was unveiled.

I believe the influence of these campuses and so many others will influence the bright minds of our next generation of decision makers and leaders.



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