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Student Proposes Green Roof

3/4/2015
New Rochelle, NY (February 27, 2015) At the beginning of the year, junior Kevin King had an idea to implement a green roof on Iona’s campus. As a student in the environmental studies department, King is passionate about environmental advocacy and solutions. He started moving forward with his research into green roofs and put together a potential plan for LaPenta Student Union.

A green roof is essentially a vegetated living space on top of a roof, taking up what usually is wasted space. They are used for economic and environmental purposes and have large benefits. The roof will reduce water runoff, increase campus aesthetics and regulate building temperatures.

“The idea is just trying to incorporate the campus into the local environment,” said King.

King was exploring options for potential roof spaces to develop at Iona and the two buildings he identified were Spellman and LaPenta.

The L-shape part of LaPenta that wraps around the roof is where the green roof would be installed. It can’t be put on a slant, the building has to be able to hold a certain weight requirement. LaPenta is a newer building than Spellman, which is one of the reasons the plan moved its towards LaPenta.

Once King identified the buildings that could be used, he put together research and a PowerPoint presentation. He gathered support from IC Green and showed it to a number of faculty and staff members, including Assistant Vice Provost for Student Development Elizabeth Olivieri and Environmental Science Professor Peter Letourneau.

“Kevin’s project is an excellent example of a student-driven environmental initiative,” Letourneau said. “He has been so enthusiastic about his project that he did a lot of independent research. It is an example of ‘learning by doing’ vs. ‘learning to do.’”

From there, the project was directed towards the Iona College Sustainability Education Working Group committee. King joined the ad hoc, more concentrated group from ICSEWIG that directly advises President Joseph Nyre for environmental and sustainable solutions and ideas.

“Around October/November, I started presenting the idea [to ICSEWG administrators and faculty],” said King. “Everybody loved it and wanted to see it get pushed forward.”

Green roofs can be used to control water runoff, and they can help serious flooding problems. The vegetation holds that water for a long period time, which would keep heavy rain or melted snow from flooding the surrounded area of a building. One of the reasons to put it on top of LaPenta is because the parking lot has a serious problem with water runoff.

There are two types of these roofs: intensive and extensive. Intensive roofs have more soil, thicker plants are all-around more durable. These have six to 12 inches of soil, versus the extensive roofs that only have up to six inches. The roof proposed for LaPenta is an extensive model, and although intensive is a higher quality, King says that extensive will still do a good job at creating benefits for LaPenta.

“For the green roof, essentially we’re looking into low-maintenance plants,” King said.

They would use plants that are durable and don’t need to be watered a lot, such as a type of flora called sedum. King says it’s the most popular plant to use on green roofs because it can withstand all types of weather and temperatures. It doesn’t need to be watered a lot and there are different types of sedum so they can choose one more native to the local environment.

The goal is to enhance different sorts of local species that intertwine with the campus landscape as it already exists, and not introduce any new plants that would disrupt the environment.

Green roofs help control building temperature and reduce energy consumption. It would keep the building cool in the summer and warm in the winter so it helps with energy consumption. It’s also visible from East Hall; so the community and those that visit campus can see the green roof. It will be a marketable feature as well as an environmentally friendly and practical one.

“[Kevin’s] project is a model for student-driven research and campus initiatives,” said Letourneau. “He will also leave a proud legacy behind if the project goes forward.”

King said that he presented the idea to probably 15-20 people before winter break, and once the spring session started, the ICSEWG committee had one more meeting to talk about the project. King said everyone really liked the idea and wanted to see it move forward, but now it has to wait for funding to come in, which will be decided when the budget is finalized.

A civil engineer would have to be hired to consult on the details and costs of the project. It would then have to be approved as part of the budget for the 2015-2016 school year.

After consulting with Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Anne Marie Schettini-Lynch, the budget would need to allocate an initial $25,000 to move forward. This would include the site surveillance, building analysis, civil engineer consultation, etc. needed to proceed with the project.

The ICSEWG committee is exploring multiple options for funding for the project, including grants and fundraising opportunities, but the green roof proposal has to wait for the budget to be finalized before it can progress.

“It’s not far-fetched,” said King.

He spoke about New Rochelle’s building plans that were approved to revitalize the community. King says green roofs are incorporated into their potential designs for the new office buildings and such that will be added to the area.

Brooklyn uses green roofs as a type of urban farming. Downtown Chicago areas are passing legislation for a large majority of their roofs to include vegetation.

Schools like Harvard, Cornell and Pace have green roofs. The Jacob Javits Center has one of the largest in Manhattan. King sees it as the future model.

“Why not try to indulge in it,” he said. “It’s really not that expensive in the grand scheme of things,” he said.

Eventually through energy consumption regulation, the roof would pay for itself.

“I really hope it passes because it has all of these benefits through branding, it’s economically viable, and also it can help develop the environmental department,” said King.

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