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Student Initiates Innovative Green Roof Project on Campus

A student in a baseball cap tends a few small plants on a roof top.
By Peter M. Letourneau, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor, Biology-Environmental Science

On May 11, 2016, nearly two years of planning and research came to fruition when the first test plot of a "green roof" was installed on the west side of the Robert V. LaPenta Student Union.
The idea of a green roof -- a specially designed installation of vegetation and soils -- was initiated by an Environmental Studies major, Kevin King ’16. Interested in environmental planning and natural resource management, Kevin was inspired by a campus survey conducted for the environmental science class taught by his mentor, Dr. Peter M. LeTourneau.
The class looked at all aspects of the built and natural environment on the Iona campus, and discussed ways to improve the urban hydrology, reduce the carbon footprint, and add low-maintenance natural plantings to increase habitat potential and reduce maintenance costs.
Already well read in environmental planning, Kevin recalled articles about green roof installations in New York City, on many college campuses, and even major corporations, like the Ford Motor Company.
Kevin spent his junior year researching the potential for natural landscaping at Iona College, including drawing up preliminary plans for a green roof on LaPenta Student Union.
As part of his duties as president of the I.C. Green Environmental Action Club, and as student representative on Iona environmental committees, Kevin made a key contact with Andrew Albrecht, a supervisor of facilities.
Keen to promote environmental initiatives on campus, Albrecht held numerous planning meetings with Kevin, other environmental studies students, and Dr. LeTourneau to scope out the costs and feasibility of a small green roof installation.
As Kevin expanded his research in his senior year, Albrecht consulted with architects who advised him about weight requirements and other technical aspects of the LaPenta roof. Getting the "green light" from professionals and College administrators, put the project in high gear in the spring of 2016. With the arrival of specialized water-efficient planters and hardy varieties of sedum plants, the project was ready for installation in May.
Beginning with a blessing by College pastor Father Francis Dixon and with the help of the fantastic facilities crew, Kevin, Andrew, and Peter placed plants in the containers, the first step in what will become a program of "Growing Green at Iona College."
Visible from the hill at East Hall, the green roof installation is likely to become a popular stop for College tour groups. Informative signage will be installed soon.
The green roof project is another great example of "learning by doing" at Iona College, where students "Move the World" by taking the initiative on innovative projects and engaging in creative collaborative research.

More about Iona's green roof 

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