A new research project from Dr. Julia Kuzovkina, a professor of ornamental horticulture at the University of Connecticut, is attempting to reduce the contamination of nearby streams. Kuzovkina is constructing “green roofs,” which contain plants that absorb rainwater and keep any existing pollutants contained on rooftops instead of allowing them to seep into groundwater and streams. This is an excellent demonstration of how research at UConn can be used to benefit the local environment.
According to the research of Dr. John Clausen of the UConn Department of Natural Resources and former graduate student Bruce Gregoire, UConn’s first implementation of a green roof on the Gant Science Complex resulted in the capture of 51 percent of rainwater. This is rainwater that would otherwise have collected a variety of pollutants and made its way into streams around Mansfield and possibly even drinking water.
In addition to this, green roofs can be used to help retain the water that is captured. They can also aid in the conservation of energy because they provide an extra barrier to trap heat in or out of a building. According to Dr. Kuzovkina, green roofs can double roof life, diversify ecology, and bring a pleasing aesthetic to urban rooftops as well. The industry association Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) adds that on top of these benefits, green roofs can improve air quality, reduce noise, and reduce chances of fires.
While the application of green roofs has only started up in the United States in the past few decades, in European countries like Germany (where the idea originated) they have been very effectively implemented. Therefore, it is possible for the U.S. to take steps to improve the usage of green roofs for the benefit of the environment. While necessary building materials are expensive, the cost has dropped as green roofs become more popular.
Currently, UConn has green roofs on five buildings: Gant Plaza, Laurel Hall, Augustus Storrs Hall, the Innovation Partnership Building and the Engineering and Science Building. However, this is a project that can and should be expanded to a much larger portion of UConn’s campus. Environmental protection is imperative at the local level and utilizing university research for local benefit is one of the most effective ways to make this possible.