The University of Connecticut is implementing green roofs that provide a striking solution to stormwater pollution, Dr. Julia Kuzovkina, a professor of ornamental horticulture at UConn, said.
“Green roofs absorb this rain water and stop this spread of pollutants,” Kuzovkina said.
Green roofs work like sponges to collect rainwater, Kuzovkina said. Rainwater produces runoff that flows on top of the impervious surfaces collecting pollutants, Kuzovkina said.
“All these pollutants are going into the creeks surrounding the campus and the lakes and result in higher contamination and pollution,” Kuzovkina said.
Green roofs are located on Gant Plaza, Laurel Hall, Augustus Storrs Hall, the Innovation Partnership Building and the Engineering and Science Building.
“It’s part of UConn’s commitment to reducing stormwater impact,” Dr. Michael Dietz, an educator for UConn and an overseer for the Connecticut Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program said. “So that’s the bigger picture.”
UConn received a grant for its first green roof project in 2007, located on the Gant Science Complex, Dietz said. According to the research of Bruce Gregoire, a graduate student at UConn at the time, and Dr. John Clausen, a professor for the UConn Department of Natural Resources, the project proved to be effective in capturing 51 percent of rainwater.
The goal is to include as many stormwater features as possible, Dietz said.
“Not every building is suitable for a green roof, but many of them that have flat roofs,” Dietz said. “If you could capture half the runoff… that’s a big deal.”
The concept of green roofs originated in Germany in the 1970s, but did not reach the U.S. until a couple of decades ago, Kuzovkina said. Chicago was the first major city to incorporate green roofs, then followed in New York City, Boston and then Washington D.C., Dietz said.
While the current green roof project at UConn has received widespread support and implementation, only five green roofs on campus will not dramatically change things Kuzovkina said, so UConn must continue implementing the idea everywhere possible.
“It will not affect significantly on our environment because we have so many buildings and so many pavements. We have to have more green roofs,” Kuzovkina said.
Green roofs are supplemented by other projects like bioretention areas and pavements that let water through, Dietz said.
“UConn is really committed to putting a lot of these things in,” Dietz said. “As many as they can on every new project.”
Along with implementing water retention, green roofs conserve energy, double the life of the roof, diversify ecology in the urban environment and are aesthetically pleasing, Kuzovkina said.
However, the cost of the building materials for the roofs make the project expensive, Kuzovkina said.
The special light substrate used to grow plants on the roof is not cheap, attributing the high cost of green roofs to the new industry being “the most highly engineered landscape humans can construct,” Kuzovkina said.
Few entrepreneurs are starting companies to manufacture dirt for green roofs, so the price remains high, but the cost per square foot has already dropped by half and it is expected to decrease as popularity rises, Kuzovkina said.
“This is the future, and we will see more of them,” Kuzovkina said.
Nicholas Hampton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.