As we have discussed on 2ndGreenRevolution in the past, well-designed roofs can do more than just protect you from the elements. At the Penn State Center for Green Roof Research, students are gathering data on how green roofs can positively impact stormwater, energy efficiency, and plants/nutrients, among other things. The research has been part of the course offering, “Eco-Roof and Green Technologies,” since 2005.
Unique to North America, the Center also gives students the opportunity to study the effectiveness of green roofs using replicated buildings. Students have access to Rock Springs, an off-campus research facility with dedicated structures for green roof experimentation. This location features six buildings (half of which have green roofs) and a seventh, larger building, for collecting all sorts of data from utility costs to the quality of stormwater runoff. By having access to a relatively controlled environment, research completed at Rock Springs has yielded some interesting data. For example, in the summer it was found that buildings equipped with green roofs maintained a temperature comparable to the outside, while non-green roof buildings reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The difference in building temperature translated to roughly 10 percent savings in green roof-equipped buildings.
Two offices at Penn State—the Office of Physical Plant (OPP) and the Center for Green Roof Research—have been instrumental in bringing green roofs to campus. Together, they helped facilitate green roof installations at four on-campus locations, including one at Penn State’s Root Cellar building. According to the University, the Root Cellar’s 4,900 square-foot green roof is “an excellent example of a low cost, minimal input green roof…[and is used] as an open-air classroom and laboratory for students and faculty.” Students of Penn State’s Green Roof Technologies class even provided and planted most of the roof in 2007. Several other green roofs are also being considered for future construction.