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New Dirt on the Roof: Green Roofs for UMass Amherst

This project describes the educational, environmental, and financial benefits of green roofs on the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMA) campus. The project examines the campus' current roof-tops to determine which buildings are the best candidates for green roofs using a three-step selection method. Other campuses or cities can apply this method to select priority buildings for green roofs. Two of the best candidates are studied in greater detail in order to create schematic designs for green roofs at those sites. In addition, this project explores the design of a potential new building to be constructed on campus with an intensive green roof and an extensive research green roof. The project is intended to inform the UMA community as to which buildings are most suitable for green roofs, why green roofs should be included on campus, and how a green roof should be incorporated in a future building project. The project also includes an in-depth literature review on the barriers and benefits of green roofs, their history and current application, and examples from around the world. The UMA campus has over 180 buildings located in the core campus area of approximately 900 acres. Over seventy acres of roof-tops cover seven percent of the surface area of the UMA campus study area. Twenty-one percent of the campus is covered by other impervious surfaces such as parking lots, roads and walkways. Taken together pavement and buildings cover twenty-eight percent of the campus. This quantity of impervious surfaces has been proven to have a negative effect on water quality and quantity. Since green roofs retain significant amounts of stormwater, they are one best management practice to mitigate the impact of impervious surfaces on surrounding water bodies. Along with stormwater benefits, green roofs may provide other environmental benefits that are applicable at UMA including a reduction in the urban heat island effect, new habitat and opportunities for biodiversity, and improved air quality. Since green roofs extend the life of the waterproof membrane and reduce heating and cooling costs, they can save the university money in the long-term. As an institution, UMA must be concerned with the long-term costs to own and operate their facilities and shoudl be willing to implement building techniques that have greater initial costs, but lower long-term costs. Research about green buildings and sustainability is a growing area of interest for students and faculty, and several of the university's schools and departments could readily become involved in green roof research if research sites were built on campus. Through a green roof research program, UMA could become a resource for the implementation of this building strategy in the northeast. UMA has the important role of demonstrating appropriate, innovative and sustainable solutions that mitigate the impact of buildings on the environment. Green roofs in the core of campus are a highly visible example of sustainable practices that will influence and inform the next generation of citizens and professionals. The buildings selected for schematic design were chosen, in part, for their highly visible locations so that as many students as possible could learn from them and benefit from seeing plants and living things. The building selection method described in this project shows the university where to begin with green roofs. The schematic designs are intended to spark the interest of campus decision makers by showing the aesthetic benefits of green roofs on our buildings. And finally, a review of the current literature on green roofs shows that while we have much to learn about this technology, we know enough to be sure that green roofs provide benefits, monetary and otherwise, that exceed their cost.
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