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Student Research Blossoms into Living Roof on Hamerschlag Hall
By: Bruce Gerson
Four years ago, three students in Carnegie Mellon’s Sustainable Earth Club looked up and had an idea: replace the deteriorating south wing roof of Hamerschlag Hall with an environmentally friendly green, or living, roof.
While little was known to quantify the advantages of a green roof over a conventional one, the students knew that rooftop gardens conserve energy and preserve the environment.
That idea for a small undergraduate research project—initially conceived by Diane Loviglio (BHA’05), Aria Thomases (CFA’02) and Landis Kauffman (CFA’02)—sits on top of Hamerschlag Hall today.
“This project typifies the fantastic commitment, creativity and collaboration of our students,” said President Jared L. Cohon at a September ceremony celebrating the green roof. “Preserving the environment is a high priority for Carnegie Mellon in education, research and practices, and this project touches on all three of those dimensions.”
After Thomases and Kaufmann graduated in 2002, Loviglio worked with faculty advisor Bob Bingham, Carnegie Mellon’s Green Practices Committee and the university’s Facilities Management Services (FMS) to keep the project moving forward.
The big boost came late in 2003, when Governor Edward Rendell awarded a $96,750 grant to Carnegie Mellon from the Pennsylvania Energy Harvest program, which supports advanced and renewable energy technologies. A few months later, the project received $25,000 from the 3 Rivers Wet Weather Demonstration Program, an effort to improve storm water management and water quality in Allegheny County.
Art, architecture and engineering students in Bingham’s “Advanced Sculpture” studio class designed the green roof last spring. The design was implemented by W.P. Hickman Systems, Inc., which has installed a number of green roofs across the country, from Seattle to Maryland.
From the bottom up, the living roof consists of a conventional flat roof (concrete, two layers of thermal insulation, two layers of 160-mil torch-applied roof membrane and one layer of 180-mil premium torch-applied membrane) covered by the soil, plants, and water control systems of the living roof (filter fabric, a two-inch layer of gravel, another layer of filter fabric, four inches of specially designed soil, and metal flashing around the perimeter). The top of the green roof includes grasses, perennials, logs and a small rock-bed pond.
“This was an elaborate and very unusual design,” said Tim Clement of W.P. Hickman. “It was developed to incorporate a comprehensive energy and water monitoring system, which required some special design features. Once fully developed, no gravel will show. The plants will grow out to cover the entire roof.”