Kent State to possibly see more green roofs on buildings

Moira Reed

As Kent State continues to become more eco-friendly, the possibility of more green roofs on top of newer buildings becomes more likely.

“It’s hard to create green roofs on buildings that have existing roofs, because they have to be able to support the weight of the growing medium and the plant material for the specific amount of surface,” said Office of Suitability Director Melanie Knowles

The Board of Trustees, who oversee major projects, such as green roofs will have to consider a variety of factors, including cost effectiveness, hiring extra maintenance staff and determining if a green roof can hold a certain amount of weight load under consideration to see if it is worth investing in.

Office spaces or apartment buildings with existing green roofs can increase rent rates, which Knowles sees as investment opportunity.

“The cost depends heavily on the size, the type of green roof, which varies between extensive roofs versus low maintenance roofs, and what types of plants there would be,” said doctoral biological sciences major Anna Droz.

Green roofs are priced depending on various circumstances.

“’I’ve seen estimates say an average of 10-25 dollars per square foot,” Droz said. “In general, I would say it’s much easier and cheaper to put a green roof on a brand new building, because the building will be designed with the structural requirements already in place for the green roof.”  

Currently, two existing green roofs lie on top of Taylor Hall and the College of Architecture and Environmental Design building, however the green roof can not be accessed by students for the latter.

“I would love to be able to tour one of the existing green roofs on campus and learn more about the process of it all and even be able to participate in the planting in one of my major based classes,” said Leah Cavanaugh, a senior environmental conversation biology major.

Cavanaugh said she hopes biology students will be able to tour a green roof to learn more about the process of planting and maintaining the space.

“I think it would be really awesome to participate in an activity, such as planting the beginning steps of a garden on top of an existing green roof,” Cavanagh said.

Knowles, who tours green roofs in the Cleveland area, said they have many advantages.

“The most important benefit for having green roofs overhead buildings on Kent’s campus, is the storm water effect,” Knowles said. “Green roofs hold the water when there is a rain event and then release the peak amount of water over a period of time, slowing the overall process.”

The green roof protects the membrane underneath, making the roofs lifespan expand greatly, Knowles said.  

“Another major advantage of a green roof on top a building pertains to heating and cooling within a specific building space,” Knowles said. “The green roof can potentially reduce the cost of air conditioning for the building.”  

This can pertain to areas of extensive warmth, and especially hot, humid summers in the northeast Ohio region.

Fortunately, green roofs are developed to prepare for weather and season changes.

“There aren’t really any special procedures in place for a green roof during the winter months, so designers and engineers must make sure to calculate the additional weight load of snow for the winter months in area where it snows a lot,” Droz said. “For access rain events, all roofs have overflow drains in place to direct rain off the roof.”

Otherwise a roof will not be altered due to extreme weather. The roof is always designed beforehand to handle events as the regional climate dictates.

“A number of green roofs, for example the one on the College of Architecture Design, are planted by companies that actually grow Sedums in a mat or carpet in their greenhouses that they can simply come to the location, roll it out and instantly create a planted roof,” Droz said.

Although it’s only an idea now, seeing more green roofs on campus could possibly create a more relaxed environment for students and faculty.

“I love how a green roof has the ability and opportunity to help create a positive and open-minded work environment even inside the building,” Knowles said.

Moira Reed is the Construction reporter. Contact her at [email protected]