Your Green Life: "Green Roof"

By KBJR News 1

August 4, 2010 Updated Aug 4, 2010 at 3:16 PM CDT

To reduce your home's energy costs you may have considered replacing a few windows or adding some insulation, but have you ever thought of changing the roof over your head? At the University of Wisconsin: Superior, they are doing just that.

Starting last week the environmentally friendly green roof at the University of Wisconsin Superior is not only going to reduce costs in the summer, but reduce costs for heating in the winter as well.

The roof is designed to help absorb rainwater and reduce storm water runoff to the surrounding watershed.

"Because it is a sloped roof, every 8 feet we have a metal divider to hold the soil back, so we don't have a mudslide of soil coming off the roof." says Joe Fox.

And in case a significant rainfall occurs, the roof is designed to discharge its excess water into a rock garden beside the building.
The process for installing one of these roofs is quite intensive. It begins with laying down a waterproof layer, then a cellular plastic layer to help hold more water.

"Then from there, we put down a felt paper to keep the dirt from clogging the cups, then on top of that you put the media, what you do is wet the media, compact and roll it down. Then the sedum sod goes on top of that" said Kyle Olson.

So after the sod has been installed what will be the look of the roof?

"My understanding is that this will be primarily a grassy roof with some short vegetation on top", said Al Miller.

With a roof that is alive so to speak, how long will it last?

"Having the soil and the plant matter on top of it actually extends the life of the roof by about ten years", Miller said.

This provides the university an excellent return in lower energy costs of the building as the roof will last well into the 21st century. But is there any mowing or other watering that needs to be taken care of during the lifespan of the roof?

"No, we won't have to have any mowing, just have somebody keep it watered until the roots get established, and then it takes care of itself", says Fox.

So after a little work upfront, Miller says this roof will help keep the Universities energy costs lower for their Yellow Jacket Student Center and make the campus even greener. In Superior, For your Green Life, I'm Meteorologist Jeff Edmondson, The Northland's Newscenter.

The Yellow Jacket Union Student Center is scheduled to be finished in the fall, and open to the public and to students in January 2010.