University installs green roof at ESIA

The University constructed its first “green roof” on the Elliott School of International Affairs City View Room terrace late last month.

The 2,000-square-foot development was organized by GW’s chapter of Net Impact, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, with the help of other environmental groups.

Green roofs are additional layers of vegetation and waterproof covering placed on top of a building’s existing structure. The roofs help offset carbon emissions, decrease water runoff and attract nature back to urban settings by creating habitats for city-dwelling birds, said Facilities Planning Director Nancy Giammatteo. She added that the neighborhood was very supportive of the construction.

Heavy rain neither discouraged nor stopped the Oct. 25 installation. The workers – graduate students from GW’s Sustainable Landscape Design program, along with members of Green GW and Net Impact – worked all day to complete the project.

“Everybody was a trooper,” Giammatteo said. The effort lasted about eight hours, ending around 4:30 p.m. when the rain became unbearable. In the end, more than 4,000 plant “sedums” were planted in a three-color layout designed by Sustainable Landscape Design Director Adele Ashkar.

Many universities have installed such structures on their buildings, and Net Impact member Brett Kaplan said in an e-mail last spring that the purpose of the project is “to provide a conspicuous demonstration of GW’s commitment to sustainability and to create top-of-mind awareness for students, faculty, and alumni.”

The green roof was in the planning stages since last spring, when it received final approval from Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz on Earth Day 2008. More than 70 percent of the $25,000 needed to complete the project came from the University, with another $2,000 provided by the Class of 2007 Green Campus Fund and the final $5,000 from the Student Association Social Responsibility Initiative.

Ultimately, promoters said they hope that this “pilot” green roof will convince the University and others of the roof’s benefits, increasing the number of installations on and off campus. Organizers said the Elliott School roof may also be used for studies, such as researching habitats and water runoff projects.

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