Students of Dr. Timothy Nuttle, a faculty member in the Biology Department, are creating a green roof—a roof covered in vegetation over a waterproof membrane—on top of Weyandt Hall.
Nuttle decided to create a green roof on campus to get his students involved with hands-on, local projects on sustainability. He works on several projects in the Allegheny National Forest, but the distance makes it difficult for all students to take part, he said.
In the absence of a university greenhouse, Nuttle thought a green roof would be a low-maintenance project with significant opportunities for student research and involvement. He and his students placed the first plants on Weyandt Hall’s roof on November 18, 2010. The green roof is expected to be worked into the curricula of several classes.
Nuttle noted that installing a green roof can be challenging, as roofs chosen for the project must be reinforced to carry the extra weight of the plants and soil. However, Weyandt Hall’s roof is already reinforced because it is home to a weather observation deck.
While other green roof projects in the region focus on engineering concerns, such as the best choices for soil or the best way to use rainfall, Nuttle will focus IUP’s project on species combination, or researching the best combinations of complementary plants. He and his students are focusing on plants that will grow well locally, including stonecrops, native wildflowers and shrubs. The green roof will be monitored throughout the year.
The plants have been placed on the roof in two-foot square trays. This modular design allows more control over the growing environment, such as watering, type of growth medium, and species of plants, Nuttle said. Students will be encouraged to come up with their own hypotheses to test on the green roof.
The green roof project is expected to reduce heating and cooling costs for the building slightly. But more importantly, Nuttle said, it will serve as a model for green roofs for new building construction on campus.
Funding is provided by Eisler Landscapes of Prospect, Pa., and Green Roof Outfitters of Charleston, S.C. Those who would like to get involved in the green roof project should contact Nuttle at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by his office in Weyandt Hall, Room 213.