Green Roofs Yield Climate and Habitat Benefits on Campus


The Ford Motor Company has enjoyed the media spotlight for installing an extensive 10.4 acre green roof atop its Dearborn, Michigan assembly plant. Less well known, however, may be the role that Dr. Bradley Rowe and his colleagues in the biology, geography and engineering departments at Michigan State University played in advising Ford based on their university’s own 3,500 square-foot green roof. Green roofs offer multiple ecological benefits that are well documented by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities North America, including the potential for greenhouse gas emissions trading credits due to reduction in electricity needs for cooling in the summer and avoided heat loss in the winter. Green roofs also help slow stormwater discharge, buffer pollutants, reduce the “heat island effect” in urban environments, and provide safer habitat for plants, birds and insects. Green roofs are making appearances at campuses all across the country.

Last month, for example, graduate student, Julie Gibbs, installed a green roof on the engineering building at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Former NWF Campus Ecology Fellow, Reid Coffman, who ran a green roof experiment at Ohio State as part of his PhD thesis and now teaches at the University of Oklahoma, recently studied how green roofs support fauna at Ford Motor Company’s green roof site. Another NWF Campus Ecology Fellow, Tim Carter, recently installed a green roof at the University of Georgia (UGA). His project grew out of an effort to restore Tanyard Branch, a severly degraded stream running through the UGA campus. With the support of his advisor, Dr. Todd Rasmussen, Tim plans to transfer lesson learned to intensely developed and paved urban areas where green roofs can help mitigate water pollution problems due to stormwater runoff and reduce cooling costs. Dr. Bill Hunt at North Carolina State University and Dr. David Beattie at Pennsylvania State University run two other notable campus-based green roof research and application programs.