Green roof at S&T will provide research opportunity

A group of Missouri University of Science and Technology students who weren’t afraid of heights or getting their hands dirty planted a garden Tuesday on the roof of Emerson Electric Company Hall on campus.

The planting project was one of the activities being held at the university during No Impact Week, which will run through Earth Day this coming Monday.

No Impact Week is highlighting an environmental theme each day and Tuesday’s theme was energy.

The planting project also will provide a research opportunity for students and staff to learn what kind of effect a green roof can have.

A green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation or plant life.

Missouri S&T faculty members Eric Showalter and Joel Burken are working with the students on the project. Showalter said he believes this is the first green roof that he is aware of in Rolla.

While there is a greenhouse on the roof of the Butler-Carlton Hall and a few smaller plantings on that roof, the garden on Emerson Hall is much larger.

Showalter said the green roof idea started with the help of S&T alumna Helene Hardy Pierce, an executive with GAF Materials Corporation, which donated the white thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roofing along with drainage materials and a growing medium needed for the plantings.

The sedums being planted came from Jost Greenhouses in St. Louis. Showalter said the sedums are drought tolerant and will not grow tall. “They are commonly used for a green roof application,” he said.

When finished, the plantings will look like a shamrock from above.

Among the items that will be studied include the quantity and chemical makeup of the water that will run off into the drains, the thermal impact of having vegetation on the roof as well as wind erosion. The project also may lead to other types of research, Showalter said.

The roof is divided into three areas — an old black roofing material, the TPO white roof and the green roof, so comparisons can be made, Showalter said.

Grace Harper, a master’s student majoring in environmental engineering, said this green roof project “will show people that this is an option for say, small businesses, to consider.”

While Tuesday was dreary, it did not deter students from helping plant the sedums. At one time, about 21 students were counted on the roof, Harper said.

Some students came to fulfill service hour requirements for clubs and societies, while others assisted because they were simply interested.