Living Roof Built on Top of Aquinas
Gabriella Disanto, Tower Staff
November 1, 2012
Filed under News
The Catholic University of America began the installation of a “green roof” on top of Aquinas Hall last week, a move that was in line with the University’s promise to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
“The new insulation board was completely installed and trimmed at the two roof drains, so remaining work includes the roof membrane, parapet wall coping, railing post sealing and green module installation, [which are scheduled for next week],” said Richard Weil, senior project manager. CUA started construction of the green roof, also known as a live roof, atop Aquinas approximately two weeks ago.
Aquinas is not the only building on campus that utilizes the live roof system. Currently there is a garden on top of Father O’Connell Hall and a lawn above the law school parking garage.
Green roofs include four to six inches of soil that serves as insulation for the building. Imbedded in the soil are various species of plant life and grasses. When the sun shines down, the soil and the plants absorb the heat, which keeps the building at a cool temperature so the air conditioning system does not need to run as long. This is more efficient than asphalt, a common roofing material, which heats up to extremely high temperatures. The new roof also erases the need for electrical motors.
“Moving parts break,” says Brian Alexander, director of energy and utilities management. He explained that with the green roof, all we really have to do is “sit back, and it makes power.”
In addition to the cooling benefits, green roofs have an aesthetic appeal. Plants, flowers, grass and other foliage are more pleasing to the eye than the asphalt they usually replace. The greenery also attracts life such as insects, butterflies, and birds.
Once the roof is installed, little to no maintenance is necessary. The plants and grasses that are chosen are able to live on their own without constant care. Periodic care is needed, but will usually only involve tasks such as replacing a few dead plants. Because little maintenance is required, the system is more cost effective.
Many of the buildings at CUA use solar panels to supply their energy. These include the Raymond A. Dufour Center, Flather, Gibbons, and Thomas W. Pangborn Hall, along with the maintenance grounds, the carport in the O’Boyle parking lot and Aquinas Hall.
“It is a place to get out of the elements,” says Alexander. The solar panels on the carport absorb the heat and transport the energy underground to O’Boyle.
“As for Aquinas Hall, the roof is basically ‘green’ in two ways, about one-third of it with living green plantings by next week when they are installed, and the other two-thirds existing solar panels supplying electricity to the building when the sun is shining, reducing CUA’s energy dependency while reducing the carbon footprint,” says Weil.
With these improvements to campus, Catholic University now has the biggest solar installations in the entire District of Columbia, with about 2,600 panels on campus.
In the past, two solar design competitions were held for students, one of which was won by six students from the School of Architecture. The goal was to include students in making CUA a greener campus. The result, a solar powered picnic table, is outside the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center. The table is supported by the sun during the day, by battery at night, and produces enough energy to power electronic devices.
“The solar installations at Aquinas, O’Boyle parking lot and elsewhere are part of a very important initiative by the University to use renewable energy,” says Victor Nakas, associate vice president for public affairs.