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The Mac Weekly
March 31, 2006, Volume 99, No. 22

From Black to Green

MacCARES secures funding for a green roof over the 'fishbowl'

  By Emily Howland
  Associate Editor

MacCARES has taken yet another step towards making the Macalester campus free of carbon emissions by growing plants on the fishbowl.

Plant life will grow to new heights on campus this spring when a pilot green roof project will be implemented on top of the fishbowl—the link between Turck Hall and Doty Hall—on Apr. 14. A group of five members of MacCARES, the environmental student organization on campus, will grow plants on top of the fishbowl to reduce storm water runoff and save the college money by improving roof insulation.

The green roof is one part of a surge of environmental activism sponsored by MacCARES this semester.

“We have a really interesting mix of activism, both on-campus and off, that I believe are far more ambitious than any previous environmental activism in Macalester's history,” said Richard Graves '06, a co-head of the project.

MacCARES is also backing efforts to build a wind turbine off campus that will produce more energy than Macalester's existing windmill and helped plan the clean energy rally on Mar. 27 at the capitol building in St. Paul.

The project is part of MacCARES' greater goal to reduce carbon emissions. The self-sustaining green roof, also known as a living roof, is a cutting edge solution to reduce emissions and the negative impact of climate change. The system will also increase the lifespan of the roof membrane by 20 to 35 years.

“We're being wasteful and we want to prove we can be efficient and impact the environment less,” Graves said.

Graves, Alese Colehour '09, Timothy Den Herder-Thomas '09, Angelina Lopez '09, and Ellen Rogers '09 decided through extensive research to use a containerized method known as an intensive system. Intensive systems involve planting the grasses in 2 x 2 foot steel blocks on the ground and placing them on top of the roof membrane. The group will use a conveyer belt to transport the blocks to the roof of the fishbowl.

The group visited Carleton College's green roofing project last semester, as well as the Green Institute's intensive model green roof in Minneapolis.

The city hall of Chicago also served as a model to research. The city hall has a 10,000 square foot extensive system that is designed to be an accessible space. Toronto is another leading city in green roof systems.

The city of Chicago also requires that all large retail stores, such as Wal-Mart, use green roofing instead of tar roofs, which heat the atmosphere around them and create smog, known as the urban heating effect.

“There are too many black tar roofs. They are not reflective of living,” Den Herder-Thomas said.

The project was approved after a couple meetings with Mark Dickinson, Director of Facilities Management and Brett Smith, the head of the Environmental Studies Department.

“The roofing consultant has been involved in green roof projects so he added that much more expertise to their plans and satisfied my concerns,” Dickinson said.

Dickinson said his only hesitations were that the system did not compromise the existing roof and that the area was too shady to grow plants.

The green roof project is almost completely funded by outside donations. Green Roof Blocks, a company based out of Missouri, is donating the containers, Aloha Landscaping the plants, and Rosenquist Construction will donate the soil.

The sponsor of the project is Corrie Zoll, program director at the Green Institute of Minnesota. Zoll worked closely with Colehour and Rogers in their research last semester and has supervised the green roof projects at Carleton.

The group has also received full support from Macalester faculty to go further with green roofing in the future.

The MacCARES group submitted plans for green roofing Kagin Commons in the fall to the P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet National Student Design Competition for Sustainability. The team is competing with large state schools for a $10,000 grant for the first round of winners and $75,000 for the second round, which will be presented in Washington D.C. on May 10.

The money will go to researching the Kagin roofing project, which is estimated to cost $18,000 including research.

The application was a collaborative effort between Mark Dickinson in Facilities Management, the Development office and the Environmental Studies Department.

Mayor of St. Paul Chris Coleman and global warming researcher Will Steger both signed on in support of the project. President of Macalester Brian Rosenberg also showed support for the green roofing efforts.

Dickinson said he hopes to install green roofs on Doty and Dupre Hall and possibly the chapel, depending on the success of the fishbowl green roof.

The green roof team will use student labor to install the roof. Students interested in helping build the green roof should contact the students involved.


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