The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Kagin Commons to get green roof

By Emily Howland, Matt Won

After installing a green roof atop the Turck-Doty Fishbowl in April, three MacCARES members won $10,000 of Environmental Protection Agency green to take their project to the Kagin Commons roof.

“It’s pretty intense. I’m trying not to let it take over my life,” Ellen Rogers ’09 said.

Alese Colehour ’09, Timothy Den Herder-Thomas ’09, and Rogers submitted their plan to the EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet National Student Design Competition for Sustainability. Macalester was among 50 schools awarded $10,000 grants for campus environmental plans. The college will compete next May to be one of six schools to win additional grants of $75,000.

Macalester is one of only two private liberal arts colleges to win the $10,000 grant; the others were all large state or research universities.

Green roofing, or covering roofs with plant life, is a developing method of sustainable architecture that helps reduce storm runoff, improve insulation to save on heating and cooling costs, and prolong the life of the roof membrane by 20 to 35 years.

Last Sunday, MacCARES members laid the soil on the roof. A week before, they had removed the initial roof.

“The only thing we need to do is plant the seeds in October, but they won’t grow until spring, so until then we’ll be doing research,” Den Herder-Thomas said.

The Kagin project will enter its next phase in late October with the installation of prairie grasses. The initiative coincides with the groundbreaking of a new athletic facility in early October that will also incorporate green building techniques.

American Hydrotech, a Chicago-based green roofing company donated a new drainage system for the Kagin roof. MacCARES also received $1,000 worth of donated soil from Plaisted Companies. An additional discount from Central Roofing Company will partially supplant the cost of installing the green roof.

MacCARES members said they are hoping that the new green roofs on campus will save the college money by reducing energy costs.

“It’s not clear if green roofs actually save money in the long run,” Den Herder-Thomas said. “It’s such a new technology, and it’s hard to measure how much energy and money it’s saving—that’s what the research is about.”

The green roof atop Kagin will cost approximately $7,000, leaving free the $3,000 balance from the P3 award and $5,000 in allocations from student government. According to Rogers, those funds will be devoted to research—taking measurements of temperature and water flow on the green roof to determine its effectiveness.

“[The research] will be mostly on insulation, but when we have rain we’ll be testing the quality of the runoff. In spring, when the snow melts, we can test that too,” Den Herder-Thomas said.

According to Rogers, the pilot green roof over the Fishbowl is a positive precedent for Kagin’s green roof.

“[It is] growing very well,” Rogers said. “We’ve got plants that we didn’t even plant [growing from cottonweed].”

Should they win a $75,000 Phase II grant, the students will research the ideal ways to make a roof environmentally sound, and broaden the scope of their plans to the larger Twin Cities area and throughout Minnesota.

Mayor Chris Coleman’s administration is currently working on ways to make St. Paul environmentally sustainable through an initiative called Sustainable St. Paul.

“[The city is] already 6 percent below their 1980 CO2 emissions levels, in other words on track with the Kyoto Protocol, but that’s not enough, so they want to do a lot more work with groups like us,” Den Herder-Thomas said of the city. “They should be sending us a draft version soon.”

Coleman has already officially signed a letter of support for the project, and has been in contact with the students. The Twin Cities are currently in “a rivalry,” Rogers said, as Minneapolis already has several green roofs, including one over the city library.

“We may be the first green roof in St. Paul,” she said.

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    Karen WalkerSep 6, 2019 at 10:18 pm

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