FMU due to receive grant to install new green roof system

Daniel Purves, Staff Writer

Francis Marion University is due to receive a $40,400 grant to install a green roof on the McNair Science Building, the director of Facilities Support, Teresa Cook, said.

“We are in the process of finalizing contractual documents with the South Carolina State Energy Office to obtain the grant,” Cook said.

Green roof systems, which are already well established in Europe, are extensions that provide a building with economic and environmental benefits.

Two years ago Lisa Pike, an Associate Professor of Biology at FMU, oversaw an experiment, run by biology students, on the McNair Science Building examining the effects of a green roof.

Pike said that during the rainy months the plants absorbed around 75 percent of the rainfall, and in drier times 100 percent was reached.

This is an advantage, more so in urban areas, as runoff from roofs entering drainage systems can cause pollution to river systems as pollutants and chemicals are carried into the water course.

A change in the surface runoff, in some cases as little as 15 to 25 percent, can cause significant alternations to a river system. Most cities alter the water course in the region of 75 percent. The absorption of runoff also reduces flooding.

A key concern for FMU is the insulation properties afforded by the project. Pike said that the results from the experiment showed that a green roof would keep the building significantly cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, reducing the energy consumption from air conditioning and heating.

Energy consumption is an increasing consideration to both the government, public and private institutions.

Governments are trying to balance rising demand against the sustainable production of electricity. Two years ago the state vetoed plans to build a new coal fired power station as it was seen to be too polluting. Public and private institutions are looking for ways to bring their energy bills down in the face of rising prices.

Other benefits a green roof would give include reducing noise pollution, increasing air quality, improving aesthetic and almost twice the lifespan of a normal roof, according to Pike.

The green roof itself is made up of a high quality water proofing and root repellent system, a drainage system, filter cloth, a lightweight growing medium and plants.

The roof also provides students with educational opportunities.

“We are looking at our students carrying out experimental projects with the green roof,” Pike said.

Mabry Engineering, based in Columbia, which holds an indefinite delivery contract with FMU, will be carrying out a structural survey of the McNair Science Building to ascertain how much additional weight the building can safely bear.

The system and supplier for the green roof has not yet been selected.

“We are following state procurement process,” Cook said. “We are in the early phases of determining what we need and will likely open the project up for bidding once we know our requirements.”

Cook and Pike are visiting Ashley Hall, an all girls independent, college preparatory day school in Charleston Thursday, March 31 to look at a green roof that they have installed.

The roof at Ashley Hall follows a modular design, a system commonly used because of its adaptability and ease of installation. The roof is constructed in trays a few inches thick that can then be put directly on top of the existing structure.

The trays allow any part that is damaged to be easily replaced. The type of plants desired can be selected and planted into the trays, creating a roof top garden.

The roof is expected to be completed between late June and mid-July.