News

The (Green) Roof Over Your Head

October 8, 2009

By capturing rainwater and reducing it slowly over time, Penn's green roofs lessen the burden on the West Philadelphia sewer system, while providing several additional environmental benefits.

One of the most significant environmental challenges facing Philadelphia is pollution of its rivers.  Like many of America's older cities, Philadelphia has a combined sewer/stormwater system, in which underground sewer pipes also carry away excess stormwater after a rainfall.  During significant rain events, excess stormwater from city roofs, roads and parking lots can overwhelm the sewage treatment plants, resulting in untreated sewage being washed directly into the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers.

Since a good portion of the city is comprised of rooftops, one of the key strategies to reducing stormwater runoff is using green roofs, roofs planted with vegetation or grasses, to slow the passage of rainwater into the sewer system.  In cooperation with the Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds, Penn is exhibiting best practices in sustainability by installing green roofs on a number of buildings.  By capturing rainwater and reducing it slowly over time, Penn's green roofs lessen the burden on the West Philadelphia sewer system, while providing several additional environmental benefits.

Green roofing systems help keep the top floor of a building cooler by reducing the rooftop temperature during hot months, while the plants and soil insulate the building from sub-zero temperatures and icy winds in the winter.  The plantings extend the life of the roof waterproofing membrane by protecting it from UV light and extreme temperature swings.  In addition, green roofs can provide a habitat for a number of insect and bird species, increasing urban biodiversity and creating a healthier ecosystem.

Living landscapes above Penn building spaces are located at the Hill Pavilion of the Vet School, Koo Plaza at Huntsman Hall, Nursing’s Claire Fagin Hall courtyard, Kings Court English College House, and The Radian apartment complex.

Fact

The Green Campus Partnership was created by environmentally conscious students in 2007.

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