Kuper, Rob and Mike Olszewski. 2010. “Bringing Down the Roof.” Landscape Architect and Specifier News 26(7): 86-92.
Even if you walk around Temple University’s Ambler campus with the tallest available ladder in tow, you will not see the green roof. Skirted with hickories, oaks, and locusts, perched atop the hill at the far reaches of the student commuter parking lot stands the Athletics Building and the ‘invisible’ green roof. There are no signs to direct you there. Few, if any, clues can be found on site. Little can make the green roof more visible for learning except replicating a portion of it on the ground. This article details the research, design, and construction of a ground-based green roof exhibit by two junior Temple University landscape architecture students in an effort to make the campus green roof more accessible.
Kuper, Rob. 2010. “The Tipping Point: How roof design and location affect Temple University’s pitched green roof.” Landscape Architecture 100(2): 50-61.
In June 2008, assistant professor Mike Olszewski, Ph.D., and I clambered up a caged ladder, popped a hatch, and emerged onto the roof of the Athletics Building at Temple University’s Ambler campus. On this roof, I had to watch where I stepped more carefully than on others I have visited. It is composed of two sloped planes facing different directions - a design that makes it a bit of an anomaly among green roofs and has proven a challenge for plant establishment and overall maintenance. This article describes the research and observations between 2008 and 2009 that have informed subsequent experiments we expect will specifically improve plant health and coverage on the PECO green roof and generally aid other designers considering sloped green roofs.
Kuper, Rob. 2009. “What’s Up: Examining Green Roof Awareness in Suburbia.” Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 64(5): 145A-149A.
What do suburban students know about green roofs? What can serve as a guide for devising methods of communication? And what information is critical to convince others to adopt green roofs? Rogers’ “classical diffusion theory” states that five conditions must be satisfied before any new idea or strategy becomes widely accepted. Therefore, green roofs 1) must be simple to understand; 2) have relative economic and ecological advantages; 3) be observed elsewhere; 4) be compatible with existing materials and methods; and 5) be easy to try. One hundred passersby stopped to take a 16-item questionnaire en route to or from class on two days in early December 2008 at Temple University in suburban Ambler, Pennsylvania. The results of this survey indicate that the five conditions have not been satisfied among the respondents, many of whom may become future homeowners. The classical diffusion theory and questionnaire results are directing the green roof education of students and campus visitors at Ambler. To date, we have begun four small projects on or near the site of the green roof that address some of the five conditions in the classical diffusion theory. Each is briefly described.
News and Research
The PECO Green Roof Garden, which sits atop the campus’ Intercollegiate Athletics Field House has undergone a bit of a makeover in preparation for its “close-up.”
Robert Kuper, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, and Dr. Michael Olszewski, Assistant Professor of Horticulture, have been tasked with “maximizing the beauty of the green roof through maintenance and modification of the plantings; developing interpretive signage explaining the importance and benefits of green roofs and general information and history about green roof technology; and determining ways to provide access to the garden,” according to Professor Kuper.
“We've added taller plants within six feet of the roof edge, all the way around the roof in addition to some plants that droop over the edge. We have also proposed adding green roofs to two sheds behind the athletic facility and two of the four baseball dugouts,” he said. “The signage is being placed in front of the athletic facility along with a 6-foot by 6-foot replica of the green roof, which has been constructed by students. We also feel it is important to add signage on the way to the green roof from Meetinghouse Road.”
Assessment of Physical Properties and Stonecrop Growth in Two-Inch (Five-Centimeter) Depth Green Roof Substrates Amended with Compost and Hydrogel (manuscript/research currently under peer-review) - Dr. Michael Olszewski, Assistant Professor of Horticulture
There is a lack of quantifiable data concerning physical analyses specific to shallow-depth green roof substrates and their effects on plant growth. Physical properties of substrates containing course slate (CS):fine slate (FS):compost (CT) at respective ratios of 70:30:0, 60:30:10, and 50:30:20 (%, by vol.), controlled release fertilizer, and 0 (control), 0.45, 0.90, or 2.25 kg·m-3 hydrogel, were determined and growth responses of stonecrop species (Sedum floriferum and S. spurium) assessed nine weeks after plug transplantation into 2-inch (5-cm) depth substrate.
Single degree of freedom contrasts indicated that shoot dry weight (SDW) and coverage area (CA) increased when substrates were amended with CT or 2.25 kg·m-3 hydrogel. Amendment with CT increased smaller particle sizes
(< 0.50 mm) resulting in reduced aeration porosity (AP) and reduced aeration at applied suction pressure of 6.3 kPa (AP-6.3 kPa). Higher AP-6.3 kPa values for 0% CT control, but not 10 or 20% CT controls, indirectly suggested a reduction of capillary water, which is dependent on pore size distribution within substrates. Compared to their respective control, total porosity (TP) increased in all substrates following additions of 2.25 kg·m-3 hydrogel.
Container capacity (CC) was greatest in substrates containing 2.25 kg·m-3 hydrogel and/or hydrogel plus CT. Variations of initial and final pH and electrical conductivity (EC) were minimal but initial pH measurements were highest for 0% CT substrates.
We conclude that addition of CT and hydrogel amendments to slate-based substrates increased growth of S. floriferum and S. spurium concomitant with increased CC and related hydrological properties.
The Green Roof Comes Home to Ambler
It’s difficult to imagine a less natural setting than urban centers such as Philadelphia and New York where it is rare to see any vestige of the natural environment amidst the gray-shaded mosaic of steel, stone, and glass.
The slowly expanding use of green roof technology in this country, however, points to a different future where rooftop gardens inject a new color on the scene — vibrant green.
Students and teachers of Temple University Ambler’s Department Landscape Architecture and Horticulture are doing their part to speed up the greening process through research and demonstration of green roof technology at the Ambler campus.
With the help of a $50,000 grant from PECO, An Exelon Company, a working green roof will be unveiled on campus during special ceremonies on Tuesday, October 11, at 10:30 a.m., at the Ambler Intercollegiate Athletics Field House located near the baseball and softball fields.
Temple University Ambler’s Intercollegiate Athletics Field House is not just be a place for Owls athletes to call home. The new Field House part of a $4.5 million project, will also afford students the opportunity to conduct green roof research on its rooftop.
According to company President Denis O’Brien, PECO and its parent company, Exelon Corporation, “support and value advancements in environmental engineering.”
“Green roof technology can play an important role environmentally and we are proud to sponsor the Green Roof Garden at Temple University’s Ambler campus,” O’Brien said. “The education and research opportunities this green roof garden offers will highlight PECO’s continued commitment to our region and the environment.”
Green roofs are a living biological community of plants and microorganisms growing in a lightweight medium that provide an environmentally sound alternative to a traditional roof system.
The new green roof will tie directly into the mission of the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University Ambler to serve as a living, learning laboratory that promotes an understanding of the relationship between people and the environment and “awareness of both the need for and the means to achieve greater environmental responsibility,” according to Arboretum Director Jenny Carey.
“We believe that roof gardens can have a beneficial effect on the environment, but we’re not going to reap that benefit until there are more people who understand and are willing to embrace the technology,” she said. “A physical demonstration that people can see and experience will help answer many of the questions they might have and, hopefully, alleviative some of the resistance there might be for this concept.”
The green roof garden provides substantial educational and research opportunities for both students and faculty on campus.
Temple University Ambler Wins Best of Show at the 2002 Philadelphia Flower Show
Roofs of green have come up gold for Temple University Ambler.
Temple University Ambler Landscape Architecture and Horticulture students won Best of Show in the Academic Educational category at the 2002 Philadelphia Flower Show for their detailed representation of "Green Roof Technology."
"The response to this project has been overwhelmingly positive," said S. Edgar David, an Associate Professor who, with Lisa Blum, Landscape Architecture and Horticulture Department Manager, coordinated Ambler's Flower Show exhibit. "Everyone is really excited about this whole new dimension of horticulture and landscape architecture that they will have the opportunity to engage in."
The Green Roof Technology exhibit was also honored with a Special Achievement Award for Conservation by the Garden Club Federation of Pennsylvania.
The presentation, constructed at the Ambler campus over the last several months, demonstrates the ecological and economic benefits of green roof technology "and the role it can play in creating a sustainable community," David said.
"Green roofs are basically a living biological community of plants and microorganisms growing in a lightweight medium," he said. "It is an environmentally sound alternative to a traditional roof system."
Imagine, for example, the gray rooftops of Philadelphia's urban centers suddenly coming alive with lush greenery.
The multi-roofed structure the students have built, complete with vibrant growing plants, informative displays, and documentary can been seen on the main floor throughout the Philadelphia Flower Show continuing today through Sunday, March 10.
"For the students, this has been a long, intense time creating and assembling our exhibit," David said. "To win Best of Show, to earn this distinction at an internationally recognized exhibition, it's immensely gratifying for them."
Temple University returns to the Flower Show in a competitive class for the first time since 1997. That year, Temple took home a "Best of Show" award for "The Green Machine," an exhibit detailing how created wetlands could be used for cleaning wastewater. The majority of the pieces used in that exhibit can still be seen as part of the Sustainable Wetland Garden on campus near Cottage and Widener halls.
David said there are plans to do the same with the green roof technology exhibit.
"It would be installed as a working model, part of the Temple University Ambler's growing arboretum," he said.
For the students, added Blum, "it is their legacy to the campus."
"Working on these projects for the Flower Show is a great hands-on feature of our curriculum that very few landscape architecture programs have. The students connected with the greater community of their profession," Blum said. "Anyone who is anyone in the green industry is at the Flower Show. The students actually get to create something and watch it grow from an idea."
David said the Flower Show Best of Show honor would hopefully help promote the green roof technology concept, which was pioneered in Germany and is presently emerging in the United States.
According to David, nearly 50 percent of the world's population and 220 million Americans live in densely developed urban environments "characterized by a seemingly endless sprawl of rooftops, asphalt roads, and concrete parking lots."
"By their nature, green roofs mimic the natural processes that buildings replace," he said. "It is a new and exciting technology that has the ability to improve our air and water quality."