The Future of Green Roofs

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

August 12, 2014 Sara Gavin

As green roofs continue to grow in popularity atop buildings around the globe, debate remains about how to make them more efficient and less expensive and how to tell if they’re really working the way they should. National and international experts in plant science and engineering gathered to tackle these topics and more at the Mid-Atlantic Green Roof Science and Technology Symposium held at the University of Maryland August 7th and 8th.

The symposium brought together researchers from UMD, the University of Auckland in New Zealand, Villanova University, Portland State University and the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, as well as industry leaders in green roof design and installation. The event was organized by Dr. Steven Cohan and Dr. John Lea-Cox, both professors in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at UMD.

The University of Maryland hosted the first Green Roof Science & Technology Symposium in 2012 and decided to reprise the event this year to help advance this growing field.

“What I’m pleased about is that engineers and plant scientists are talking to each other,” said Dr. Cohan. “We are going to need to work together as we move toward standardization for green roofs in the future.”

Dr. Elizabeth Fassman-Beck from the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey delivered the keynote address. Fassman-Beck discussed some of the challenges of evaluating the effectiveness of green roofs as a measure for controlling storm water runoff.

Although green roofs have been fairly commonplace in Europe for a number of decades, they are cropping up with greater frequency in the United States as a strategy for improving air quality, lowering energy costs and reducing storm water runoff.

The University of Maryland has served as a leader in constructing green roof systems, the first of which went in on top of Cumberland Hall (pictured left) in 2008 to replace the 20-year-old roof of an eight-story residential building that houses hundreds of students. Since then, two green roofs have been planted on top of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union and one on the new Denton Dining Hall.

This year’s green roof symposium culminated with a tour of the university’s Research Greenhouse Complex where several students presented their research projects focused on green roof and green wall design.