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Where Cars Park, Green Roof Grows (Video)

By Mason Spirit contributor on August 9, 2017

The Rappahannock River Parking Deck on Mason’s Fairfax Campus recently got a new roof—a green roof, to be specific—as part of a graduate research project.

Andrew Sachs (left) collaborates with Alia Gholoom. Photo by Evan Cantwell

A green roof is one that is partially or completely covered in vegetation and a growing media. These roofs absorb and filter rainwater, provide insulation, and can help lower air temperatures.

The green roof was built with the assistance of two graduate students, who will be conducting their own research on different aspects of the roof.

Alia Gholoom, a master’s student in civil and infrastructure engineering, wants to gain a better understanding of how green roofs perform, particularly in combination with solar panels. Her role focuses on adding elements like the panels to the traditional green roof structure to see if they make the roof more efficient.

“Green roofs are going to be a very vital part of this effort to ‘green’ our cities, but there’s a lack of research, “says environmental science graduate student Andrew Sachs.

Sachs works with green infrastructure and wants to see how structural aspects of the roof, like insulation and storm water management, can make the roof more efficient.

Led by professors Paul Houser in the Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science, Viviana Maggioni in the Sid and Reva Dewberry Department of Civil, Environmental, and Infrastructure Engineering, and Dann Sklarew in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, the green roof project is bringing together students from geography, engineering, and environmental science programs to examine the possible impacts of a green roof on a community.

The Dominion Foundation and Mason’s Patriot Green Fund are supporting the project with $40,000 in education and research grants, which helped pay for the tools to create the roof and the instrumentation needed to collect data.

“In the ever-challenging realm of climate change and urbanization, it’s going to be a lot more important for regulatory use to know exactly what [elements of the roof] are contributing to [which results],” says Sachs.

—Alexa Rogers, BA ’17

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