May 4, 2017

Greening rooftops for learning, growing food and community building at Emory University and Emory Healthcare
By: Shannon Anderson & Laura Diamond-Williams, Interns, Office of Sustainability Initiatives

Emory’s students, faculty and staff are exploring the multiple benefits of cultivating plants on top of the campus and hospital rooftops. In May, Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM) installed a rooftop garden on the eighth floor of the Woodruff Building. “The idea behind the installation is to create more 'roof-farm to table' produce and herbs for the cafeteria that are grown organically,” according to Shari Creech, Building Support Services Manager at EUHM.

Creech noted that the roof was the best option to grow food considering the space available in the Midtown area. The main goal is to provide these fresh, local foods to patients, their families, and the Hospital staff. The garden will grow various vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes, peppers, basil, and oregano to be used in the Savory Farm cafeteria.

At the Emory University campus, similar efforts are underway.  In the Fall semester, when Emory College senior Rebecca Park noticed the deteriorated green roof atop the Math and Science Center, she took action by applying for a general Sustainability Incentives Fund grant through the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI).

“The green roof on the Math & Science Center was originally installed in 2008, but since then was neglected, leaving it an underutilized resource holding untapped potential for research and teaching on green roofs. This neglected amenity presented itself to me as the perfect opportunity to learn more about green roofs and to improve this unique space,” Park says.

Park sees the project as a way to improve both the visual appeal of the rooftop and the surrounding environment, citing reduced or eliminated stormwater runoff into Peavine Creek, carbon sequestration, reduction of an urban heat island effect, and reduced energy costs for the building as some of the most important effects of the project.

“For me, one of the most important things is stormwater runoff. This has a huge impact on the stream quality for Peavine Creek, which flows right behind the Math & Sciences Center. This green roof will serve to absorb some of the rainfall that hits the 420 square foot roof, thus helping to reduce the negative impacts on Peavine Creek,” Park said. “Also, I think it's really nice for Environmental Sciences department students, faculty and staff to have a cheerful view of some beautiful plants when they walk in and out every day.”

“The best part has been seeing the transformation from a barren plot to a luscious green garden. Many people came to help refresh the planting trays, and we had a lot of fun planting 540 plants—a mixture of sedums and grasses. It was really fulfilling to step back and see the dramatic renewal of the space,” Park said.

Across the campus, Housing Operations and Residence Life staff partnered with students this semester to also update the green roof on top of Hopkins Hall that was made possible through another general Sustainability Incentives Fund grant given to a group of students in 2015.

“We shifted the existing boxed plants around between the two roofs to accommodate new furniture and spread out the green feature. Additionally, we added two tables and eight chairs on each roof, so that residents can now enjoy these spaces for leisure or study,” Director of Housing Facilities and Operations Jonathan Cooper said.

Housing Operations has also added sustainability features to other residence halls. New water bottle refilling stations were approved in Complex and are being discussed for Longstreet-Means Hall and Woodruff Residential Center. LED lights will be installed along Eagle Row and in the stairwells in Woodruff Residential Center, and insulating windows will be added to 6 and 12 Eagle Row.

“What has initiated all of these changes is the fact that we have a dedicated team working with us in Housing Operations who all care deeply about sustainability,” Cooper said. “None of this would be possible without our partners in OSI, Campus Services, Planning, Design & Construction, Greeks Go Green, and Residence Life, among others."

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