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The University of Idaho Student Union Building is located at 875 Perimeter Dr. MS 2540, Moscow, Idaho 83844; 208.885-CMNS; 208.885.6210; Visit their Green Roof Project page. Watch the 2009 UI Sustainability Web Video Series video on YouTube with Mark Miller. See the Photo Stream on flckr. For more information on the University of Idaho Student Union Building Greenroof, contact Mark Miller, Associate Director, University of Idaho at or 208.885.6958.

Our proposed project is to remove the existing roofing ballast of an approximately 1650 ft section of flat roof on the Student Union Building and replace it with an earth and vegetation “living” Green Roof. Since the Student Union Building is a mixed use building and is supported in part by student fees, its administrative group has more authority over physical changes that are requested of it. Architectural or structural changes of this type must be approved by UI Facilities Architectural and Engineering Services. This approval has already been received.

The main goal of the construction of our Green Roof will be to demonstrate to our University administrators and the University community on the whole that current buildings can be retrofitted from old, sizzling hot conventional roofs to more environmentally friendly areas that will have a distinct role in diminishing the urban heat island effect on campus. In doing this, the University will be losing an ugly, rock-covered roof and gaining an attractive plant filled area that can be observed by all.

It is our contention that this project will become a very popular area to casually observe, study and use as a research tool (used by diverse academic departments), all while supplying the University with a model that can be duplicated on other existing roofs as well as being designed into future new building projects.

The anticipated success of this project will also send a message to the community that may lead to incentive plans provided by the City of Moscow, Latah County, the State of Idaho and many other agencies and philanthropic organizations. These potential future incentives could come in the form of matching funds for grants and cash incentives that would promote similar future projects.

We also feel that this area will immediately become a very popular site to view by curiosity seekers who have found out about it from the various promotional and informational items that will be spread around the community and the region in the way of media exposure. This exposure alone will promote more projects like ours on campus and in the surrounding community in the future. Our project already has the support of many individuals including staff, faculty and students and local government decision-makers. There can be no doubt that this project will draw considerable attention from within our region prompting a domino effect that will spread and advance campus sustainability.

Architecture that promotes sustainability is currently absent on the campus of the University of Idaho. In keeping with President White’s Plan for Renewal and the University’s hunger to become a role model for other institutions in our region, we propose to develop a very small but visible piece of campus into a living project that will provide learning opportunities for our students, staff, faculty and community members. This project will be the first of its kind in our community and can be justified by its many benefits to our learning community and the environment surrounding it. Some of the anticipated benefits of this project are:

– Reduce the load on our sewer system by diminishing, and sometimes halting completely, the rush of runoff from a section of roof.
– Provide an additional layer of insulation, which will also help protect the actual roof material from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation and this area’s extreme daily temperature fluctuations, which may actually increase the life of the roof membrane.
– Improve the quality of storm water runoff.
Provide additional habitat for insects, birds and other small animals.
– Turn an unattractive section of roof into an accessible, appealing atmosphere that can be shared by the entire community, especially those neighbors who would be able to now include it in their view.
– Help prove the point that this example of sustainable architectural design actually provides an economical benefit to its owner, justifying its higher initial cost.
– Re-oxygenate the air.
– Reduce the urban heat island effect. The surfaces of green roofs filter and bind dust and other harmful materials out of the community’s air. Moreover, landscaped roofs improve the microclimate by cooling and humidifying the surrounding air.
– Limit noise transmission.
Allow for an opportunity to experiment with different types of plants, native and otherwise, to see what works best in this area and to establish a benchmark for future green roof development on campus and within the community.
Offer an attractive alternative to traditional roofs while addressing growing concerns about our urban quality of life.
Offer sustainable and regenerative roof landscapes where once we had barren deserts of tar, gravel and rock.
– Reduce energy and sewer costs.


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