Green roofs help schools meet LEED standards

Green roofs help schools meet LEED standards

Riverbend Nursery provided LiveRoof green roof systems to two Maryland schools.

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July 7, 2016

A new Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) elementary school received LEED Gold certification while a revitalized MCPS high school are among the school district’s 12 buildings queued up for LEED certification in the coming months. Both schools are being constructed with a LiveRoof brand green roof system to filter stormwater runoff and extend the useful life of the roofing system.

The Wilsom Wims Elementary, Clarksburg, Maryland opened for the 2014-2015 school year and was designed by architects Grimm & Parker to be a model “green school.” The school was awarded LEED Gold certification in February 2015. Constructed by Hess Construction, the school’s environmental and sustainability features include daylighting in learning spaces, biofilters and rain gardens, a living roof, geothermal heating and cooling, sustainability-forested wood, regional and recycled materials and significant water savings. The 38,000 square-foot vegetative roof was installed by Interstate Corporation.

When Oak Construction completes a remodel of Wheaton High School in 2016, the school will also offer green school features while providing learning space for 250 additional students through its four academy programs. The new green roof at Wheaton High School, located in Silver Spring, was installed last December. At 105,000 square feet, this single installation is one of the two largest green roofs installed by the district to date.

“Our commitment to sustainability is helping us create healthy learning and living environments for our students, teachers, staff, and community by integrating economic, social, and environmental considerations in all of our decisions,” said Karen Anderson, LEED Program Specialist at MCPS.

Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest school district in Maryland and 17th largest in the nation, are seeking LEED certification for new and remodeled school facilities. LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is a national green building standard developed in the U.S. Green Building Council. MCPS has 21 schools certified as Gold and one school certified as Silver.

“The Montgomery County Public Schools needs green roofs that arrive preplanted, fully-functional and therefore easy to maintain,” according to Jim Snyder, CEO, Riverbend Nursery, LLC. Snyder’s company is the LiveRoof licensed grower which supplies planted roofs to the school district.

“The green roofs we supply to the school district are fully mature at the time of installation for an instant, meadow-like rooftop garden. We use care to select plants that are effective at withstanding periods of drought, while also absorbing ample rainwater when it does fall,” Snyder continued. “Not only is the rooftop garden an environmental asset, just as importantly it provides opportunities for students to observe and learn about the importance of environmental stewardship.”

Green roofs provide numerous, significant environmental benefits:

  • Improves air filtration; one square foot of green roof foliage can filter seven ounces of dust and smog per year. Plant photosynthesis also reduces greenhouse gases in the air.
  • Lowers interior sound levels by as much as 40 decibels.
  • Reduces energy costs; improved thermal insulation and reduced heat island effect provide heating and cooling savings.
  • Reduces stormwater runoff by 65-90 percent in the summer and 25-40 percent during winter months.
  • Increases roof life; soil and plants provide a protective barrier reducing exposure to ultraviolet rays and extreme temperatures, along with a waterproof roof lining, to extend roof life by as much as 200-300 percent, or 40-50 years.
  • Provides natural beauty; rooftop gardens provide a verdant, living space and habitable space when patios, walkways and seating is included in the garden design.
  • A planted roof also provides financial benefits gleaned from energy conservation, and conservation of municipal sewer systems.

MCPS has formal agreements with Montgomery County regarding stormwater management roles and responsibilities. The county encourages green roofs on their website, citing that, “The most important reason to install a green roof may be that you are doing your part to help the environment and protect your local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.”