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Students Advocating To Raise Awareness of Green Roof Benefits

Friday, November 22, 2013

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Written by Alice Lin

University of Guelph undergraduate students in the Sustainable Communities (EDRD3400) class taught by Professor James Mahone, undertake project to advocate for the use of green roofs on campus and in the community. The four students were bounded by their own interests, knowledge and unique academic backgrounds to raise awareness and share information on the benefits of implementing green roofs. As a component of their project, the students also took the initiative to set up a demo of the roofs in Branion Plaza.

There are many clear advantages to implementing green roofs as well as opportunities and challenges that must be overcome. In addition to providing better insulation, temperature moderation, and better management of storm water runoff. Additionally, Sean O’Donne--a 4th year Environmental Governance student, says that green roofs have the opportunity to be developed into a roof-top garden and even provide for long-term food production, especially in urban regions where there is a lack of green space.

Some of the challenges currently impeding green roofs from being implemented are due to costs. Tyler Jenner, who is currently pursuing a degree in the Bachelor of Bio-Resource Management, says that part of the challenge is also surrounding the lack of knowledge in this field. In order for the students to tackle this, they met up with Dr. Zheng based in the Bovey building on campus for more information and current research, fortifying the students’ advocacy project. “The cost depends on the types of the variety of green roofs you decide to implement” said Alan Nanne, who is currently pursuing an honours degree in the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, “they can be sedum layers which cost less, or perennials/larger plants which costs more”. Old and aging infrastructures also present a challenge to implementing green roofs. Many of which are either not adaptable and/or require significant renovation.

However, the students are hopeful that through research and innovation, they are confident that more green roofs will be implemented in the future. “Although the initial costs may be high, they will eventually pay off in terms of how much money you would save in the long run” Said Alan Nanne. “They are known to last much longer, and even some in perpetuity, than a shingle roof system” Said O’Donnell.

“In addition to raising awareness, we hope to encourage people to push for policy response as well.” Said O’Donnell. “By sharing information and knowledge about the benefits as well as the advantages of green roofs, people are then in a better position to push municipalities for supporting these kinds of initiatives” Added Nanne and Jenner.

Experiential education and learning at the University of Guelph, is indeed one that is necessary and impactful. Not only does it encourage students and give them the opportunity to engage in their interests, the learning process is one that cannot be gained simply from textbooks. Jonas Schwarz, who is also pursuing an honours degree in Bachelor of Sciences in Agriculture, reflected that…"learning the advocacy process has really taught us how important it can be to stand up in our communities and play an active role in trying to better our environment both locally and on a larger scale. If we are apathetic and make no move of our own to improve our communities, then we can't just expect improvement. We need to go out and seek that improvement as well, and then we can achieve it."

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