Special Collections ath the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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The Golda Meir Green Roof at UWM,
a Leader in the Green Campus Movement

Green Roof
The Special Collections on the fourth floor of the Golda Meir Library offers a stunning view of the library’s third floor green roof. This green roof blossomed for the first time the summer after its 2011 installation. In addition to the view, there is a new exhibit of text, photographs, and a 3D model, focusing on the campus’s many green initiatives. The exhibit is on view in the
Special Collections Reading Room September 4 through December 20, 2012.

The library’s green roof covers approximately 50,000 square feet and is one of the largest green roofs on a public building in Wisconsin. A green roof is a roof that is covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproof membrane. The library’s green roof is a relatively thin planting of sedum. Sedums are flowering plants whose leaves are succulent (hold water), hardy, and consequently are ideal for a green roof.

The library’s sedum were placed in a delicate holding material and applied in rolls, similar to sod, but much lighter. The term “green” refers to being ecologically friendly and not the color of the sedum itself, which varies from chartreuse to burgundy. The primary goal is to reduce the runoff of rain water to the sewer system, and in the library’s case, reduce flooding on Edgewood Ave. Funding provided through a partnership with the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District 2010 Regional Green Roof Initiative program amounted to $1.26 million.

A 29-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array which produces electricity for the library has also been installed as part of the green-roof initiative. The system was possible through a Focus on Energy State performance contract and a $57,330 partnership with WE Energies. The goal was to integrate a green roof and a photo voltaic system on the roof at the same time. The solar photovoltaic array works better when it is cooler and this is the role of the sedum planted between the panels.

The campus’s Storm Water Master Plan and Pavilion Gateway Demonstration project are also included in the display. The idea behind the Storm Water Master Plan is to redesign the campus to meet a 100 year zero discharge standard. This does not mean no water flows off the landscape but the amount of water is equal to that which would flow from the original undeveloped landscape. The Pavilion Gateway Demonstration Project, located just east of the Norris Health Center and west of Sabin Hall, is 4 acres in size and is the first large scale demonstration of the Master Plan. The goal is to transform the walkway from Edgewood Ave., a low point in elevation, to the center of campus, Hartford Ave., a high point in elevation. The project captures water from all surfaces: roofs, sidewalks, roads, and parking lots.

At the heart of the project is the largest storm water feature, a 5,000 square foot spiral garden, which is planted with native species. This feature is bowl shaped with large field stones outlining the spiral and is evocative of water flowing down a drain. This native perennial planting creates habitat as well as creating a decorative garden in a formal campus setting. The spiral garden is planted with native plants such as: Nodding Onion, Allium cernuum, Big Bluestem grass, Andropogon gerardi, Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor, Wild Lupine, Lupinus perennis, and Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa.

Also highlighted in the exhibit is the Downer Prairie. The Downer Prairie is grassland located near the intersection of N. Downer Avenue and E. Edgewood Avenue, just north of Sabin Hall and west of the Klotsche Center on the UWM campus. The size overall is approximately 375 square meters or 4,036 square feet. Prairies are a species-rich habitat and no less than 32 different plants were surveyed at the prairie in the summer of 2011 by a student worker with the UWM Facility Services Department. In April 2008, there was a prescribed burn that was conducted by the UWM Building and Grounds Department, UW-Waukesha Field Station manager Marlin Johnson, UWM student group EcoTone volunteers, and the Milwaukee Fire Department. Fire is a big component to the success of grasslands and controlled burns are recommended to burn away dead plants, to prevent certain other plants from encroaching, such as trees, and to release nutrients into the ground to encourage new growth.

Also on exhibit is information about the Cambridge Commons Residence Hall, a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Building completed in the fall of 2010. Cambridge Commons is a 700-student residence hall located on North Ave. along the bluff of the Milwaukee River. Environmentally sustainable urban green spaces face the river and hardwood trees were planted to protect the bluff. The green roof has about 1 foot of soil with native plantings visible from the fifth and sixth floors. The uppermost roof is called a white cool roof and this keeps the building cool, reduces air conditioning loads, and only costs a few pennies more per square foot compared to a traditional roof. It redirects rain water into an underground cistern and this water is used for irrigation. Porous pavements and extensive rain gardens with native plantings clean and filter storm water, preventing it from eroding the bluff.

Other green initiatives on campus include the UWM Facility Service’s Office of Sustainability. Kate Nelson has been Environmental Sustainability Coordinator for the last 4 ½ years, the first full-time position of its kind in the UW System. One of the projects of the Sustainability Office is the Building Dashboard created by Lucid Technologies. Individuals can access building energy consumption on touch screens located on campus or via the internet. The Library’s dashboard is located on the wall behind the information desk at the entrance of the library. Having information available at one’s fingertips is a great tool to help the campus engage in sustainability directly.

Another initiative is the UWM Food and Garden Club which was started in the fall semester of 2010. The club’s mission is to develop and maintain campus gardens that provide access for UWM students, staff, and faculty to grow healthy, affordable, local produce, to teach the skills and share the joys of food gardening and healthy eating, and to cultivate sustainability in lifestyles and the campus environment. There are approximately 30 raised beds that were built in the spring of 2011 on the Physics Hall south lawn that members may sign up for to plant in the summer. There is also a new Sandburg Gardens being built next to the Sandburg Dorms East Tower. When completed these gardens will feature garden beds for the UWM Residential Restaurant Operations, rain gardens, fruit and nut trees, communal garden plots that everyone may harvest produce from, and pathways with seating.

Also on display in the Special Collections exhibit is a model of the Pavilion Gateway Demonstration project, as well as a sample of sedum, the planting material used on the library’s third floor roof, which you can see up close and touch.

Special Collections on the fourth floor of the Golda Meir Library is free and open to the public. Walk-in hours are Monday-Friday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Please visit Special Collections and learn why UWM is an international leader in the green campus movement.

For more information, you may contact Special Collections at libspecial@uwm.edu
--Susan Ciano and Sanford Mallin

Image above: East and west green roofs on Golda Meir Library. Photo by James Wasley.