'Green' roof to atop new Comm School

What may appear to some students as a rooftop garden is an attempt by the University to be environmentally-friendly.

University Architect David J. Neuman unveiled plans for the University's first "green roof" on the soon-to-be built new home of the Commerce School behind Rouss Hall in a presentation to the Board of Visitors Thursday.

The 30-month project -- deemed the Rouss Hall Building Complex -- will begin soon after Varsity Hall is moved later this month. The Building Committee performed a comprehensive environmental review in creating the design for the complex so that all interior and exterior parts of the building are as environmentally-friendly as possible, said Gerald Starsia, associate dean for administration and a Commerce School representative to the Building Committee.

"The whole project is extremely exciting," Starsia said. "It takes us into the 21st century."

The University is putting forth a $6.9 million grant for restoration of Rouss Hall. The rest of the estimated $51 million will come from private donations, Starsia said.

The most obvious external component of the project will be the green roof, which was suggested by local architect Thomas Woltz.

"The term 'green' has two meanings: sustainable and at some points in the year it will be green in color," Neuman said.

The roof is to be made out of a set of plastic 4x4 panels that will be deep enough to plant sedum, which are low-growing garden plants that need very little water. This type of roof "provides another layer of insulation that will absorb heat and protect from the cold," Neuman said. "It helps with energy use in the building."

The new roofing also holds water from heavy rainfall that it releases gradually, helping to prevent flooding and other storm water damage.

"Last but not least, it looks good," Neuman said. "The Commerce Building will be built in a series of tiers. By planting them with this sedum, they will look like the Lawn almost during the spring, summer and early fall, and purplish in the winter."

The complex also will be built with native-Virginian brick and stone to connect the building to the rest of the University in a very Jeffersonian way, Starsia said.

Although the complex will be the first of its kind, this type of environmentally-sound construction could be the future of University building design.

"I think that our building is going to be used as the gold standard for environmental responsibility in the future design of building on Grounds," Starsia said.

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