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Photo by Javier Griego, UTEP Office of Planning and Construction

UTEP’s Green Roof Thrives in Desert; Modular System Monitored for Data

well-draining and relatively lightweight when fully saturated. Installed in the spring of 2009, the green roof system covers 11,260 gross square feet. e l p a s o As green roofs are increasThe system is split into two fields of contiguous ingly explored and utilized, the range of their trays, with a research plaza deck complete with application is following suit. No longer only monitoring equipment in between. Project perceived as a technological option for regions expenditures included demolition of an existing with abundant rainfall (the Pacific Northwest, built-up roof, adding lightweight concrete to for example), they are making headway in hotter provide a half-inch per foot slope, as well as the and drier climes, albeit with some tentativeness. installation of a new roof (more than half the Now, with a recent installation at the University cost of the total roof project), the plaza deck, of Texas at El Paso, the Lone Star State can claim and the green roof tray system (green roof cost significant green-roof forays on the institucoming in at less than tional level from its $18/s.f.). The plants, east end (near Housthriving in their first ton) to its westernyear of roof life, are most point. irrigated using a drip Regardless of the system ef ficiently wide array of benefits distributed by insua green roof offers, lated lines aligned the choice is neitwith the tray layout. her obvious nor easy, The roof has been especially given the a hit with students, bump in initial costs faculty, and research compared to convenstaff, and while Soltional roofs. Howetero does not encouver, Ed Soltero, AIA, rage heavy foot traffic director of UTEP’s on the plaza deck, he Office of Planning ack nowledges that and Constr uction, this is a measure of recognized its potenthe project’s success. tial advantages for Soltero has seen storm water retenhis project stimulate tion, alleviating the ent husiasm a bout u rba n heat isla nd The Biology Building was retrofitted last year with a modular green roof system of pre-planted trays and monitoring g r e en r o of s f r om ef fect, and ex tenequipment to gather data on the building’s energy performance. UTEP’s director of campus planning and construction people across El Paso ding the life of the championed the project to convince wider application of green roofs across the Southwest. and beyond. He says roof. After studying they are intrig ued the technolog y, he to witness a sizable project in an environment with 7-8 inches of a specially formulated soil began championing the alternative system as thought to be hostile to such a technology. He matrix. The selection of plants derived from a a forward-thinking and appropriate solution and UTEP staff hope that the green roof induces carefully considered palette based on recomfor UTEP’s desert environment. He drove the curiosity and conviction of others wanting to mendations from Wynn Anderson, botanical the process from initial proposal through draw from its experience to embark on similar curator for the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at research and establishing design parameters, projects in challenging bioclimatic conditions UTEP’s Centennial Museum, and Joni Gutierthen took his idea directly to the university’s across the country, adjusting their respective rez, a landscape architect in Mesilla, N.M. The administration. The Biology Department buildesigns as needed. Lessons learned in this first, plant varieties (red yucca, new gold lantana, ding was an ideal candidate for a green roof, and bold, application of green roof technology South African bulbine, white evening primrose, he asserted, because it provided a setting for will serve future projects well. To the extent and sun gold gazania—all proven to be hardy active, roof-top research to take place amidst that the UTEP Biology roof stands as a beautiful, species adapted to the area) provide a colorful the biological activity of a living community of functional, and finally successful element of the flowering spray across the seasons, offering plant and wildlife. Moreover, he expected the built environment in a desert climate, it stands aesthetic appeal and encouraging wildlife. project to become a high-profile showcase for in response to the “won’t work here” skeptics. The soil matrix was equally considered, with a high-performance design that demonstrated final selection of a formula for the engineered a concerted commitment to sustainability on L a u r e n W o o d wa r d S t a n l e y , A I A , growth media that met requirements to be the university campus. w i t h L a r s S ta n l e y, A I A

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Goals for the project also include monitoring its performance via several benchmarks, generating data for collection and analysis and making the roof a learning opportunity for future projects and other institutions. Although originally imagined as a “monolithic” system – a continuous and unbroken planted area capable of sharing moisture, thermal change, and biota across the soil matrix – project leads finally arrived at a modular system of gridded trays. The pre-planted trays – seen as a somewhat more conservative solution because individual units could be removed if needed – are filled

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Texas Architect Jan/Feb 2010: Design for Education  

This edition highlights architecture deigned for education throughout Texas. Texas Architect, the official publication of the Texas Society...

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