Although most of us may not see them from our vantage points, the roofs located on top of the Duncan Student Center, Corbett Family Hall, and O’Neill Hall are home to the largest vegetative “living” roof system in the state of Indiana. At close to 43,000 square feet collectively, the installation of the green roof system is another integral element of Notre Dame’s actions to steward and positively impact our natural environment.
There are many benefits that a green roof delivers. According to Tony Polotto, Sr. Project Manager of Planning, Design, and Construction at Notre Dame, “green roofs act as a substantial layer of insulation. A typical dark roof can get to a temperature of 150-175 degrees on the surface. Alternatively, the additional layer of insulation provided by a green or living roof greatly reduces the roof temperature. This results in the building heating and cooling systems not having to work as hard, providing a more energy-efficient process.”
A second benefit is the diversion of storm water run-off. The major function of a roof is to shed its rainwater immediately, sending that water directly into a storm drain or sewer system, which is an expensive and polluted process. Per Polotto, “A vegetative roof provides a better way to capture that rainwater, thereby reducing the amount of dirty water being sent to area treatment facilities.”
In addition, green roofs serve to increase the endurance of the roof by acting as a protective barrier to the waterproofing membrane below. A vegetative roof easily absorbs the shock of changes in the weather, protecting the material below, which increases the longevity of the roof.
On top of all of these benefits, green roofs are aesthetically pleasing, enhancing the beauty of the Notre Dame campus.
For those who might wonder about upkeep, there is a misperception that green roofs require a major investment of time and resources for proper maintenance. In actuality, it is just the opposite. With the right design and plants, living roofs involve very little maintenance. Using sedum and other drought-resistant plantings, weeding and fertilization are kept to a minimum.