Amid a tide of increasing environmental awareness and concern about our communities’ carbon footprints, we, an interdisciplinary group of six Brown University students, have begun designing and will ultimately construct the first green roof on College Hill at 50 John St. Our project seeks to make real the new ‘green’ focus now driving both long-term development plans and new construction and renovation projects.

A structural engineer from RISD’s Architectural Department assessed the 50 John Street site and determined it to be ideal for this project. A green roof at that location would not only enhance the building’s environmental efficiency, it would also send an important message to the community about the value of sustainable design and Brown University’s commitment to being an environmentally-sound member of the College Hill community.

The roof will enhance the sustainability of 50 John Street in a number of ways. It will reduce the heating and cooling needs of the two-story building, extend the life expectancy of the existing roof, and reduce storm water run off. Our design includes an expanse of native grasses surrounded by a perimeter of planters for shallow vegetable gardens. We have already met with representatives from Brown’s Sustainable Food Initiative to discuss a potential partnership that would allow the group to use our green roof vegetable planters as part of their supply agreement with Brown University Dining Services. With more planting space, SUFI could, for example, sell more produce to the Blue Room for salads. This partnership is but one example of the roof’s potential greater benefit to existing ‘green’ efforts in the College Hill community.

More than a semester-long project, the roof could serve as a continuing resource for Brown and RISD students for years to come. Classes such as RISD’s “Environmental Design,” Brown’s especially popular “Environmental Stewardship and Sustainable Design,” “Sustainable Design in the Built Environment,” and “Green Cities” all directly address green roof projects in their course material. A green roof at 50 John Street would serve as an excellent complement to reading materials in each of these courses, as well as for architecture courses such as “Contemporary Architecture,” “Material Culture and the Urban Built Environment,” and “Water Architecture.” In the absence of any technically-oriented green design courses, Brown students interested in sustainable design would find the roof helpful as a case study and, possibly, a continuing student project. The roof’s potential as a learning tool is particularly exciting as Brown explores creating an “Energy Studies” concentration, and our cross-College Hill approach is fitting in light of the newly-launched RISD-Brown joint degree program.

            Thankfully, our structural engineer determined that 50 John Street poses very few structural limitations for this project. The building can hold a great deal of weight and thus has incredible potential for a successful green roof. The remaining limiting factor is funding. The scale and scope – and thus the success – of our undertaking will largely depend on the support we receive from groups like yours. Because we plan to implement this project at whatever scale possible, we have developed potential plans for several projected budgets (see fundraising section), all of which are dependent on raised funds.

   We hope that given the opportunity, our community will help make College Hill’s green roof as significant a local presence as possible. Please consider supporting our project, and College Hill’s sustainable future, in any way you can.


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