Fraser Schools building green roof to save energy, teach environmentalism

Fraser Public Schools expects its donated green roof will pay dividends in a variety of ways for its Macomb residents.

School officials anticipate that the district's operations and maintenance building's new green roof will reduce heating and cooling expenses while helping teach its students about sustainability. If the project works out as expected, school officials say more green roofs will be headed their way.

"We look at it as a possible resolution to our roofing needs," says John Thompson, director of operations and maintenance for Fraser Public Schools. "Absolutely we would consider using green roofs again."

The benefits of green roofs have become a favorite axiom among environmentalists. Unlike traditional tar roofs, the plants that make up its surface soak up stormwater runoff, keep roofs at air temperature (tar roofs can double in temperature on hot days), reduce cooling costs and help insulate buildings during cold weather.

Fraser Schools new 3,000-square-foot sedum roof --which means the plants aren’t strong enough to walk on-- promises to do all of those things when it's finished this week. Covering 60 percent of the roof, officials intend to consider replacing the remaining traditional tar roof (updated 9 years ago) once it becomes older.

Construction includes a rooftop deck along with walk ways set between the trays of sedum so students can study how the green roof system works. They will also measure how much energy it saves the building over the first few years.

"It will be a living lab for students of environmental studies," Thompson says.

Local businesses – Avri Group, JD Candler, Carlisle Syntec, Wakely Associates and Barton Malow – are donating the materials and installation services for the $60,000 roof. Although installation is more expensive than a traditional tar roof ($35,000), a green roof has a life expectancy of 60 years --three times as long!

Source: John Thompson, director of operations and maintenance for Fraser Public Schools
Writer: Jon Zemke