A vegetated roof, completed in fall 2011, was installed on the southeast-facing roof of the Pollak building on the Monroe Park campus. This green roof is an educational asset, with more sustainability features than just the green roof itself. The terrace is paved in Pennsylvania Bluestone, and includes a built-in wood bench crafted of Black Locust, a locally native and rot-resistant substitute for Teak. Salvaged steel planters animate the terrace and green roof area, and bring many of the most interesting plant species closer to eye level. The steel planters were cut from various diameters of salvaged steel pipe found at S.B. Cox in Richmond’s east end. These materials were all sourced locally, within 500 miles of VCU.
- The roof illustrates three different types of green roof planting strategies: conventional, meadow and native.
- The area of conventional green roof, the center portion of the roof, features a variety of low-growing sedum species, planted in 3-4 inches of growth media (sedum species, like cacti, are succulent plants, which can store water within their plant structures). Sedums in this area are non-native species, selected for their hardiness and ornamental characteristics.
- A second type of roof, a green roof meadow, occupies the outer, long edge of the roof. This section features somewhat taller plants, bedded in approximately 6 inches of growth media. Plants in this area are a mix of native and non-native species.
- The largest portion of the roofscape, closets to the building, features only plants native to Virginia – the first such green roof in the Commonwealth. Growth media in this section of the roof is approximately 12 inches deep, and can therefore retain more moisture than the other two sections of the roof.
The Pollak building green roof is VCU’s second green roof (following the VCU Rice Center). The green roof offers many benefits, including:
- Reduced heat island effect, due to the cooling effect of the green roof plants;
- Reduced stormwater volumes, resulting from the rainwater-retention capacity of the plants and soil;
- Reduced stormwater flow rates, resulting from the ability of the system to slow the flow of heavy rains through the system;
- Reduced energy use, due to improved insulating characteristics of the system;
- New wildlife habitat, primarily for insects and birds; and,
- New passive recreational space, accessible to the entire VCU community.
Visit the roof, but if you do, give the plants a chance and please do not walk in the planted areas.