Scott Smith, October 18, 2016

Green roofs are like your IT department: you know they?re important, but you?re not really sure what they do.

Penn State may end up changing that – one mixed-plant community at a time.

The university is home to the country?s first green roof technology class (started in 2005) and its Center for Green Roof Research works closely with the university?s Office of the Physical Plant to ensure each new building uses green technology and incorporates green roofs, where possible.

Each green roof consists of thin layers of vegetation and soil (or similar growing material). They can help absorb rainwater, insulate buildings and improve air quality.

The Center opened its fifth green roof this past summer as part of a renovation project at the HUB-Robeson Center.

As for what ends up planted on that roof, graduate student Julianna Razryadov is trying to push the boundaries and mine more scientific data from these projects:

?I think within the green roof community there is a tendency to simplify and stick with plants that have proven successful in the past, in part because they align with building and stormwater runoff regulations,? Razryadov said.

juliannaIn a follow-up interview with BTN LiveBIG, Razryadov talked more about what she?s learned from her experimentation:

"My primary target has been to show that the plant palette appropriate for green roofs is much wider than currently used," she says.

"I hope that Penn State will eventually aim to create an all native plant demonstration rooftop.  The forest resources rooftop is the first step in demonstrating plant diversity and I hope we take it one step further."

Read more about Razryadov?s work here.

Photos: Angela Kendall