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Raising a green roof, and their capacity for sustainability careers

Marc Lefkowitz  |  08/07/09 @ 8:36am

It took two years to make their case to the school and to raise a chunk of good faith money, but LeeAnn Westfall and Erin Huber-two self-proclaimed "broke college students with a passion (for the environment)"-will graduate from Cleveland State University Environmental Science undergraduate program and Urban Studies graduate program respectively with a richer understanding of the challenge but also the satisfaction of planting a green roof on the Cleveland State University Recreation Center.

As is the case on many green buildings, the roof was designed for plantings instead of asphalt, but the school hadn't raised the money, so it was put on hold. When Westfall and Huber's professor, Dr. Julie Wolin, explained the situation back in 2007, the pair, who had just met, decided to make raising the funds and organizing the Student Environmental Movement their task. They raised $20,000 through campus events and bake sales, and 'were loud about wanting to do this.' They would like to see the future leaders of the student environmental group and future class gifts made to pay the school back for their share.

Wolin helped guide them to the school's top brass and to raise another $62,000 in foundation support. The pair's enthusiasm convinced the school to kick in the remaining $168,000, Wolin said as she, Huber, Westfall and a core of volunteers spent this week in a blazing hot sun installing 1,600 'modules' packed with soil and hardy succulents like Ruby Heart and Dragon's Blood. Each module weighs sixty pounds and gets placed into a system designed by Michigan company Live Roof, which produces a bed system lined with a layered fabric on the 7,000 square foot roof. About half of the roof is a carpet of red and green plants grown at Corso's Perennials in Sandusky? they can go 7-10 days between waterings; the other half is a permeable paver surface donated by Unilock that can be used for parties or as a respite from the hustle and bustle of urban campus life.

The Environmental Science department will study the plots in the years to come, Wolin said, checking if it lowers surface temperatures and looking at the ecosystem it creates.

"We're showing that if two broke college students can do this, a company should be able to," said Westfall, an undergrad who also helped form the Campus Sustainability Coalition with students, faculty and facilities staff working on an initiative to green more campus buildings.

"We'd like the entire campus to be LEED-certified," says Westfall.

Wolin says the pair have been empowered by seeing the project from idea to this sweaty but satisfying planting day. Huber earned an "A" grade and class credit for her 'Capstone' assignment for the green roof project.

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