No Support For Installing ‘Green Roof’ On Environmental Center

An aerial view of the Bunker Hill Environmental Center, showing the building’s roof.

A bid by a member of the Open Space Advisory Committee to recommend installing a “green roof” on the Bunker Hill Environmental Center got no traction at the Committee’s October 20 virtual meeting.

Open Space members didn’t think the location was right for a green roof, and also questioned whether the environmental center building could sustain the weight that would come with the green roof.

A green roof is characterized by different plantings over a waterproof membrane. The concept has not taken hold in the United States, although it is popular in some European countries.

The Open Space member, Arnold Schmidt, is also a member of the township’s Environmental Commission, which had a lengthy discussion on different ways green roofs could be introduced in the township at its October 19 meeting.

Environmental Commission members at that meeting decided one way to start would be to recommend a green roof be installed on the environmental center and be used as a teaching tool for township students.

That was Schmidt’s reasoning for bringing the idea to the Open Space Committee the next day.

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said the roof on the environmental center – which is mainly used by township students on class excursions – has sprung a leak, and in looking to fix that it was discovered that the roof is in need of replacement.

Vornlocker said he could not find an indication that the center’s 3,000-square-foot flat roof had been changed since the building was constructed in the 1960s.

Township Public Works Manager Carl Hauck, also a member of ttheeh Open Space Committee, said the roof had reached the end of its life.

“The roof has pretty much peeled off the entire decking system,” he said.

He said the partial cost to replace the roof has been set at $90,000.

“That doesn’t include some of the repairs we’d have to do inside the building,” he said.

Vornlocker said the remainder of the costs would be revealed in a second bid for materials.

Schmidt’s idea to install a green roof on the building at first had the support of Committee member David Triggs, who still expressed doubts as to whether the building could sustain the added weight of soil needed for the green roof.

Schmidt said the initial cost of the roof would be more than a traditional metal roof, but he said it would pay for itself in the long run because, he said, green roofs are more durable than traditional roofs.

He said the Environmental Commission was talking about green roofs the night before, and decided that the environmental center building would be the perfect place to introduce the township to the concept.

“When we heard about this, we thought what better place to install a green roof to teach our school children about the environmental issues and things like that,” he said.

He said the commission had the names of several contractors who have experience with green roofs, and that he would like to have them spec out the project.

“What better time to do it when there is structural damage that has to be fixed?” he asked.

Even though he had doubts about its practicality, Triggs moved that a feasibility study be done on the green roof.

Vornlocker reminded the Committee that the season was getting late, and that the township picked a roofing contractor through a cooperative bidding service so that the traditional bidding process did not have to be followed and time could be saved.

He said following the traditional bidding process would delay the repair by 60 to 90 days, which would be the dead of winter.

“My fear is that this roof is currently tarped and we’re just holding on, and winter is just around the corner,” he said. “It’s an environmental center that has a roof leak and winter is coming. That’s why we want to move this project along so that roof can be replaced before we have to deal with the winter consequences.”

“I understand that that’s a potential problem,” Schmidt said. “Is it still possible to contact any of these other companies and have them submit bids?”

Vornlocker said that would entail going through the longer bidding process, although “you can certainly talk to someone about the possibility of this happening with this building and is it even possible with the type of roof and construction.”

The extended discussion caused Triggs to change his mind and withdraw his motion for the study.

“A green roof is a great idea, I just don’t … know if a green roof is feasible at this building,” he said.

“It’s an old building, it’s a small building, I don’t even know what kind of green roof you can have on the building,” he said. “My personal opinion is just to repair the roof as is.”

Schmidt then tried to reduce the scope of his proposal, and suggested making only a portion of the roof green.

“I think even a partial green roof would be an excellent opportunity for the educational aspect of it,” he said.

Committee member Bob LaCorte suggested using a metal roof, but Vornlocker said that metal is not usually used for flat roofs.

“If you’re going to take the roof down and replace it, why wouldn’t you be able to put in a couple pieces of material and give it a little bit of a pitch and save $30,000 to $50,000?” he asked.

LaCorte was also against the green roof idea.

“I would not want, with all the trees that are around there, to put a green roof in there,” he said. “There’s nothing but shade there.”

“To me, spending the money to put up a green roof there is just throwing money down a rabbit hole,” LaCorte said.

Township Councilman Ted Chase said he wished “we could have a green roof on a building that could be more seen by the adult population of the township.”

Schmidt then moved to have the township open space consultant speak with contractors who do green roofs to get an idea of prices. The motion died without a second.

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