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Top-Level Sustainability: Hospital's Green Roof Delivers Benefits


Roof management is a notoriously complex and time-consuming challenge for maintenance and engineering managers. Between the ravages of weather and time and the problems created by foot traffic and equipment installation and maintenance, major, costly headaches can arise quickly.

But Robert Van Rees did not view his new roof with many hesitations, if there were any at all. The attitude of the director of facilities and support services with Metro Health Hospital in Wyoming, Mich., is especially striking, considering the new 1-acre, 48,500-square-foot roof installed on his hospital's administration building in 2006 was one of the largest vegetative roofs on a health care facility in the country at the time.

"From my perspective, I thought it was kind of a cool idea, so I was looking forward to getting it established," Van Rees says. Seven years after the vegetation was installed in 2007, Van Rees's hopes for the roof's performance have been realized. "As the facility manager, I was really nervous about the wildlife," he says. "I was worried about how we were going to fix leaks, but it hasn't leaked yet. I still wonder how we're going to find a leak if it does leak. But we've had no issues with that roof whatsoever."

The extensive vegetative roof sits atop the administrative portion of the hospital, which is attached to the bed tower, a 208-bed general acute-care osteopathic teaching facility. The roof project was part of the construction of a replacement hospital that started in 2005. The roof was installed in 2006, and the plants arrived in 2007.

While the roof's size and materials might seem like unique challenges, Van Rees says its arrival was just one part of an overall sustainability program that involved seemingly every area of the new hospital. The roof became one more new responsibility during a hectic period.

"Everybody had a lot of hats to wear" at the time, he says. "We were maintaining an old hospital and building a new one." One sustainable role for the roof is in controlling the flow of water through the hospital site.

"The roof is part of our stormwater management, more so than the energy-savings component" Van Rees says. "We got a grant from the state to do a three-year study on the effectiveness of a vegetative roof, as well as the bioswales that are connected to the whole stormwater management system for the 27 acres that the hospital is on." The study revealed that the roof and the bioswales would be effective in removing the majority of pollutants from the water before they entered the city's water-management system, he says.

To read more, go here.

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