Storm water strategies for improved land management and green roofs at Saint Joseph’s University, USA

Storm water strategies for improved land management and green roofs at Saint Joseph’s University, USA

Experimental green roof atop the SJU Science Center. Photo Credit: Saint Joseph’s University

A technical workshop on land management to address built environments and developed and natural lands, especially focusing on storm water strategies, was held 6 March 2012 at the Campion Student Center at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.  The workshop focused on sustainability techniques for professionals and students involved in land management.

Storm water, created by runoff of excess rainwater and melted snow, causes downstream flooding, stream bank erosion, sewer overflows, and habitat destruction.  “Storm water, and ways to manage it, are becoming increasingly important in urban and suburban areas, as the percentage of land covered by impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots and buildings continues to increase,” says Dr Michael McCann, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of biology. “These problems will not go away in the future – they are only expected to get worse.  Fortunately, there are many creative solutions that can not only address these issues but, in some cases, actually turn them into benefits.”

Patty Thompson, conservation director at the Lower Merion Conservancy, a non-profit community organization that strives to preserve the natural and historic resources of the Lower Merion-Narberth watershed and landscape in Pennsylvania, shared that “built environments and designed landscapes need to hold water for as long as possible to prevent storm water problems.  This conference is meant to give attendees the tools they need to control storm water within the landscapes they oversee.”

Architecture, landscape design, land management and environmental science professionals and students and homeowners attended several panels during the daylong event.  The workshop featured presentations from local conservation and environmental organizations and included tours of SJU’s green roof and storm water management systems.  Sessions tackled government and storm water, green roof systems, storm water management for open spaces, and storm water management for trails and in parks.

Last November 2011, SJU celebrated the anniversary of the installation of the university’s first green roof and Dr McCann explained how “green roof systems provide a wide range of benefits including reduced energy use and increased energy efficiency.  Basic green roofs usually involve a structure built on an existing roof that includes a waterproofing membrane and additional layers of root barrier and drainage systems.  Growing medium and specialized plant vegetation is then added to that structure.”

SJU’s green roof system atop the Science Center permits the direct, side-by-side comparison of four green roofs.  This novel ‘many roofs on one building’ approach will provide valuable data on the various systems in use in southeastern Pennsylvania.  What really makes the roof unique is that built into it are sensors and other instruments that measure and track factors such as heat retention, heat flux inside and outside the building, water retention and more.  Over time, Dr McCann said, researchers, including SJU students, will be able to study whether there are “real performance differences.”  Green roofs are said to lessen the urban heat effect, help in storm water management and decrease building energy.

The workshop was organized by SJU’s Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences and the Lower Merion Conservancy and funded by a grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) through its programs on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

For more information, please get in touch with John Braverman, SJ, assistant professor of biology at the Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, Saint Joseph’s University through his email: jbraverm(at)


One thought on “Storm water strategies for improved land management and green roofs at Saint Joseph’s University, USA

  1. Getting green roofing comes with multiple benefits. Rainwater is absorbed by the plants, the surrounding environment gets purified, the beauty of the whole building increases and much more. This is why the trend of green roofs is rapidly gaining pace.

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