Plain topsides should be green with envy

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June 24
By Henry Steinberg
For PlanPhilly

Tuesday night, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society unveiled PECO’s Green Initiative and hosted a tour of the company’s massive, new green roof.

The roof only represents phase one of PECO’s five-year plan to improve the company’s impact on the environmental. More than $15.3 million is being poured into the project, which includes the first “green building” in West Chester and the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of numerous other worksites.

This particularly leafy branch of the initiative is sitting atop the lower tower of the PECO building on 23rd and Market Street. The plan was conceptualized early last year and construction took place over the winter. The result is the largest green roof to be installed in an urban environment in the state of Pennsylvania, spanning 35,000 square feet (that’s just a bit shy of one acre).

The roof was designed by “Green Roof Guru” Charlie Miller and his Mt. Airy firm Roofscapes Inc.

Miller and Kristine Martinelli, a PECO representative, both gave presentations to about 50 people at the Horticultural Society headquarters before the official tour of the roof. Martinelli’s presentation outlined the benefits of the roof for the company (reduces PECO’s own power needs, cuts stormwater runoff), and also enlightened the audience to some of the challenges the craftsmen faced while installing the roof.

Miller’s PowerPoint covered the broader benefits of green roofing and how it is utilized across the globe.

The PECO roof itself is covered in a specialized system that ensures it will be as lightweight as possible while also being durable, that makes it possible to avoid reinforcing the supporting structure more then necessary.

The roof is divided into two areas, the Intensive Area, a more gardenlike space and the place in which the tour occurred and the more meadow-like Extensive Area that will be left untended and un-irrigated, relying only on rain water.

The various types of sedum (a species of leaf succulent) that form the green covering are all local varieties and were chosen for their renown as the toughest plants around. The same goes for the different perennials that are grown in the Intensive Area. All of these plants contribute to the ecological benefits of the green roof, helping to reduce storm water runoff as much as 70%.

And that is the amazing part of this whole endeavor. In lieu of shoring up the city’s one-pipe sewer system (which incidentally is the city’s rainwater runoff collector) with more sophisticated piping, green roofs cut pollution, cleans water and retain runoff.

And thanks to Environmental Protection Agency incentives (think permit fee reductions, reduced fines) given to companies willing to go through the effort to go green, the effort can actually pay off.

Contact the reporter at henst@sas.upenn.edu

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