USPS Unveils NYC’s Biggest Green Roof

by | Jul 27, 2009

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uspsgreenroofAimed at saving energy and reducing pollution runoff, the U.S. Postal Service has unveiled its first and New York City’s largest green roof on top of the Morgan mail processing facility. USPS said the green roof will help the agency meet its goal to reduce energy use by 30 percent by 2015 and expects to reduce polluted runoff by as much as 75 percent in the summer, and up to 35 percent during the winter months.

Another benefit includes a lifetime of 50 years, twice as long as the roof it replaced. The roof of the 2.2-million square foot facility, built in 1933, was originally constructed to serve as an additional mail processing location, supporting 200 pounds per square foot, making it suitable to support the weight of the soil, vegetation and other requirements of a green roof, said USPS.

At nearly 2.5 acres, the Morgan green roof is now home to native plants and trees that include Calamagrostis, a lush, maintenance-free grass, and 14 orange-hued Ipe Brazilian wood benches made from lumber certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The Morgan green roof is part of the Postal Service’s greener facilities strategy, which includes the use of environmentally conscious building components, renewable materials, energy-efficient lighting and HVAC, low volatile organic compound parts, low-water use fixtures, solar photovoltaic systems, green computing, recycling, and a LEED-certified facility opening soon in Long Island.

The Postal Service is also expanding its hybrid electric vehicle fleet, and using other alternative fuel technologies, along with reducing the size of its fleet, to help meet its goal of reducing fuel usage by 20 percent over the next five years.

Green roofs are starting to make inroads city by city. As an example, Green Roofs of Colorado told the Rocky Mountain Independent that they are busy installing green roofs for private homes in Denver, Boulder, Vail, Steamboat Springs and Aspen, plus buildings at Colorado State University and Fort Lewis College.

Andy Creath, owner of Green Roofs of Colorado, said green roofs cost about twice as much as a regular blacktop roof, but they can be cheap as $10 a square foot or as much as $40 a foot for deep soil with a variety of plant types but they will pay for themselves in lower energy bills and also last almost three times longer than regular roofs.

The only publicly accessible green roof in Denver is above the café at the Denver Botanic Gardens.  Mark Fusco of the Denver Botanic Gardens said in the article that the Botanic Gardens’ roof consists of drought-tolerant native plants such as succulents and cactuses , and the roof has rocks instead of turf between the plants.

Fusco is working with the Mayor’s office on policies to encourage green roofs in Denver, reports the newspaper. Fusco said in the article that other cities have started programs with pilot projects, followed with incentives, for example, New York, which offers tax breaks based on the square footage of green roofs.

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