New Castle News

October 17, 2012

Center to take gardening to new heights by planting on its own roof

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE —  The Human Services Center has plans to plant a garden of earthy delight on top of its office building downtown.

The tract will control stormwater runoff onto the North Street and Columbus Inner Belt, Roger Smith told the commissioners yesterday.

It also will reduce the building’s gas and electricity costs by an estimated 40 percent, and prolong the life of the roof, he anticipates, by providing an insulator for heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer.

 Smith, director of community services for the Human Services Center, has applied for a $40,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the $60,000 GreenGrid roof planting project for its Fisher Building, located next to the McGonigle Funeral Home and St. Mary’s Church.

He took a sample plat of the hardy plants to the commissioners meeting yesterday.

The project is expected to prevent more than 50,000 gallons of stormwater from entering the Shenango River watershed. This typically runs off the building’s rooftop, Smith told the commissioners.

 The garden grid will consist of 4,000 or more sedum plugs and other hardy moss-like plants that will cover about 77 percent of the total roof surface on the east wing of the building.

It will represent the largest GreenGrid roof in this area,   Smith said.

 As a funding match, Human Services has committed $4,400, along with “in-kind” or manpower contributions totaling $15,600.

The proposed project is supported by the commissioners and planning department and the county agricultural land preservation board. Other stakeholders include the Green Building Alliance of Pittsburgh, Energy Star, Three Rivers Wet Weather Inc. and Evolve Architecture, which will monitor the results, he said.

According to Smith, 313 pre-planted modules will contain eight varieties of plants that require little or no maintenance. The modules, from Weston Solutions in West Chester, Pa., will be placed along a geotextile sheet.  

Commissioner Bob DelSignore asked if the building roof will withstand the weight of the garden.

Smith said a structural engineer believes that it will.

The center’s own maintenance staff will install the system with guidance from Weston Solutions, he said, pointing out that the project will mirror one that Human Services initiated on top of the North Street Apartments    in 2002.

“That was 10 years ago. Now you see these types of projects all over the country,” Commissioner Steve Craig commented, touting the project.

 “Anytime you have water leaving the surface anywhere, it’s got to enter the storm sewers, and we all know that anytime it rains really heard, the streets of downtown New Castle really fill up.”

Smith said virtually nothing has been done to maintain the plantings on the North Street building, because they need little care and are thriving.

“The plants are drought-resistant and require no maintenance,” he said.