Campus Currents

Sky-High Gardens Growing Strong

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Rooftop Garden, photo by Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services
UNH Durham Roof Garden

One of these days, diners in Holloway Commons may be able to gaze out on the flat roof visible from the giant windows of the second-floor dining room--and watch their salad fixings growing. The 120-square-foot garden of sedum and chives planted there now is just the beginning, according to Mary Tebo '83, '02G, a UNH Cooperative Extension educator who has become something of a rooftop garden enthusiast and activist.

Tebo's long-time passion for creating sky-high plots of greenery took a new turn in fall 2007 with a chance meeting at Manchester's City Hall. Tebo was helping to install plants in the city's first rooftop garden when she met James Sherrard Jr. '07, who was working with Weston Solutions, an environmental problem solving company. Turns out Sherrard had his eye on a green roof idea of his own. He wanted to try one at UNH for his senior civil engineering project. Tebo offered to help, and the Holloway Commons garden project was underway.

More than providing a pleasant view for diners (or for people in surrounding buildings if it's a city garden), rooftop plots can help with insulation, saving on heating and cooling costs. "The really huge thing, though, is the stormwater issue," say Tebo, explaining that the 500-square-foot city hall garden, though only four inches deep, can contain 95 percent of a one-inch rainstorm--good news for the city's sewer system, which sometimes overflows into the rivers from excess runoff during heavy storms.

The Manchester roof has been a huge success, according to Tebo, who gets frequent calls from groups who want to start their own. And at UNH, a year after its installation, Sherrard's senior project has helped launch a small movement. A new green roof group began meeting this spring in a collaborative effort that includes a diverse mix of faculty and staff members from several disciplines, including civil engineering, plant science, food service management and the storm water center. "Everybody came together around a table and said, 'Let's do it!'" says Tebo, noting that there's a tangible sense of momentum and loads of suggestions about which UNH roof should be next. It's an idea, it seems, that's destined to grow.

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