When students returned to P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village for the start of the new school year, they found a wonderful resource finally ready for them. After six years of planning, fundraising, building evaluation, and construction, the Green Roof Environmental Literacy Laboratory (GELL) at P.S. 41 has been completed. The school’s 9,000-square-foot green roof, the centerpiece of GELL, was installed in August 2012 with the LiveRoof® Hybrid Green Roof System.

P.S. 41 – After

“The installation of our green roof fulfills P.S. 41’s dream of establishing a living learning laboratory to boost environmental literacy and enable our students to learn about their stewardship role in the health of the planet,” said Vicki Sando, Environmental Science Program Developer at P.S. 41. “With GELL, we enhance hands-on educational opportunities for our students on sustainability, environmental stewardship and urban gardening.”

“The green roof provides important benefits for the community as well as our school. It reduces stormwater runoff, moderates the heat that builds up in urban areas, decreases the school’s carbon footprint, and helps improve local air quality,” said Kelly Shannon, Principal, P.S. 41. “It also shades and insulates the roof and lowers the interior sound level as well.”

P.S. 41 is a K-5 grammar school that serves about 800 students. Located at 116 West 11th Street in Greenwich Village, P.S. 41 is at the heart of one of New York City’s high-density neighborhoods with little open space. GELL’s 15,000-square-foot observational learning environment (set back six feet from the roof’s perimeter and protected by a fence) provides much needed green space. It includes a central outdoor classroom area and features a 9,000-square-foot green roof — the largest municipal green roof on a New York City public school. In addition to ecological study, GELL is integrated into the curriculum to support lessons in science, mathematics, nutrition, literacy, art, and aesthetics.

The LiveRoof® Hybrid Green Roof System from LiveRoof, LLC (Spring Lake, MI) was selected for the GELL project. Prides Corner Farms (Lebanon, CT), a family owned wholesale nursery that serves as a LiveRoof regional distributor and grower, cultivated the local plants for the green roof. It was installed by Harder Services (Hempstead, NY) with the supervising assistance of New York Green Roofs, LLC (New York, NY).

“LiveRoof is the modular green roof system that creates a naturally functioning ecosystem on the rooftop. And once set in place, its modules are hidden beneath the plants and soil so that no edges of the modules are visible to disrupt the natural appearance of the green roof,” said Jose Miranda, Associate, Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects (New York, NY). “Its fully vegetated modules are installed already dense with full-grown plants to create an instant green roof.”

The total project budget for GELL was $1.7 million, including $450,000 for the modular green roof system, the plants, system delivery, and installation. New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer allocated city capital funding for the project, which also received support from the State of New York as well as corporate and private donations.

“I am extremely proud that the Council supported the Green Roof Environmental Literacy Laboratory. It will enable P.S. 41 students to broaden their understanding of important environmental issues and the steps they can take to help green our city,” said City Council Speaker Quinn. “I look forward to seeing its effects on P.S. 41 and the surrounding community. It is a wonderful way to raise environmental awareness among the youngest and brightest New Yorkers.”

“The opening of the Green Roof Environmental Literacy Laboratory at P.S. 41 is a landmark event, not just because it is the largest such roof at a New York City public school — but because it expands our commitment to making environmental study a fixture in classrooms,” said Manhattan Borough President Stringer. “This laboratory will boost students’ knowledge of environmental priorities and also benefit the community by reducing stormwater runoff and the school’s carbon footprint and improving air quality. Just as important, it shows that worthy projects like this can become a reality through community-based advocacy and governmental assistance. I am proud to have helped support the GELL project, and look forward to boosting others like it in the years ahead.”

Additional Information — Green Roof Benefits…

Longer Roof Life: Green roofs serve as a shield to prevent UV radiation and temperature extremes from degrading roof components. They protect roofs against damage from airborne debris. Waterproof roof membranes can therefore last 200-300 percent longer. “With a green roof to protect it, the new TPO membrane on the P.S. 41 roof will have a longer service life,” said Jose Miranda, Associate, Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects. An estimated six to nine million tons of discarded roofing materials are dumped in landfills annually in the U.S. Thus, extending the service live of structural roof components not only reduces costs for building owners, it is good for the environment, too.

Effective Stormwater Management: Extensive green roofs can reduce the volume and velocity of stormwater runoff into sewer systems by 50-90 percent. “Students at P.S. 41 will learn how their green roof acts like a natural sponge that absorbs stormwater and curtails harmful runoff,” said Jim Costello, Senior Manager, Prides Corner Farms, a family owned wholesale nursery that serves as the LiveRoof regional grower and distributor for the New York City area and New England.

Improved Water Quality: Green roofs filter pollutants out of rainwater water and act as a buffer against acid rain.

Energy Conservation: On a bright 80°F day, roof surfaces can hit 160°F. “By shading and insulating the rooftop, green roofs keep rooftop temperatures in line with ambient air temperatures,” said Dave MacKenzie, Horticulturalist and President, LiveRoof, LLC. The green roof will keep the P.S. 41 cooler in warm weather — thereby reducing peak energy demand for air conditioning, conserving energy, and lowering the school’s utility costs.

Urban Heat Island Effect Mitigation: Plants release oxygen and evaporate water through the process of photosynthesis. That makes a green roof function like a natural evaporative cooling system that moderates temperatures not only on the rooftop but at street level as well. “Our students are measuring temperatures on the roof and outside the school building at ground level,” said Vicki Sando, Environmental Science Program Developer, P.S. 41.

Reduced Carbon Footprint, Improved Air Quality: Like all plants, green roof plants sequester carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen. Every 1,000 square feet of an extensive green roof can capture over 80 pounds of CO2 annually. Green roofs also naturally filter harmful particulates and air pollutants. Every 1,000 square feet of an extensive green roof can filter about 400 pounds of dust and smog particles per year. The 9,000-square-foot green roof at P.S. 41 is helping the environment.

Enhanced Property Value: Green space is visually appealing, inviting and healthful. With green roofs, barren rooftop spaces can be reclaimed to add natural beauty. “Our green roof provides green space our students appreciate and a welcoming habitat for birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects,” said Kelly Shannon, Principal, P.S. 41. “Green roofs can also lower indoor sound levels by as much as 40 decibels. That is another added benefit our teachers, staff and students can welcome.”