N.Y. Jails Test Sustainable Roofing Solutions

JAMESVILLE, New York — Officials at Onondaga County Correctional Facility are using a routine re-roofing project to test green roofing technology in an effort to reduce county energy use and operating costs.

The jail’s four housing units are nearly identical, with the same design, location and exposure to weather conditions, presenting a unique opportunity to the county to try out different roofing options.

County lawmakers, who already authorized $2.3 million for the project, would be asked to increase project funding by about $250,000 to cover the cost of the green roofing technology.

Under the experiment, designed by Syracuse-based Ashley McGraw Architects, one unit would receive a conventional roof and would serve as the control, while the other three units would receive sun-reflecting systems and a roof covered with living plants.

Unit 1 would receive a black rubber membrane over 4 inches of rigid foam insulation, while unit 2 would get a reflective white roof over 4 inches of insulation. Unit 4 would also get a reflective white roof, but twice the thickness of insulating foam as unit 2.

Unit 3 would receive a roof coated with sedum, which would grow 8 inches to 10 inches thick and retain water due to fleeces in the planting structure. Barriers would be located underneath the plants to prevent roots and water from penetrating through the ceiling below.

Sensors would be located at various points above and below the roofs to monitor temperatures, and rain gauges would be installed to measure the amount of runoff.

Officials are optimistic the experiment may be a step forward in bringing down energy costs for the county and could help guide decisions on how to re-roof other county buildings, and reduce runoff into the county’s sewer system.

County planners in charge of a local lake cleanup project are looking to reduce runoff in an effort to avoid building more sewage-treatment plants.

The experiment could also determine whether vegetated roofs are a cost-effective and feasible option for the county’s climate. The project is expected to produce results at the end of a single heating and cooling cycle, officials say.

County officials started planning the sustainable roofing experiment after visiting a green roof installation at the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry campus. If the jail project moves forward, students from the college may help with evaluations at no charge to the county.