Monroe Clinic’s Roof Gardens Are Taking Root

By: From Monroe Clinic
By: From Monroe Clinic

MONROE Wisc. (WIFR) -- The snows of two winters will fly before patients and hospital staff can look out over the new rooftop gardens of Monroe Clinic’s Northwest Addition. But the garden is already taking root at Hortech nursery in Spring Lake, Michigan. Their specialty? Growing green roofs.

In September, the nursery planted approximately 11,000 square feet of specially designed, LiveRoof® beds with hardy plants such as sedum, euphorbia and allium. With foliage and flowers in shades of yellow, green, white, blue and pink, the plants will provide year-round coverage and color. Stano Landscaping of Milwaukee, area leaders in commercial green roof projects, will install the modular beds in summer 2011.

The Northwest Addition will have three green roofs on the first and second levels. The chapel’s rooftop garden will have seating and walking paths for visitors. Every patient room will look out onto a natural vista or green roof. Natural views have been shown to enhance healing and wellness for both patients and employees, according to Mark Thompson, MD, Chief Medical Officer.

“Bringing healing and spirituality into the design of the Northwest Addition was a priority,” he said. “We want people to feel as comfortable as possible while they’re here. Being able to look out on nature or walk through a garden reduces stress and helps people get back home sooner.”

Benefits to the environment and the bottom line

In addition to making people feel better, green roofs are good for the planet. As a Catholic-sponsored organization, Monroe Clinic emphasizes responsible stewardship of resources. It is one of the first hospitals in the state committed to achieving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification. The Northwest Addition’s green roofs will enhance the building’s sustainability and energy efficiency. Here’s how:

- The plants help cool the air, slow air movement and filter pollution
- The soil absorbs excess rainwater, significantly reducing runoff and demand on municipal storm sewers
- The rooftop ecosystem creates habitat for butterflies and songbirds
- The plants and soil help prevent rooftops from heating up in the summer, which typically reduces indoor temperatures 6 to 8 degrees in hot weather
- Lower indoor temperatures saves electricity, decreasing the demand on the air conditioning system

Although it may seem that caring for a green roof would be more costly, the gardens contain low-maintenance, drought-resistant plants that help protect the roof from sun damage, cracks and leaks.

“Green roofs can double the life of a roof, which is a significant benefit for large buildings like the Northwest Addition,” noted Steve Borowski, Director of Facility Services. “But that’s just the icing on the cake. We conserve energy and reduce runoff while our patients look out on meadows with butterflies instead of tar. Everyone wins.”

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