Urban Farm amps up conservation efforts with living roof

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The living roof above the chicken coop offers insulation and food for the animals.

By Christy Ulmet

Strawberries, mint, rye, clover and tomatoes are growing on top of the chicken coop on campus as one of the Urban Farm’s latest projects.

The living roof was planted in June of 2015 to both provide insulation to the coop and another place to grow fruits and vegetables.

The Trevecca Urban Farm, which includes 1.5 acres of gardens with an estimated 100 different species of plants, around 65 animals, beehives, chick coops and an aquaponics system, is an on-campus farm operated by the Center for Social Justice as a learning lab for the Center’s environmental justice program.

Every time humans build new buildings or parking garages, good soil is being covered up. Living roofs are one way that people are able to enjoy new buildings, as well as still have space to grow vegetation. The buildings help raise the growing areas closer to the sky, said Jason Adkins, environmental projects coordinator and farm operator.

They also help prevent flooding in urbanized areas because the rainwater can be soaked up by the soil, rather than treated as runoff into streams and rivers. The evaporation of the rainwater is what helps cool the buildings. Living roofs also help prolong the life of the roof, because they prevent UV rays from degrading the quality of the roofing.

Living roofs, also green roofs and heat islands, have become more popular in the United States since the market collapse because of their ability to cut heating and cooling costs, according to a report released by the Environmental Protection Agency. One of the more popular local projects with a green roof is on top of the new Nashville Music City Center a few blocks down the road from Trevecca.

Adkins chose what’s called the “Carpet Sandwich” approach for the living roof. One of the largest sources of landfills is used carpet. This is one way that the carpet can be reused, he said.

A piece of carpet is placed on top of the roof decking, followed by pond lining to help prevent flooding, and then another piece of carpet, which keeps branches or roots from destroying the lining from the top side down. Six inches of soil, used for growing vegetation, is added to the top layer. The soil on this living roof came from the compost sifted from the yard around it.
The project cost about $200, because the only new supplies needed were the pond liner and some screws; everything else came from recycled or composted material. And the roof is capable of paying for itself, Adkins said.

“We’re building a farm to teach and inspire people to take care of the earth, and grow good food and take care of one another. Its value really consists in how people take what they learn and put it into practice,” he said.

The living roof is one of the steps the Urban Farm has taken towards conservation. Adkins has overseen other sustainability projects on campus including: an aquaponics system to help water plants while providing a place for tilapia to live and a compost pile made up of scraps from the cafeteria and the farm.

Adkins said that this project was mainly meant to be an addition to the learning lab aspect of the farm. In the future, he noted that he’d love to see more living roofs being used around campus to provide additional insulation and growing space.

This article originally appeared on the Micah Mandate website.

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