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May 20, 2009

Two rooftop gardens on Smith College’s Ford Hall will support research and relaxation as well as benefit the environment.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – When it is completed, Ford Hall, Smith College’s new state-of-the-art building for science and engineering, will boast 20,000 square feet of planted roof with opportunities for research and relaxation.

Ford Hall green roof planting

The installation, commonly referred to as a “green” roof, is an environmentally sustainable feature of the structure that is expected to significantly reduce both the amount of stormwater runoff from Ford Hall and the amount of heat the building emits.

Those environmental benefits are important for Smith to earn LEED certification for the 140,000-square-foot building. In developing the LEED scorecard, the United States Green Building Council recognized the importance of rooftop environments in achieving sustainability goals and reward that feature in its certification process.

Most of the planted roof – about 19,000 square feet, located 65 feet above the sidewalk – will support various species of sedum, leaf succulents that have water-storing leaves. During light or medium rainfalls, water might not even leave the roof, but be retained and used by the plants or evaporated back into the atmosphere, according to the architectural firm, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, which designed Ford Hall.

sedum for Ford Hall roof planting  

From late spring through the summer, the sedum will offer various combinations of white, yellow and pink flowers against green, gray or bronze fine-textured foliage, according to Joe Payne, senior associate with Towers/Golde, LLC, the landscape architects. It is expected to produce a “jewel box effect.”

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the garden will offer an opportunity for scientists to collect and measure various features of the soil and water and to establish a meteorological station on site.

Although that will be the largest roof garden on Ford Hall, it will not be the only one. Building visitors will be able to enjoy a 1,000-square-foot garden on a roof terrace located off the third floor of the building.

The terrace garden will have deeper soil – up to 18 inches – and feature large plantings alongside an outdoor sitting area, according to the architectural designs.

It is “envisioned as a grassy meadow with small trees,” said Payne. “An interesting mix of coarse and fine textures, seasonal flowers and fall color.”

Planted roofs are estimated to have twice the lifetime of a comparable roof without vegetation, according to Bohlin Cywinski Jackson.

And, reducing the amount of runoff from Ford Hall is critical because, like many older communities, Northampton’s public stormwater system is unable to accommodate the amount of runoff from an average rainstorm, the firm noted.

In conjunction with the roof system, a series of cisterns – or underground water tanks –will collect any stormwater runoff and return it to the building for use in the research laboratories and for other non-potable needs.

Plantings planned for third-floor viewable garden:

White fringe tree – a shrub or small tree with coarse bright green foliage and a white flower in early summer.

Broadmoor juniper – a short, low-spreading evergreen shrub that grows 2 to 3 feet high and 10 feet wide with soft and bright green foliage.

Yucca “Adam’s Needle” – an evergreen with broad grass-like foliage and white candelabra flower stalks in mid-summer.

Autumn moor grass – a type of ornamental grass that grows about a foot high and wide with lime green foliage and flower spikes to 18 inches.

Little bluestem “The Blues” – a type of grass that has silver-blue foliage, which turns orange and bronze in the fall.

Allium bulbs – both a species with bluish foliage and large white flowers and a species with grass-like foliage and yellow flowers.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.



Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
Media Relations Director
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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