Thursday, January 9, 2014

Raising the Roof: Mapping the Solar Thermal, Reflective, and Green Rooftop Potential in Reducing the Overall Carbon Footprint of Southwestern University Campus

Benjamin Galindo, Environmental Studies Interdisciplinary Program

Southwestern University is known for many of its “green” initiatives, some of which include its reliance upon 100% wind energy, a campus-wide composting effort, as well as broad support for student-led sustainability. Despite all of this, while SU may already be considered highly environmentally sustainable, the sky is literally the limit to the degree in which the university can increase its overall sustainability and decrease its carbon and ecological footprints. This study utilizes GIS in order to explore the potential benefits of implementing a sustainable rooftop system. This system would utilize living plants, reflective materials, and solar collecting devices, either standalone or in combination with one another, in order to reduce total energy use. Using various GIS tools, remote sensing data, as well as campus energy data supplied directly by the university, the amount of possible roof space available for one or more of these rooftop additions was determined, the estimated costs (both initial and lifecycle) were derived, and the potential financial and environmental benefits were projected. The results of this study show that while there is a large amount of roof space available, the most drastic 
energy savings would occur on the rooftops located on top of the freshmen residence halls, library and the Robertson gym. In conclusion, the steep initial investment on these types of rooftop systems could be paid off in a realistic time frame, in terms of both economic and environmental returns, and would undoubtedly contribute to Southwestern’s persistent long-term vision of achieving greater sustainability.

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