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'Beachfront Property' Coming to ESF

Plants from shores of Lake Ontario to grow on Gateway roof

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New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation President Matt Driscoll toured the Gateway Center of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) where ESF plans to construct one of the nation's most unique garden roofs, using native plant species from the shores of Lake Ontario.

"This innovative design will not only enhance the environmental attributes of the college's new Gateway Center, it will also improve the technology and construction techniques that can be used for other rain-absorbing roof systems," said EFC President Driscoll, presenting a check for $413,000 from the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council.

"We at ESF are very pleased to partner with President Matt Driscoll and the NYS Environmental Facilities Corporation to improve the environment and the quality of life in New York state. Our mission at ESF is greatly enhanced by this partnership," said college President Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr.

The ESF project was presented a "Green Innovation Grant" from Governor Andrew Cuomo's Regional Economic Development initiative. Last year, a total of $785 million was awarded through the Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) for job creation and community development projects consistent with each region's strategic plans. ESF's green roof was recommended by the Central New York Regional Economic Development Council as part of its strategic plan for the region.

Preliminary trials over two years show dozens of native plant species from two plant communities - eastern Lake Ontario dunes and alvar pavement barrens at the northeastern end of Lake Ontario - will readily establish on a green roof. The new funding will help establish a green roof on ESF's new Gateway Center, which is scheduled to open this fall.

"Green roofs are inherently harsh growing environments," said Dr. Donald Leopold, chair of the ESF Department of Environmental and Forest Biology.

"To meet temperature extremes, moisture and nutrient stress, as well as solar exposure green roofs typically utilize a plant palette of sedum species, adequate but limited in ecological function and value," Leopold explained.

"An alternative to sedums is the planting of native plant species from natural plant communities found on highly stressed sites that mimic the extreme conditions found on green roofs. Many of these species are already well adapted to especially harsh growing conditions, plus they're a habitat for many native beneficial and pollinator insects that, in turn, are food for native bird species," he continued. Additionally, there will be a number of very rare New York plant species included in this planting, enhancing the green roof's aesthetic, educational, and research values.

The Gateway Center's green roof is 5,000 square feet and located atop the main level of the building, outside the windows of the admissions and outreach offices.

Timothy Toland, associate professor in the ESF Department of Landscape Architecture said, "It is situated to take advantage of broad scenic views to the west of campus and to be easily accessible from the building and will include a deck with built-in benches allowing visitors to interact and linger with the plants."

"We are expecting this planting to be dynamic and closely match the natural rhythms of the native plant communities themselves. It is expected that plantings will spread and move around and that the plantings will vary from season to season and year to year. Several species have never been utilized before in this application," Toland explained.

Contrary to traditional garden roofs, the Gateway Center garden roof will use planting media depths of 6 to 18 inches which will support larger plants, even woody plants, and provide extra insulation for the building.

The goal of the research and demonstration plantings is to provide designers and ecologists with a high degree of assurance that these native species from marginal but natural plant communities are viable alternatives to sedums for green roof installations.

Finally the green roof will be highly visible, and will demonstrate to visitors the unique qualities of the institution. It will be a distinctive landscape and serve as a symbol that ESF implements what it teaches into its programs.

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo announced that up to $750 million in economic development resources will be awarded through the second round of Regional Economic Development Councils to support economic development, strategic plan implementation and job creation across the state. The second Regional Council competition will focus on the implementation of each region's strategic plan and identifying and investing in locally significant priority projects. To learn more about each regional council and their economic development plans, visit www.nyworks.ny.gov.