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It’s easy being green in LIC

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Western Queens can now claim two green roofs, Consolidated Edison officials announced last week. The utility's three-story Learning Center training and conference facility in Long Island City now boasts a quarter acre of plants to absorb heat during the summer and insulate it from the cold during winter.

More than 21,000 plants will keep the building cooler and reduce the need for air conditioning, Con Ed officials said. The roof is projected to save up to 30 percent of the Learning Center's peak-cooling costs.

Researchers from Columbia University's Center for Climate Systems Research will also be studying the roof to evaluate how it affects energy costs, temperatures and air quality atop the building.

"There's information out there that says these roofs will save 30 percent to 70 percent of your energy use. That's a huge difference," said David Westman, resource conservation coordinator for Con Ed's Environmental Health and Safety division. "It's hard to really do financial planning on such a huge difference. What we're hoping to accomplish through this is to really narrow that number down for the NYC climate, for the building materials that are available to us."

Con Ed hopes to make its findings public to help other building owners interested in green roofs. The utility also touted its role in helping Astoria's Silvercup Studios build its green roof in 2004.

But Con Ed and Silvercup are not the only green roofs in town. The Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing opened a brand-new visitor center last summer boasting a rainwater collection system that filters runoff from the roof into a moat surrounding the building and filtered naturally by marsh vegetation before being used in the building's composting toilets.

Nicole DeFeo, capital projects coordinator for the garden, said the green roof on its visitor center is still going strong after a year in place, noting her organization is also collaborating with Columbia.

"We have a full-out weather station on the green roof to monitor baseline conditions," she said. "We're looking at three depths of soil temperatures, soil moisture, plant surface temperatures, ambient air temperatures compared to a white roof and the traditional black roof."

Apart from keeping the temperature lower, the green roof also attracted wildlife.

"Last summer we already noticed a bunch of monarch butterflies being attracted to the butterfly weeds," she said. "We get birds, grasshoppers, bees. In that respect, it's definitely attracting more wildlife. It's definitely been a cooler climate up there compared to a traditional black roof."

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:37 pm, October 10, 2011
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