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Howlett Hall Green Roof at Ohio State University

by Chris Laster, NBBJ landscape designer





Megan Welsh, a certified green roof professional and the project's coordinator, began working on the green roof project as a student and stayed on as a consultant after graduating and opening her firm, Higher Ground Green Roofs, LLC. NBBJ volunteered to assist and developed design options. Chadwick Arboretum raised more than $400,000 for the green roof project, according to Mary Maloney, director of the Chadwick Arboretum.


Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in the U.S., is dedicated to advancing education, research and innovation for energy and the environment, emphasizing how those needs can be met sustainably. OSU supports campus test activities, in which the university is a resource for testing and improving new industrial technologies; helping faculty teams to obtain research funding; improving campus operations; and engaging students in cutting-edge sustainability science.

A landmark example of how the university campus serves as a living laboratory is the Howlett Hall Green Roof, the first publicly accessible green roof on campus located within the College of Food Science and Technology, Agricultural Administration, and Horticultural and Crop Science.

Ohio State provided a plan that was to place the green roof on top of the new roof as soon as it was installed. A goal of the arboretum for many years, the roof was a tar and chip roof that was hot and unattractive, as well as an under-used space on the urban campus.

NBBJ's landscape architects participated in an open design charrette that included a group of over 20 designers, horticulture advocates and academic representatives which spawned numerous design possibilities. NBBJ then volunteered to assist the Chadwick Arboretum, maintaining the ideas and momentum generated in the charrette.

They established a process that led to evaluation of the various concepts and distillation of the ideas that transitioned to a graphic presentation used for fundraising purposes. NBBJ advanced the design of the roof space and developed construction documents for its implementation.

Initial concepts explored how the space could create outdoor rooms which provided extensive and intensive roof garden prototypes along with structures for green walls of various types that could be analyzed and then experimented with over time.







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August 23, 2019, 1:34 pm PDT

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