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February, 2014:

In Short

Longwood University has been using biomass to heat campus for 30 years.  In 2011 campus upgraded its boiler system to be more efficient.  Biomass is burned to heat the water and create steam to heat campus. Biomass is organic materials and at Longwood the biomass that is burned is pine tree sawdust and chips that are purchased from local saw mills.  This benefits the local economy as well as the local environment.  These chips and sawdust piles would otherwise be taken to a land fill if they were not able to be used elsewhere.

Longwood has gone to great lengths to reduce their carbon footprint and be as “green” as possible.  It is true that choosing to burn biomass to heat campus is far more efficient and inexpensive than burning coal or gas.  Burning biomass, however, has its own environmental impact that could be reduced if the proper steps are taken.  Burning wood releases carbon dioxide into the air.  Carbon Dioxide is the number one greenhouse gas that affects our planet.  Additionally, the number one reason carbon dioxide is released by humans is for electricity, which is why Longwood burns biomass on campus.

Carbon Dioxide is a part of nature.  Trees “breathe” in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen as they complete photosynthesis.  In an effort to continue Longwood University’s “green” movement, I propose that a green roof is installed on the roof of the dining hall.   Green roofs have many benefits including filtering rain water, insulating the buildings they are built on, and reducing the carbon dioxide in the air.  I propose the green roof primarily to help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air around campus, but also because of the additional benefits they bring.

The construction of a green roof would affect multiple people on campus.  First, the students at Longwood would benefit by reduced amounts of carbon dioxide in the air.  Second, the maintenance and staff of Longwood would be responsible for the maintenance of the green roof.  Fortunately, green roofs are fairly self-sufficient. Also, Longwood would have to fund the construction and be sure to access all required permits that would be necessary to build on a pre-existing roof.

How “Green” Are We?


The problem that green roofs would alleviate on Longwood’s campus is the emission of carbon from the burning wood chips that are used to heat campus.  I have started researching how much carbon is released from the burners.  Longwood is allowed to burn 34,000 tons of sawdust per year. One ton of wood releases approximately 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

A potential problem I see with relying on one green roof to reduce Longwood’s carbon footprint is that they plants that would be placed would not be evergreen trees.  Because of this they would either die or hibernate during the winter and their carbon dioxide intake would drastically reduce.  Winter is when Longwood uses most of the sawdust for heating residence buildings and classrooms.  During the summer electric air conditioning cools the buildings and the boilers are used mostly to heat the water supplied to campus.

One additional (possibly unintentional) result of burning sawdust to heat campus is that Longwood University dump trucks are sent to the logging facilities to collect the sawdust.  Then it is transferred to a storage facility that is 17.68 acres that Longwood cleared especially to store the sawdust.  Something about clearing nearly 18 acres of land to hold sawdust that is driven by dump trucks releasing diesel smoke into the air doesn’t sound very “green”.

Clearly, a green roof on Dorrill Dining hall will not totally remove the carbon footprint Longwood is leaving on our planet, but I do believe it could be a start.  Longwood has moved forward drastically in comparison to other universities in their “green movement” and the improvements are not to go without notice.  A green roof would be only be a step further into developing Longwood into a more green campus than it already is.

English 400-16 2014-02-10 08:25:11


photo: urbanists

Green Roofs already have a growing popularity in our country.  This is particularly true in highly urbanized areas.   Heat Islands are a result of massive amounts of concrete and asphalt that absorb heat from the Sun and change the climate of highly urbanized areas.  Green Roofs help alleviate the effect of heat islands by using the suns radiation instead of storing it.  Where I propose to have a green roof on campus, is surrounded by large amounts of concrete.  The efficiency of the cooling system that provides air conditioning for the Dining Hall would be increased if a Green Roof were built, reducing the solar radiation stored by the building itself.

Longwood University’s newest biomass heating plant was opened on September 8th 2011.  As a University, Longwood has been burning wood as heat since the 1980s.  The newest fuel system was implemented to stream line the heating process and become more efficient.  Richard Bratcher, Longwood’s vice president of Facilities and Real Property, has stated that the purpose of the new biomass burner is to continue in the efforts at Longwood to become more sustainable.  To be fair, this biomass burner is much more efficient than an electrically powered heater or burning coal.  But there are some negatives to wood burning that would be removed with the construction of a Green Roof.

Green Roofs at Longwood University

Molly Baneck
ENGL 400-16
Dr. Mulligan
Blog Post 1
At Longwood University in Farmville Virginia, campus is heated by burning sawdust, called biomass, to create heat and hot water to power the university using steam. Longwood buys sawdust from local saw mills, which has proven to help the economy of Farmville Virginia by keeping money local. Initially Longwood was heated with coal, but 30 years ago the new boilers were introduced and powered by burning sawdust. This new method of heating water and campus buildings became an important green movement that the university is very proud of.
One important detail that may have been considered when the university moved to biomass fueling is that, although more green than coil, burning wood releases large amounts of carbon dioxide. I propose to continue the efforts of the university to become a green campus. Green Roofs are essentially gardens built on a man-made structure. These green roofs are layered with water resistant materials and drainage systems.
The benefits of green roof systems are many. Typically, the materials used to build the layers required to have a green roof are recycled and therefore kept from landfills. Additionally green roofs provide excellent insulation for buildings. Rain water is filtered through the plants, however most of the rain water is held and used by the plants and grasses to later be evaporated. The benefits a green roof would have on Longwood’s campus are twofold.
First, because the green roofs reduce the need for heating and energy use, the biomass burning would reduce and save money. Second, plants absorb CO2 released from biomass burning and release oxygen, creating cleaner air. It would be most beneficial to have a green roof on all buildings on campus, but that would be a very expensive project. I propose that a green roof made constructed on the roof of Dorill Dining hall. Dorill Dining hall would be the best place to construct a green roof because it is the closest building to the heating plant where the biomass is burned.