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Redefining and Narrowing the Problem

The Main Idea Is

Longwood University’s upgraded biomass heating plant was opened on September 8th 2011.  As a University, Longwood has been burning wood biomass as a heat source for the boilers 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.

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.  This increases campus’ carbon footprint drastically.  The number one cause of air pollution is the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity.  Biomass is not a fossil fuel, but the production of carbon dioxide affects our air in similar ways.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.  These types of gases prevent heat and solar energy from being reabsorbed into the atmosphere after they are reflected off of our water bodies, snow, and reflective surfaces.  The greenhouse gases have contributed to the warming of the Earth hat scientists are concerned about.

To continue Longwood University’s green efforts I propose to install a green roof system.  Green roofs are structures that are made of organic plant materials.  Essentially they are rooftop gardens that are enhanced with water collection technologies and drainage systems. Green roofs help insulate the buildings they are built on which helps reduce the heating and air conditioning that would otherwise be needed.

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.  Dorrill Dining Hall would be the most ideal place to construct one of these green roofs because it is very near to the burner rooms where the carbon dioxide would be released from.  Also, the dining hall is made of windows on one side of the upper level which makes it very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer, requiring more air-conditioning and heating.

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.

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.