Belmont grows greener: Pharmacy building’s roof designed with sustainability in mind
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Belmont grows greener: Pharmacy building’s roof designed with sustainability in mind

Belmont’s new pharmacy building is going green … and orange … and purple.  More than 7,000 colorful plants cover its “green roof,” the largest of its kind on a Tennessee educational building.

“This building is going to have a great impact on our city,” said Belmont president Robert Fisher at the building’s grand opening on Aug. 21.

“[It is] a space where students can discover their purpose and passions in life and be more transformed into all they’re created to be.”

But the green roof isn’t just there for its aesthetic value.  It’s also a refuge for birds, insects, and even some of the plants themselves. For example, the Pepto-Bismol pink Tennessee coneflower was formerly endangered, and the new garden is home to 300 coneflower seedlings.

The plants will also help protect the campus from the “urban heat island” effect, lowering air temperatures during hot summer months by using energy from their surroundings to evaporate water.

“This green roof represents another significant step in Belmont University’s commitment to environmentally sustainable practices,” said Judy Fisher, coordinator of interior construction and exterior landscaping/lighting, in an Aug. 10 news release.

Fisher, the wife of Belmont president Dr. Bob Fisher, worked with landscape architects to choose all of the plants for the roof, said Catherine Spivey, a landscape designer from Hodgson and Douglas, a local firm that worked on the project.

Initial designs for the project included medicinal plants to complement the work of the pharmacy building itself, Spivey said, but as the team began to play around with the university’s concept of an all-perennial garden, they were inspired by the cedar glades of Middle Tennessee.

They created a new design for the garden with “very shallow soil, a lot of limestone rock, and perennials that kind of pop up in grasses,” Spivey said.
However, the team loved the idea of using medicinal plants so much that they added a few non-traditional herbs to their makeshift cedar glade, including St. John’s wort and verbena seedlings.

Although the garden will take roughly two years to develop fully, Spivey said, it already looks good. “It’s definitely filled in more than we could have hoped for.”
The Plant Operations staff is maintaining the green roof, a task made easier by the technology it’s equipped with.

“[The plants] have a sub-ground irrigation system, so it’s pretty slick,” said Mary Weber, Belmont’s landscaping manager.

The roof’s design also allows it to collect some rainwater for use in that irrigation system, another feature that makes the roof unique.

“We started looking at other campuses, and they hadn’t done this yet, so it just kind of evolved into being the largest one on an academic campus, which we were all thrilled about,” Spivey said.  “Belmont [is] on the forefront of trying new things.

Unveiling of McWhorter Hall

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