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Rooftop lessons at UVM

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

High atop the University of Vermont a garden is taking root.

"This is something we have been planning for 10 years," said Gary Hawley of the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

This week students and faculty are putting the finishing touches on a new green roof on the university's Aiken building.

"I just think it is a really great learning experience," said Allison Maynard, a student.

The 7,000-square-foot space will allow folks to study new ways to process rainwater.

"We'll be hopefully extracting some pollutants that are commonly running off of roofs into streets and sewer systems that eventually hit the water systems that we drink and also run into other people's gardens and fields," said Alan McCarthy, a student.

In total, 850 plant beds with differing combinations of soil and greenery will take on the challenge.

"They're going to monitor how much water is going through. So the less water there is, the more the plants are absorbing," Maynard said.

Hawley is leading the rooftop effort and says it will go a long way to reinforce concepts he's teaching in the classroom.

"It's fun to see a green roof on paper," Hawley said. "But it's really a blast to help put it in, help install it and then over the next few years they'll help learn from the research as a teaching tool."

A tool students say will serve them well after graduation.

"I basically just want to do building design and maybe green roof installation and just making building more sustainable," Maynard said.

The new roof will also allow students to test which combinations of plants will do the best job insulating the building and others like it in urban centers.

"It's great to see the students getting together to work on something like this," Maynard said.

The garden cost roughly $80,000 to build and was paid for with a variety of grants.

In addition to working in the garden, students will be able to monitor the rooftop progress with a computer system tied into their classrooms.

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