Students at the Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in the nation, are leading the charge to install a 50,000 square foot sustainable roof on the top of their campus. More than just a green roof, the sustainable roof will act as a living laboratory that allows the students to experience and study renewable energy, green design, and sustainability first hand. The student group BLS Youth CAN (Climate Action Network) came up with the idea back in 2007, and with the pro bono help of Gail Sullivan of Studio G Architects they are making the dream into a reality.
In 2007, the students screened An Inconvenient Truth, came up with the idea for the green roof, and lobbied the administration. The idea was approved, and Studio G Architects helped the students design the rooftop into what will eventually be a sustainable living laboratory. The students have been fundraising and applying for grants in order to pay for the 50,000 sq foot roofscape ($5-6.2 million), which has already started construction. The project includes a 28-solar panel array and 350 trays of sedum.
Eventually, as funds become available, the sustainable roof will include a series of vertical-axis wind turbines, a cafeteria garden, a greenhouse and an orchard that will provide fresh local produce and help encourage healthy eating habits. Additionally, a contemplative garden will be created for leisure, studying, and classes to inspire the students.
The rooftop will serve as a living laboratory that will teach students about sustainability and the school’s environmental technology. The students originally intended to construct the green roof and renewable energy systems as a way to help decrease the school’s carbon emissions, but it will eventually become so much more for them in terms of an educational experience.
The active group of students are even working to develop an entirely new sustainability curriculum, which is being piloted at BLS this fall. The program is open to all students and will also be available to the other 17 YouthCAN chapters throughout Massachusetts. Other schools will also be allowed to take field trips to the school’s rooftop to get a hands-on learning experience. As of 2007, the seventh grade students who helped originate the project idea had just finished their sophomore year, and they hope that the project can be completed by the time they graduate in 2012.