students on green roof
The team reviews the mezzanine between Anderson and Gladfelter Halls.
Photo: Joseph V. Labolito

As main campus has continued to transform in recent years, Temple outlined an ambitious but necessary goal as part of its updated Climate Action Plan released in 2019: becoming carbon neutral by 2050. A key component of this push? Retrofit current buildings and communal spaces to incorporate updated sustainability features, such as green roofs. 

Green roofs aim to provide better stormwater management and improve temperature efficiency within the building are coupled with lush greenery—equal parts form and function. Many Temple schools and colleges began work to support the climate plan along with the Office of Sustainability, including the Beasley School of Law, which is exploring a green roof as a signature sustainability project with the help of an engineering senior design team. 

Meant as a tangible application of undergraduate coursework, engineering senior design often pairs interdisciplinary undergraduate teams with a client to design a solution or improve a product. This team—Edson Pilartes Domingos, Katelyn Kahn, Jenna Rodgers, Madeline Sjoholm, all civil engineering majors with an environmental engineering concentration—work closely with Temple's project delivery group, facilities and grounds groups to get a sense of previous green roof projects, such as the Charles Library and the recently-completed Anderson and Gladfelter pavilion.

"Although this project is everyone's first exposure to working with clients, it has been a great learning experience because it's a skill we will need once we begin working after graduating," Madeline Sjoholm said, adding that the project stood out to her because it involves multiple disciplines, from civil and environmental engineering to landscaping and client work. 

"Temple has been working to make their campus environmentally friendly and it's great to be a part of that," she said. 

"I can't imagine a better place to go for the relevant expertise than our College of Engineering," added Amy Sinden, Professor at the Beasley School of Law and member of the law school sustainability committee. "Making our university and our planet more sustainable is actually fun and exciting and is going to improve our day-to-day quality of life in palpable ways."

Rebecca Collins, director of Temple's Office of Sustainability, partnered with Dr. Robert Ryan, civil & environmental engineering professor and the team's advisor, for a tour of the Anderson & Gladfelter pavilion, which offered a physical walkthrough of the concepts and ideas the group would consider for the plan. 

"There are a lot of components for them to consider: not only the benefits to building efficiency and increasing rain water management, but the Law School also hoped to incorporate an event space," Collins said, adding that it. "reinforces the importance of thinking about sustainability at every step of the way," pointing to a City of Philadelphia designation of North Philadelphia as a place that experiences "extreme heat". 

"Simply put, because there is a lot of concrete and asphalt and not as many trees, it's hotter in the summer," Collins said. "By introducing green spaces to mimic the natural environment, we can help our North Philadelphia neighbors." 

For the students, it's a real-life application of their engineering education and, hopefully, something they can point to someday when they return to campus as alumni, as Katelyn Kahn added. 

"It would be awesome to be able to say, "Hey, I helped make that happen!" if the green roof actually gets built one day." 

To learn more about engineering senior design, visit https://engineering.temple.edu/students/senior-design. To learn about Temple's climate action plan, visit https://sustainability.temple.edu/climate-commitment/climate-action-plan