Huge Post Office green roof offers Manhattan views. Photos by Sigal Ben-Shmuel/EKLA
When the sun beats down there will be no tar up on this roof: the U.S. Postal Service created a 2.5 acre oasis in Manhattan this week with a green roof on its Morgan mail processing facility. The garden-like space will help reduce the city's heat index and heating/cooling costs, saving 30 percent of the building's energy usage by 2015 — the agency's goal. Can't all buildings have green roofs?
Perched above the seventh floor of this 1933 historic landmark on 9th Avenue and 30th Street, the green roof is the largest in New York City. The solid old structure supported the soil and plants which not all contemporary buildings can handle, though it took a couple years to get permits. Instead of replacing the roof in 2007, Elizabeth Kennedy Landscape Architects were subcontracted to design the space with low-maintenance vegetation in line with sustainable policies. The plan should last 50 years -- twice as long as conventional roofing.
Green roof by EKLA with URS Corp, Parsons Brinckerhoff & Turner Construction
Tree and plantings emphasize native species. There's coral carpet, Calamagrostis grass, John Creech, Immergrunchen and Fudaglut sedums. The roof harvests rain and is projected to reduce polluted contaminants in stormwater runoff into the municipal water system by 75 percent during summer and 35 percent in winter. Fourteen rooftop benches of Brazilian epi hardwood allow employees to take in the views.
The list of the P.O.'s eco-conscious efforts includes cradle-to-cradle Express/Priority packaging, tripling its recycling efforts from last year with 400 tons of materials each month, energy-efficient lighting, low VOC parts, low-water use fixtures, solar photovoltaic systems (i.e.: St. Louis, Oakland, El Paso), Al Gore's Hammer award-winning Ft. Worth green post office, and a LEED-certified facility opening on Long Island.
The Postmaster General commands "the largest civilian alternate fuel vehicle fleet in the nation." Besides reducing its number of vehicles, it recently bolstered its fleet with hybrid electric delivery vehicles and is testing Azure Dynamics' pure electric step vans, in line with reducing fuel usage by 20 percent over the next five years.
Going Postal — Green-style
So how do you green your own postal habits? Start with canceling junk mail, do online banking, do online mailing, skip overnight shipping by sticking with snail mail, follow the UPS right-turn policy: instead of idling in a left turn lane, circle round the block. Check out the Post Office's calculations for reducing trips to facilities. Too bad we can't visit this one.