Planted Roof

Lehigh University wants to take esoteric ideas on environmentalism down from the ivy towers and put them into practice with the construction of a $55 million environment and science building.

With a roof covered by plants for insulation, the 130,000-square-foot building would cut into the sloped campus and rise to five stories at its highest point and use the eco-friendly innovations to reduce fuel and water use, according to plans filed last month.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a green roof is made of vegetation and soil planted over a waterproof surface. Drainage and irrigation systems also can be layered on the roof. Environmentalists tout the roofs as able to regulate interior temperature and protect the underlying roof from the damaging effects of sunlight and extreme temperature changes.

Tooling Up for Hydroponics

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