U.S. Department of the InteriorOffice of the Secretary - U.S. Department of the Interior - www.doi.gov - News Release
Dec. 16, 2008
Contact: Joan Moody

Secretary Kempthorne Dedicates First Green Roof
on Department of the Interior Headquarters in Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today unveiled a “green roof” located on the 3rd wing of the Main Interior Building in Washington, D.C. The project is the culmination of lengthy planning and a successful partnership among Interior’s Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, the General Services Administration, and the Department’s National Business Center.

“What more suitable place for a green roof than the headquarters of America’s conservation department in Washington, D.C.?” Secretary Kempthorne asked, congratulating all those involved for “showing great foresight on the need for a ‘green roof’ here. With more than half of Washington, D.C. covered with paved or constructed surfaces that do not allow water to infiltrate the ground, 75 percent of rainfall becomes runoff.” The vegetation and soil on the green roof will absorb rainwater and curb runoff.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett, National Business Center Director Douglas J. Bourgeois, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance Director Willie R. Taylor and National Business Center’s Chief of the Division of Facilities Management Services Mike Cyr joined the Secretary at the 10 a.m. ribbon cutting ceremony on the roof terrace outside the South Penthouse.

Washington, D.C. has a huge problem from storm runoff and sewer overflows. Each year in Washington, approximately 1–2 billion gallons of raw sewage are discharged into the Potomac River, Anacostia River and Rock Creek – all tributaries to the fragile Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The Main Interior Building green roof will help alleviate this problem and provide numerous other benefits:

  • Improve water quality by neutralizing acid rain effects and filtering pollution from rainwater.
  • Hold up to .7 inches of rain to reduce stormwater runoff entering the sewage system and reduce streambank erosion.
  • Shield the roof from the sun’s direct rays, which extends the roof’s life span, insulates the building during the summer and saves energy as well as mitigates urban “heat island” effects.
  • Improve air quality by filtering the air that moves across the plants and, through photosynthesis, convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
  • Provide habitat for songbirds and pollinators.
  • Reduce noise transfer from the outdoors.
  • Provide a visually attractive sight for employees and visitors.

The green roof project started more than seven years ago when Mike Cyr, National Business Center’s Chief of the Division of Facilities Management Services, read an article on the benefits of Green Roofs in Europe. Although green roofs were not commonplace at the time, NBC decided to explore possibilities for installing a green roof on the Main Interior Building.

NBC formed a successful partnership with in-house technical experts in the Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance. The group started by applying for and receiving free technical assistance from the Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program via the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The feasibility study confirmed a green roof would work on the Main Interior Building within specified limitations.

They also partnered with Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration to work through the contracting process to find a green roofing company. The roof was installed by Roofscapes, Inc.

Secretary Kempthorne especially credited Deputy Secretary Scarlett for providing leadership on the project.
"As the Nation's premier conservation agency, Interior is pioneering use of green roofs at our historic headquarters in Washington. We want to apply a green thumb to our rooftops to reduce storm water run off," said Scarlett. "Perhaps," she said, "we are entering what might be called the Age of Biology--the age of borrowing from Nature's lessons as we manage lands, waters, and even our buildings."

— DOI —