Annapolis bank invests in `green' roof, wins praise

New building method promises to save energy, help to bay

November 12, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Annapolis' newest green space will be five stories up.

The roof of the $20 million Severn Savings Bank headquarters in Annapolis will be picnic-ready by spring, with tables and benches from which to admire downtown.

Slated to open next month, the office and retail building on Westgate Circle is what bank and city officials said is the first commercial space in Annapolis with a "green roof"--an eco-friendly covering that insulates in winter and cools in summer. It not only filters impurities in rainwater, but it also absorbs it, limiting runoff by as much as 75 percent.

Alan Hyatt, president of Severn Bancorp, said Thursday at an open house for the 82,000-square- foot building that initial plans called for 40 rooftop-parking spaces. The idea for a green roof emerged during conversations among the city's planning and zoning officials, architects and designers.

"We felt like we had to give something back; we can't just take," Hyatt said. "Now that it's here, we're happy we did it. It was done voluntarily."

First developed in Germany in the 1960s, green roofs are becoming more common across the United States.

A recent survey conducted by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a nonprofit industry association, found an 80 percent growth in green roof square footage across the country from 2004 to 2005.

In Baltimore, the National Aquarium, Good Samaritan Hospital and Living Classrooms Foundation all have them. And, in Annapolis last year, the Annapolis police station and a building at Back Creek Nature Park went green last year.

Tecta America, a roofing company partly based in Jessup that installed those roofs, has planted about a football field worth of greenery atop buildings in Annapolis.

O'Doherty Group Landscape Architecture of Annapolis designed Severn Bank's green roof and building grounds. The 12,500- square-foot roof of the five-story Severn headquarters is covered with about 4 inches of pumice-like soil that is heavy enough to stay on windy days, but light enough to not weigh down the roof.

Sedum, a sturdy and succulent plant, will provide coverage come spring seasons and will bring different colors -- yellow, white and purple in the summers.

White rocks line part of the roof, along with junipers that will eventually grow over the sides of the building. Tables and chairs will also be set up.

"Rainfall won't go from roof to roads to the bay," said Angie Durham, green-roof specialist at Tecta America. "The more green roofs we can do, the better off the bay will be."

The roof is open to the public; the building will house not only the bank, but also a coffee shop and a full-service restaurant.

A green roof costs about $12 to $20 per square foot. The one on top of the bank, which covers the building's four-story parking garage, cost about $400,000 more than a conventional blacktop roof, Hyatt said.

The new roof could save money through lower heating and cooling bills, and, because the greenery will shield the roof from the elements, the roof could last two to three times longer than a conventional one.

Limiting storm water runoff, waterway pollution, and increasing the canopy of greenery is exactly what the city wants to do.

""One would hope that it encourages others to follow suit," said Jon Arason, director of the city's Department of Planning and Zoning. "It's just a new way to treat an old rooftop."

Hyatt acknowledged that the building's size raised concerns among some residents, but he said its design -- with its rounded front, glass exterior and wire awnings -- is in keeping with the character of Annapolis. The architect was Alt Breeding Schwartz of Annapolis.

Denise Worthen, president of the Murray Hill Residents Association, had mostly praise for Hyatt's efforts.

"It doesn't mitigate the size of it, but it's laudable that they are doing it," she said. "They deserve some credit for being innovative and for doing something with storm water management rather than letting it run off."

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