Instead of a sea of concrete, the top of Alverno’s new La Verna Commons is covered with a low, living carpet of green flecked with tiny pink, yellow and white flowers. The sedum plants offer more than just an attractive view from the adjacent offices of Founder’s Hall, they also serve the practical purpose of soaking up stormwater runoff.
The 9,200-square-foot green roof, funded in part through grants from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and the Fund for Lake Michigan, is just one of the new environmental features of the recent $30 million Campus Improvement Project.
“The more we can make our campus sustainable and not negatively affect the environment, the better,” says Dawn Helsing Wolters, director of Institutional Giving. “The project helps us save money and direct more of the college’s funds to students and their needs. It’s always been part of the mission of Alverno to serve our community and as a leader in education.”
In addition to the green roof, Alverno created a bioswale (a landscaped channel that retains and filters stormwater as it flows through) and a new underground water retention system that will retain and slowly release water to the storm sewer system after heavy rainfall. Together, the green roof and bioswale capture up to 26,210 gallons of water that would otherwise flood into the Kinnickinnic River basin after a storm.
The environmental features are also fertile learning ground for students. Environmental science students will study the College’s new green infrastructure, and students in the Media Hub will create a video explaining how the green infrastructure works.
“For us, that’s a win-win,” Helsing Wolters says. “It’s an opportunity for us to continue to improve our campus and community while providing learning opportunities for students.