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Mill Mountain Garden Club explores Health Sciences and Technology campus green roof

Members of the Mill Mountain Garden Club in Roanoke toured the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute’s Riverside 4 building in August to see its rooftop garden and learn about other conservation elements of the building.

The club is keenly interested in environmental conservation, and members wanted to see how the newest building on Virginia Tech’s Health Sciences and Technology campus earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Sandra Friedlander, a member of the club, suggested introducing the group to the conservation and bee pollination aspects of the rooftop garden at the research institute that are both aligned with the organization’s mission. The club was instrumental in Roanoke being named a bee city as part of the Bee City USA movement — an effort to promote creation of and protection for pollinator habitat.

The 139,000-square-foot building opened in 2020 with features including the green roof, a white roof to reflect sunlight, energy efficient air-handling equipment, vacancy sensors and LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, and a 24,000-gallon cistern to collect rainwater runoff used in flushing toilets.

“We’re so proud to have a LEED Silver building here on this campus and to have the rooftop garden and everything they’re doing here to make this an energy efficient operation,” said Jeanne Fishwick, one of the conservation chairs with the club. “Conservation is a priority for our club. We really wanted to see for ourselves how it can be incorporated into business facilities.”

Obtaining LEED certification for campus buildings is a critical aspect of the university’s 2020 Climate Action Commitment  toward a carbon-neutral campus by 2030. The certification has the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

The group followed a tour led by Michael Friedlander, executive director of the research institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology, and Sarah Glenn, associate director of facility development and technical operations for the campus. While Glenn explained the design and engineering aspects of the building, Friedlander described research at the institute in the lab of neuroscientist Read Montague that links our understanding of chemical reward signals in the bee’s brain that help them find pollen to similar chemical signals in the human brain that modulate our behaviors and that can be compromised in neurological diseases.

After the tour, the whole group joined Michael Friedlander for a portrait with the research institute’s HokieBird statue.

The group toured the William Jacob & Barbara Boyle Lemon Family Garden Roof along with laboratory spaces, research facilities, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Cancer Care and Research Center.

“It’s fantastic what we have in Roanoke that the world needs to know about,” said Whitney Feldmann, a conservation co-chair with the group. “And this building just exemplifies it.”

The trip offered club members a model of conservation they can take home with them.

“I think everybody can do better on their own,” said club president Pam Moskal, “starting at their own homes and supporting future businesses and our own valley and across the state country.”

Leigh Anne Kelley

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