Up on the Roof| From Commonwealth | By Leslie Friday
In the slide show above, Nathan Phillips, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of geography and environment, talks about BU's rooftop real estate.
Flying low over Boston University, some might see a congested Commonwealth Avenue bordered by a multitude of buildings and parking lots. Others might see acre upon acre of available space, where gardens could grow, energy could be produced, and scientific theories could be put to the test.
Nathan Phillips, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of geography and environment and director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies, regards rooftops as an unexplored frontier, where with some creative thinking much can be done in the name of research and sustainability.
Phillips envisions starting with the “lowest hanging fruit,” like rooftop gardens of potted plants, and moving to more complex projects, such as solar panel installations.
Nathan Phillips, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of geography and environment (right), and Jared Newell (GRS’10) on the CAS roof with a gadget that helps measure Boston’s carbon footprint. Photo by Vernon Doucette
Rooftop developments have, in fact, mushroomed all over (above) campus. Among them are seven solar panels and a (recently stolen) wind turbine atop the School of Education. The energy they generate, while modest, is stored in a battery or funneled back to the building’s electrical grid. And Phillips has carved out a space on top of CAS for a project that is measuring the carbon footprint of Boston.
“It’s like a home energy audit, but we’re doing it on a much larger scale,” says Phillips, whose thirty-month-long project is funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service.
Meanwhile, another team of researchers hopes to determine which roofing option — white, vegetated, or solar — would be the most energy-efficient choice for buildings around Boston.