Project Overview

Officials at Muhlenberg College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, had begun work on a sustainable redesign of the college’s student union building. As part of their planning process, they decided to consult with those who use the facility most – the students.

After talking with them, it became clear that students at Muhlenberg wanted to retrofit the old student union building to be less impactful to the environment. But as the students made clear to the administrators, they still wanted the union to retain some of its old-school charm.

With those insights in mind, Muhlenberg officials opted to install an educational green roof on top of the building. They garnered support from the PPL Corporation, an energy company headquartered nearby, that awarded them a grant to cover the equipment needed. For setup of the system, they signed up students who arranged plant trays on the roof, installed monitoring equipment and worked with sensor manufacturers to get the whole thing up and running.

System Description

educational green roof muhlenbergThroughout the green space, students at Muhlenberg ran sensors useful for tracking changes that plants and soils there undergo. Data these collect look to answer questions relating to the dynamics of temperature, carbon dioxide and moisture of the green roof.

A Lufft WS401 Multi-Parameter Weather Sensor on the roof takes key measures of atmospheric conditions, including temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and precipitation. These data give those managing the green roof an idea of the precipitation coming into the green space, and a rough idea of how much water the plants and soils there are keeping from hitting the street.

Under the greenery sit Global Water WE710 Surface Temperature Sensors that judge how plant shade affects heat change in the dirt below; Vaisala GMP343 Carbon Dioxide Sensors that collect information on how much CO2 plants are taking in; and a Stevens Hydra Probe II Soil Moisture Sensor that gauges how much water the dirt is soaking up.

All of the monitoring equipment hooks into a NexSens 5100-iSIC Ethernet Data Logger that connects into the college’s internet infrastructure. This allows students and teachers at the school, as well as outside observers, to view the data online without much effort. The educational green roof project helped many at the school gain real-life experience in designing and implementing monitoring networks and its data are also being used in classes on sustainability.

Equipment

NexSens iSIC Data Logger

Specifically designed for remote environmental monitoring applications, the iSIC data logger offers superior data acquisition performance in extreme conditions.


Lufft WS401 Multi-Parameter Weather Sensor

The Lufft WS401 Multi-Parameter Weather Sensor simultaneously measures air temperature, humidity, pressure & precipitation in a compact platform with ventilated housing.


Vaisala GMP343 Carbon Dioxide Sensor

The Vaisala GMP343 Carbon Dioxide Sensor is an accurate and rugged probe-type instrument for ecological measurements.


Global Water WE710 Surface Temperature Sensor

The Global Water WE710 Surface Temperature Sensor is a precision RTD sensor calibrated to US National Standards.


Stevens Hydra Probe II Soil Moisture Sensors

The Stevens Hydra soil moisture sensor provides simultaneous measurement of soil moisture, salinity, and temperature using a unique patented design.