The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has built a paradigm for “green” construction with their Southeast Regional Office. This project was awarded the “gold” certificate for performance by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. The site’s impact on the environment was minimal, and a healthy atmosphere was enhanced within the building. The stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) on the property serve as a model of sustainability to both DEP employees and to visitors since their presence is highly visible.
BMPs incorporated into the PA DEP Southeastern Regional Office design as part of a runoff capture and reuse system include a Green roof and a Cistern. These two methods act together to greatly reduce stormwater runoff and limit the need for municipal water usage. The green roof absorbs rainwater and the cistern traps rooftop water for reuse in toilets and for indoor plant watering.
A 688-square foot green roof is a patchwork of removable sedum plant trays with six different species represented. The sedum plants were grown for a year before being transferred to the roof. These plants help manage stormwater by soaking in rainwater and dispelling it through evapo-transportation. The whole roof was not covered with the plants because covering the complete roof surface was not cost effective. In addition, rainwater from the bare roof area is transferred to the cistern for reuse within the facility. Weston Solutions, Inc. conceptualized and constructed the green roof. The green roof is seen from the 2nd floor hallway and is accessible to employees via an outdoor walkway.
Rain water from the bare roof area flows into drains leading to a wooden 5,000 gallon cistern located on the first floor of the DEP premises. The water is stored in the cistern, then filtered and used for toilets and for watering the indoor flora. During periods of heavy rainfall, stormwater runoff can be diverted away from the cistern as the cistern reaches its maximum storage. The cistern sits as a centerpiece on the first floor and is overlooked by four floors within the atrium. The cistern is wooden and resembles a hut, while verdant indoor plantings and lighting resembling tiki-torches create a tropical paradise-like atmosphere.
Watershed: Schuylkill River
PA DEP’s Southeast Regional Office is located at East Main Street in Norristown, PA.