University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, 2009 - $18,500

Cities account for 75% of global energy consumption and 80% of carbon dioxide emissions while occupying only 2% of the world’s surface area. The average annual air temperature of cities with one million or more people can be 1.8-5.4°F warmer than its surroundings; this “heat island” effect increases summertime peak energy demand, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, air conditioning costs, and water quality.

Green roofing is a way for urban dwellers to reduce carbon dioxide levels, extend the lifespan of their rooftops, decrease water runoff into sewer systems, decrease the heat island effect and, lastly, to grow plants for food and beauty. But green roofing is expensive: between installation, plants, soil, filter, drainage and fabric, a green roof in the US can cost $50 per square foot before government subsidies. Most green roofing practices are also time- and labor-intensive, requiring months to install layers and even longer to cultivate the vegetation.

This E-Team is developing a different, modular approach to green roofing. By using modules, the team is looking to reduce the overall time and cost of installation. The modules also employ sub-irrigation wicking technologies allowing broader ranges of plants, even vegetables and herbs, to be grown on rooftops, balconies, or backyards.