September 27, 2011
Temple University Ambler Greenhouse to become model for rain harvesting
Where: Ambler Campus Greenhouse, 580 Meetinghouse Road
When: Thursday, October 6, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Since its doors opened a decade ago, the Ambler Campus Greenhouse has provided thousands of students with a first-class facility to study plant and soil science.
The energy-efficient greenhouse, with its computerized climate controls and thermal blankets to protect the plants in the winter and shade them in the summer, is a favorite location to visit during tours of the Ambler Arboretum of Temple University, particularly around the time of the Philadelphia International Flower Show when it becomes home to literally thousands of plants of every shape and size. The rows upon rows of plants and trees are diligently cared for by Horticulture and Landscape Architecture students, faculty, and staff honing their craft while teaching and learning environmental methods to grow, nurture, and study the plants in their care.
On Thursday, October 6, Temple University Ambler’s sustainable mission will be taken another large step further as stormwater management specialists Complete Aquatics install a “SustainRain” underground rain harvest system for the campus Greenhouse. Complete Aquatics will hold workshops throughout the day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., during the installation to show how the system will capture thousands of gallons of rainwater each year.
“It was always our goal to water the greenhouse with rainwater as it is much better for the plants. We had been studying other methods of stormwater management and thought that this particular rain harvesting system would work very well for the Ambler Campus,” said Grace Chapman, Horticulture Staff Supervisor at the Ambler Arboretum. “We will use what is collected by the SustainRain system to irrigate the greenhouse, potentially saving thousands of gallons of municipal water each year. We anticipate that we will be able to capture more than 12,000 gallons of rainwater per year.”
Through the combined efforts of faculty and staff in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture and Temple’s Center for Sustainable Communities, Temple University Ambler received a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Environmental Stewardship and Watershed Protection (Growing Greener) Grant totaling more than $53,000 for the project. The funds are being used to install two “SustainRain” underground cistern systems to store water collected from the Ambler Campus Greenhouse roof.
“The system includes two catchment basins that tie into an irrigation system for the greenhouse. It’s a very different type of system in that the catchment basins consist of underground, rubber-lined containment spaces that will be filled with a matrix of load-bearing stackable plastic blocks — it allows you to build in any sort of configuration that you need for the site,” said Dr. Sasha Eisenman, Assistant Professor of Horticulture, who will be conducting research on the efficiency of the system. “We’ll know exactly how much water we are able to capture, how much we are saving, and how much water is being prevented from going into the area watershed due to runoff from the building. It’s an excellent teaching opportunity.”
According to Chapman, the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture and the Center for Sustainable Communities decided to use the installation of the innovate rainwater harvesting system as a teachable moment as well.
“Complete Aquatics will be using the installation as a demonstration site and conduct workshops for classes on campus, local landscape contractors, and interested individuals who will gain a good understanding of how the underground system works,” she said. “This is an exciting event for the Temple community because students, staff, and faculty will have the opportunity to learn about this method of stormwater management through a hands-on workshop, complimenting their classroom studies. I feel that this will make the campus community feel more connected to our practices in the Arboretum. We also want to use this initiative as an opportunity to educate the public about using sustainable practices.”
According to Susan Spinella, Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities, which oversaw the administration of the grant, the “Greenhouse Watershed Reclamation Project” fits well into the University’s “ongoing commitment to studying and improving the environmental functions of the Wissahickon watershed, as well as Temple’s commitment to using sustainable stormwater management practices on campus.”
“The Center has conducted a number of large scale studies within the Upper Wissahickon Creek study area that focus on problems associated with urban flooding. Additionally, the Temple-Villanova Sustainable Stormwater Initiative (T-VSSI) continues to conduct research on stormwater best management practices,” she said. “By installing the SustainRain system on our campus, we’re taking a proactive approach to stormwater management. We are, in essence, practicing what we preach and we hope to inspire collaboration and action that moves Temple University Ambler toward becoming a model of sustainability and environmental responsibility.”
For additional information about the SustainRain rain harvest system and the October 6 installation, contact Grace Chapman at email@example.com, Sasha Eisenman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or James Duffy at email@example.com or 267-468-8108.
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