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June 26, 2014

New Posvar roof will “eat” pollution


The new roof of Posvar Hall will “eat” airborne pollution, thanks to technology that has been around for decades but just now is being applied to rooftops — and is affordable.

The roofing material — Eco-Activ Waterproofing Holder by a company called Siplast — is coated with mineral granules that contain the photocatalytic agent Noxite, which uses the sun’s ultraviolet rays to break up the air-polluting nitrous oxides NO and NO2.

Rains wash away the resultant nontoxic residue.

Posvar will be the first Pitt building to use this product. “What you’re seeing now, with the emergence of LEED, these products are becoming more prominent,” says Pitt sustainability coordinator Dan Marcinko of Facilities Management. LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a certification for sustainable features offered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“They are just starting to use this on building exteriors,” Marcinko says about the new roof coating. Having seen the finished product on exterior walls of buildings elsewhere, he says, “It doesn’t look pretty, I’ll tell you that.” But the roof of Posvar, which has been leaking and has been scheduled for replacement for the past four years, is not visible from the ground or surrounding buildings, apart from the Cathedral of Learning a block away.

Use of the new technology was suggested by Posvar renovation designer Landmarks Design Associates. “Sometimes you pay a big premium” for green products, Marcinko notes, but the price difference between this product and normal roofing was “close enough” to make the greener choice worthwhile, he says.

The new gray roof materials also will keep Posvar somewhat cooler than the current black roof, he adds. Work on the roof was begun in late February and is expected to conclude before the fall semester begins.

“It’s one of those new, innovative products … and I think you’re going to see this technology applied to different surfaces,” Marcinko says.


Marcinko co-led the compilation of Pitt’s 2013 Report on Sustainability, released in March, with Lauro Zullo, Pitt’s senior manager of energy initiatives. He hopes the report continues to offer a clearer picture of Pitt’s sustainability efforts.

“We’d like to make this an annual report to keep the word out,” he says.

Marcinko says he was impressed  with the breadth of Pitt’s sustainability effort, from Computing Services and Systems Development eliminating paper notices via the Read Green email program in 2012-13 to Dining Services instituting composting and trayless dining in 2009-10. “We were surprised at just how many departments were involved in these sustainability initiatives,” he says.

But “eye-opening to me, and something the University can focus on in the future,” he adds, was the greenhouse gas inventory, which the University has conducted in 2008 and 2011 and is planning to conduct again. It found that Pitt’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 4,900 metric tons between 2008 and 2011 and resulted in a 2 percent carbon dioxide reduction. But the inventory found that some of the highest metric tonnage of CO2 emissions was generated by the University through the air travel of Pitt personnel.

The report also details how Pitt in fiscal year 2013 recycled 42 percent of its total waste stream. That included 473 tons of office paper, 550 tons of cardboard, 59 tons of aluminum, glass and plastic containers, 112 tons of construction waste and 226 tons of other materials.

For future reports, Marcinko hopes to expand coverage of the University’s educational and research efforts toward sustainability. He also hopes to highlight initiatives only now in progress, such as switching to single-stream recycling, which mixes all consumer recycling material into single bins.

—Marty Levine