The 24th annual Caring for the Kenai prize returns to Homer this year. Katherine Dolma won for plan to install green roofs throughout the Kenai Peninsula School District.
Katherine Dolma has been working on this project for years. When voters on the Kenai approved a bond measure last fall to spend $23 million dollars on school repairs, including aging roofs, she saw her opportunity.
“There are actually 43 acres of roofing in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District that need to be replaced. That is equal to 32.5 football fields…fields that could be converting carbon dioxide into oxygen,” Dolma told the judging panel.
They do this by putting several layers on top of the existing roof. One for insulation, one to waterproof, then a growing medium. Dirt, if you will, and then the show piece layer. Flowers, or a vegetable garden, or native plants.
“When you use native plants, the maintenance is much reduced. If you’re going to have a flower garden or vegetable garden, you’re going to have to maintain it much the same way you would any garden, which would be a really great educational opportunity,” Dolma said.
So the idea is that by planting native grasses on top of the school district’s building, they’ll help reduce runoff, keep that water clean, more efficiently regulate the temperature inside the building and last longer than a traditional roof. The district doesn’t have any plans to install sod roofs at the moment.
This isn’t exactly a new idea. Sod roofs have been in use in places like Norway for thousands of years. But they’re only in limited use today. Dolma’s research found that, on average, a green roof will last two to three times as long as one made with more traditional construction materials. She found one in Portland, Oregon that’s been used, leak-free, since 1975.
Dolma says the next step is to try and get a test roof put up. She’ll have to petition the school district and the Borough Assembly to get the okay on that.
Other winners included the Skyview high school green club in 4th place. They kept almost 350 pounds of books out of the landfill, and sent them to Africa, with plans to send a lot more. Third place, worth $900, went to Taylor Shelden from KCHS. She advocated increasing local food production with high tunnels. Junk mail was the target for Kirsten Maxson, a freshman at Kenai. She hopes to place a recycling bin next to every mail box cluster in Kenai.
That second place entry received $1,100. Katherine Dolma’s first place prize was $1,600 cash. The science classrooms where all of these students developed their ideas will split $20,000 for supplies, materials, field trips, maybe. Dolma says she hasn’t decided what she’ll put on her classroom wishlist.
“I haven’t even thought about. I hadn’t considered that I would get this far. I’m stunned. But I’m sure he (Homer science teacher Matthew Stineff) will use it in the best way that it can be used,” Dolma said.