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Green with envy - New library's green roof to add eye appeal, utilize rain water, save energy

Debbie Ramsey

Managing Editor

Library enthusiasts from across the United States have called Jerri Patchett, chairperson of the Library Building Task Force for the Friends of the Fallbrook Library, because they’ve heard about the spectacular new 11.5 million dollar facility being built in the Friendly Village. You could say they are green with envy.

“People all over the U.S. have been hearing about our design, the green roof, and art projects that are part of our new library, and want to know more” says Patchett.

Envy increases as Patchett provides the details of the 20,000 square foot, state-of-the-art project, especially the roof section that will be topped by live plantings.

“This green roof will be the first on a library in San Diego County,” says Patchett. Dave Batey, vice president of Executive Landscape Inc. in Fallbrook, and an important part of the team working on the project along with Van Dyke Landscape Architecture, calls the roof design “a real show stopper” with its colorful geometric design.

“[This part of the roof] will be very visible to South Mission Road,” explains Batey. “It will be colorful, but we will be using a lot of low water use plants.” The colorful section runs adjacent to South Mission Road near the intersection of Alvarado Street.

The planted portion of the roof amounts to 3,300 square feet and Batey says the soil depth will be “about four inches.”

“We use a special lightweight mix that’s been designed and tested for green roofs,” he says.

Designed to both utilize and manage rain water, Batey says the roof is pitched so that excess rain water that cannot be utilized by the plantings can flow into special trays that lead to corners of the roof fitted with weep holes. When saturated with water, the green roof is estimated to weigh between 18 and 22 lbs per square foot.

“What we’ve calculated for architectural purposes would be a ‘worst case scenario,’” says Batey.

The plantings have been done in over 500 special panels that fit snugly into the roof design, and they were finished on May 17 at Altman Specialty Plants in Escondido. The panels will remain there and be nurtured into maturity until their installation, scheduled for October.

Most of the plant material used on the roof panels is Sedum, a large genus of fleshy-leaved plants found in mountains throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The small succulents are available in various colors, Batey says, and are perfect to create the colorful design the roof features. (*See graphic of colorful roof design at top of this page)

Sedum is described as “a vigorous but well-behaved” ground cover.

“Our collection includes six plants with various leaves in varied shapes and colors, topped in spring and summer by flowers in shades of yellow, gold, and red/pink,” says Patchett. “This is garden embroidery at its finest - and easiest.”

Not only does Sedum provide color, these plants are wildlife friendly, but not excessively so.

“These plants do not produce berries so they are not necessarily the birds’ favorite,” says Batey, therefore a problem with bird debris is not expected.

What benefit the plants do have, he says, is aiding in insulating the roof from heat.

“The big benefit for the community and environment is that it lessens the heat island effect,” says Batey, therefore conserving energy and the expected life span of the roof.

Energy savings, all parties involved say, are “paramount” in the design of the Fallbrook Library, which is part of the San Diego County library system.

“This library building will carry a Silver Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification, making it the first certified building in the County system,” says Patchett.

In addition to utilizing rain water and providing energy-saving insulation, green roofs are also known to provide a “cooling effect,” helping to lower the temperature in downtown city or town environment.

The roof, of course, is only part of the energy efficient design of the project. The building itself carries many notable qualities and the ground-level landscape will be operated by a weather station when it comes to determining the watering frequency needed.

“The landscape will be very water efficient because it is a LEED project,” explains Batey. “We will be using a lot of low water use plants, succulents. The succulent garden effect carries throughout the property with the use of boulders, cobbles, and more.”

And for those ‘in the know,’ a hidden design is part of the plan.

“If you are looking down at the property from the corner of South Mission and Alvarado Street you will see a design in the landscape that depicts tree roots,” says Batey. “The ‘roots’ emerge from the succulent garden and branch out.”

Why roots? Patchett easily answered that question.

“Many aspects of the design of this building celebrate Fallbrook’s agricultural history, including the landscape’s symbolic ‘root’ design which pays homage to our love of trees and represents the Friends ‘grass roots’ effort in raising the funds to build this library.”

The County of San Diego is providing $9 million dollars for the project and the non-profit Friends of the Fallbrook Library has committed $2.5 million dollars.

Patchett says donations from the community are still encouraged and more information on the project can be gathered at

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