An Upper Arlington High School senior's capstone project is designed to make the environment at her former elementary school a little "greener."

As a junior at UAHS last year, a project in Emma Reed's language arts class inspired her to begin thinking about ways to make a positive impact on the environment.

Research and interviews with Upper Arlington City Council President Debbie Johnson and science experts led her to the discovery of white roofs with reflective qualities that can help reduce air temperatures and lower energy use in buildings and reduce the strain on their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment.

So when tasked as a senior to develop a senior capstone project, Reed thought it was the perfect opportunity to put her knowledge into action at Windermere Elementary School.

"When I was looking for a topic to do for my capstone, I remembered this and thought it would be a great idea to see the process of creating a white roof," Reed said. "Knowing the price tag of this project, I never thought it would actually happen."

Despite potential logistical barriers, Reed continued to explore options, which eventually led her to Chris Potts, the school district's chief operating officer. Potts was intrigued by the concept and thought it had merits for the district and community.

It was then he decided to contact Beachwood-based Tremco Roofing & Building Maintenance, a company that helps manage building life cycles.

"I feel when a passionate student has an idea, that it is our responsibility as educators to help them learn as much as possible," Potts said. "This was great learning opportunity for Emma, but also for the Windermere community."

The talks with Tremco and Columbus-based Phinney Industrial Roofing yielded yet another surprise for Reed: The companies agreed to take on the approximately $27,000 project for free.

"As soon as we heard about the project and saw Emma's passion for the environment, we knew we had to help," said Scott Bertke, Tremco senior field representative. "We inspected the facility and determined that restoring the original roof as a reflective one would significantly impact the school's energy footprint.

"Also, by restoring the roof instead of replacing it, we keep tons of roofing material from being shipped to landfills, which aligns with the overall philosophy of Emma's project."

The project to turn Windermere's roof white was launched April 14, and despite some wet weather, it was completed April 18.

"The coating that was applied to the roof can achieve up to 85 percent reflectivity and may be 60 percent cooler than the previous black surface," Potts said. "With a cooler roof, the district could see reduction in energy costs.

"The district and taxpayers had no cost for this project. Through the generous support of Tremco and Phinney Roofing, the entire project -- including materials and labor -- was donated."

Reed said she's thrilled the project was able to come together in such a collaborative way and is grateful it will serve both the environmental and financial interests of the community.

The significance is even greater, she said, because she was able to complete the project for her former school.

"Elementary school is a very impressionable time for children and I really want them to learn about the situation our environment is in right now, and also know that they can make a difference if they put their minds to it," Reed said. "When I was their age, I didn't know about what was going on with our climate.

"As I was growing up, people started talking about climate change. ... I really looked up to the people that were making a difference in their cities, and this was a chance for me to be one of those people."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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