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Green and Seen

Milwaukee Public Library
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Problem Statement

The flat roof over Milwaukee’s Central Library’s annex was scheduled to be replaced. Administration explored options to a traditional roof, including a green alternative that would reduce long-term energy costs and reduce waste water runoff.


Administration chose a green roof with solar panels to replace the conventional roof. Grants from WE-Energies’ Focus on Energy and the City of Milwaukee’s Energy Challenge Fund for Solar Electric Systems supported the installation of solar panels. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District supported the green roof and engaging the community in protecting Milwaukee’s watershed. The Milwaukee Public Museum is a partner for education. The green roof’s floating deck, made of recycled material, allows the public to walk out onto the green roof. Roof Rangers (staff guides) and docents from the Friends of MPL offer tours three times each week, mid-April through October. The benefits and mechanics of the green roof and solar panels are shared. On the main floor of the Central Library, a Green Ideas area provides monitors with live updates on solar energy production, a video on the construction process, and Information on applying green and renewable energy technology.


The green roof tours have had a positive impact on community relations and the Library’s visibility in the business community. The Library received awards for Green Design of the Year from the Business Journal of Milwaukee and Effective Use of Technology from the Public Policy Forum. Increased public appreciation of the importance of relieving stress on the sanitary sewer system will benefit all. Information on renewable energy and conservation of resources is presented that can be applied immediately. Publications were created reinforcing the value of resource conservation. The solar panels have generated enough electricity to equal 10% of Central Library’s energy consumption. The roof retains about 70% of an average rain fall; 390,495 gallons of water are delayed from flowing into the sanitary sewer helping to prevent overflows. The Green Ideas area on the first floor reinforces the value of conserving resources and using renewable energy. Books and printed brochures are available. The Green Roof webpage has had 3,564 page views between 5/1/10 & 3/30/11.