St. Elizabeth Medical Center’s new medical building in Covington will be highly visible from Interstate 75’s “cut in the hill.”

Because of its showcase position, the hospital system’s leaders thought it should send a message – one of caring for the community’s health.

They hope the structure’s “green” roof, with its environmental benefits, will do just that.

The 120,000-square-foot, $34 million building is scheduled for completion this summer. It will include a 10,500-square-foot emergency department and services such as imaging, cardiac testing, physical rehabilitation, dialysis and wound care.

Some of the space in the three-story building will be leased out by developer Anchor Health Properties.

People looking out the windows from the second and third floors – or from cars on the interstate – won’t see the boring black roof they might expect. Instead, the facility will boast a roof covered with vegetation – specifically, sedum plants.

“Very few health care buildings so far have taken a sustainable approach,” said Jay Pelton, project architect with Array Healthcare Facilities Solutions, which has worked on the project. “They have so many regulatory requirements, and it’s another thing on top of all the other things they know they need to head toward. But we know health care has to make leaps and bounds in this avenue.”

The 20,000-square-foot green roof, which will be three to four inches thick including soil, will resemble a field. It will bloom in yellow, white and pink at different times throughout spring and summer. Visitors to the building will have to be content with looking, though; they won’t be able to walk out onto the roof.

Pelton estimated energy reduction could reach 15 percent because of insulating properties. The roof will reduce rain runoff, meaning less stormwater management is needed. And filtering properties mean runoff will require less treatment.

There are subjective benefits, too. “The highest value of green roofs is for people,” said Charlie Miller, president of Philadelphia-based Roofscapes Inc. , a green roof firm that worked on the St. Elizabeth pro­ject. “Until you have one in your city or neighborhood that you can visit, it’s hard to appreciate how much people enjoy them and how much they can add to the experience of being in the city.”

Installer Enviroscape, of Madison, Ind., also worked on the roof.

The medical building is on 10.5 acres south of 12th Street. It’s meant to replace St. Elizabeth-owned facilities at 12th and Greenup and on Pike Street in the Lewisburg area.

There aren’t many green roofs locally, but one example is Sanitation District No. 1 in Fort Wright.

St. Elizabeth made a bold move, Pelton said. The potential for savings is there, he said, in part because the underlying roof, being covered by the green roof, will stay cool. That means it won’t expand and contract as much with the weather.

But it’s a long-term investment.

“They will not need to replace their roof for a very long time,” Pelton said. “The hard part is that the ROI is very far away. Most regular roofs have a 10-, 15- or 20-year warranty. Some green roofs have lasted 30 or 40 years.”

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