Alumnus uses ball moss as green roof alternative

The Daily Texan, 10/15/2015.

UT alumnus William Niendorff created ball moss models to test the plant as an alternative to soil-based green roofs. Photo credit: Thalia Juarez, Daily Texan staff

When most people pass Texas trees, they don’t notice the spiky-looking colonies of ball moss. But when UT alumnus William Niendorff sees the pale green plants, he sees untapped potential.“Tillandsias are remarkable plants, and they are really misunderstood, so that is a reason I wanted to study them,” Niendorff said.

For the past two years, Niendorff has been investigating ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata, as a plant to be used for plant-covered roofs, or green roofs. Niendorff, who initially received funding for the project through the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, worked on the research under the late Mark Simmons, who was the Director of Research and Experimental Design at the Wildflower Center.Green roofs can regulate temperature, substantially reduce energy consumption and provide an aesthetically pleasing habitat for native insects and other animals, according to a 2001 study in Energy and Buildings. Currently, most green roofs are made with soil-based plants, such as grasses or succulents. Niendorff’s idea of using a rootless, completely soil-free plant is a new concept in green roof design.

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