This unit on sustainable building got me thinking about where I've seen these concepts in practice, both successfully and not so well.
From 1986 - 1992 I went to elementary school in Reston, VA. Although I lived in Herndon, I was able to ride to school in the neighboring town with my mother. Because I traveled to school I had the opportunity to experience going to Terraset Elementary. Terraset was built in the 1970s, at a time when energy conservation was just becoming a real social issue. The school was built into the ground and designed to retain heat and cool through it's thick walls (thermal mass) and green roof.
The school certainly had a green roof. It was always neat as a kid to get to play games of tag on the grass mound that the school was built into. I would occasionally look down into the library while other classes were being read to by the librarian. The solar pannels did not function the way they had been designed and were eventually deemed a safety issue. I remember the year they came in and took them down. Even though solar was a failure at Terraset, the administration always made a point to teach us about energy conservation and innovation.
You can read more about Terraset here.
This was cutting-edge at the time and should be used as an example of a step in the process of creating functional green buildings. It wasn't a failure, a lot of kids came out of that school knowing that you can build a home with a garden on the roof, you can be cool and shady in the summer without cranking up the air, and that building structure is only limited by the creativity of the designer. It was a funky-looking school, but I appreciate the lesson now.