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New Berlin company goes green with “living roof”

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NEW BERLIN (WITI) -- After starting in New Berlin 35 years ago, one local, family-run business is making a change. Business owners say it's one that's going to benefit not just their employees, but their entire community.

As a machine parts and handle manufacturer, J.W. Winco is used to being a key component in making things work. But this time it's not their handles opening the doors for a new opportunity, it's their roof. They installed a “living roof” -- every inch is covered with living, growing plants.

“We actually had a roof system that was failing on us, it was 20 years old and we needed to replace it and this was always a life time dream of mind to have a greenroom system,” said Mark Winkler the CFO for J.W. Winco.

7, 500 tiles of plants have been put on the roof. The higher they grow, the more water it can absorb. This roof has the capacity to soak up 18,000 gallons of water per storm, and that means less storm water runoff and  therefore fewer sewer overflows. But that's just one benefit.

“We're using less heating and cooling because there's insulation factor here. we also have the benefit of adding some oxygen to the environment,” said Winkler, “We're trying to leave an impression with people that we're lowering our carbon footprint, we're dedicated to the environment and recycling and we're not only a business, and some people look at business as not always doing good, but we really try to make a better image in the marketplace as well as in the community.”

Winkler said they soon plan to make it possible for employees to enjoy their lunch on the roof, or just go up and enjoy it. They think it will add to “company morale.”

The company had help funding the project. The Milwaukee County Metropolitan Sewage District provided a grant that covered 29 percent of the projects cost.  The company provided the rest.