The new land­scape

It’s an im­age straight from pop­u­lar sci­ence fic­tion: hum­ming, en­ergy-ef­fi­cient build­ings swathed in liv­ing plants, the per­fect har­mony of na­ture and tech­nol­ogy.

Element - - Special Report - By Sam Eich­blatt

Ver­ti­cal gar­den­ing, liv­ing walls, bio walls — in cities where space is at a premium, the land­scape is grow­ing up­wards. The Green­wall Com­pany is the Aus­tralasian firm re­spon­si­ble for liv­ing walls at the West­pac Build­ing atrium in Auck­land’s Brit­o­mart, the new Novo­tel at Auck­land In­ter­na­tional Air­port and a dou­ble-sided green wall at the Stephen Marr sa­lon at The Depart­ment Store, which was the first in the coun­try. It works with land­scape de­sign­ers Nat­u­ral Habi­tats, ar­chi­tects and builders to de­sign the walls, ei­ther retro-fit­ting them or in­te­grat­ing them into a new build­ing.

“Since Brit­o­mart, there’s been a bit of a rush. Things are gath­er­ing pace,” says Green­wall’s Gra­ham Cleary.

The con­cept was de­vel­oped in 1988 by French botanist Pa­trick Blanc. He had no­ticed the di­ver­sity of plants around wa­ter­falls and re­cre­ated it us­ing a cur­tain of wet felt with plants grow­ing in pock­ets.

The Green­wall model is made from very light re­cy­cled poly­styrene that would other­wise have gone to land­fill. The ma­te­rial holds water well, and the smaller area to vol­ume ra­tio means less evap­o­ra­tion takes place, re­duc­ing the water de­mand by 85 per cent. Waste­water and plant-friendly light­ing sys­tems are in­stalled to en­sure the liv­ing walls con­tinue to thrive once in­te­grated into the build­ing. While the build­ing work is be­ing car­ried out, the plants are grown off­site to the req­ui­site lush­ness over nine months.

Cost varies hugely ac­cord­ing to scale, and will con­tinue to de­crease as sup­ply lines be­come more ef­fi­cient. “We’ve al­ready made big ef­fi­cien­cies in mak­ing the poly­styrene,” says Cleary. “Even­tu­ally, you’ll be able to head down to Bun­nings and do this all your­self.”

The walls, how­ever, are much more than an up­date on the clas­sic wilt­ing of­fice as­pidis­tra. Ac­cord­ing to Cleary, they work hard. They shade, in­su­late or cool, and in Aus­tralia, Green­wall’s prod­ucts are used as “ver­ti­cal wet­lands” to clean grey­wa­ter. Placed in front of an air-con­di­tion­ing unit, they also bal­ance hu­mid­ity and act as air pu­ri­fiers in other­wise sealed of­fice en­vi­ron­ments. Dirty air is dragged through the wall, where the flora and fauna that live on plant roots gob­ble up VOCs (volatile or­ganic com­pounds – those emis­sions from of­fice fur­nish­ings and equip­ment that can sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect staff) and car­cino­gens.

“When they’re used in­side, peo­ple re­port a greater feel­ing of well­be­ing,” says Cleary.

(From top clock­wise) The liv­ing wall at the Novo­tel Ho­tel, Auck­land Air­port. The Green wall at Brit­o­mart, down­town Auck­land.

s h c a S e h p o st ri h C : O T O H P

h s c a S e h p o st ri h C : O T O H P

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