Edmonton International Airports Living Wall has been greeting passengers now since May of this year and continues the success of Vancouver based design company Green over Grey in the trend of living vertical installations.
The triptych installation consists of over 8,000 plants of 32 different species located on the 1,420 square feet (132 sq m) vertical canvas in Edmonton airport, in a space provided by Stantec Architects terminal design.
Vertical gardens have evolved since Patrick Blanc pioneered them in the 1980s. Green over Grey use a hydroponic system that mimics natural conditions where plants thrive as if growing on tree branches or next to a waterfall. The watering is automatic and occurs for a few minutes per day through a drip irrigation system that percolates down through the layers of recycled materials that make up the walls structure. The rigid waterproof panels are made from post consumer food grade plastic (such as milk cartons, plastic bags and bottles) and the plant root material is made from recycled fibers from the textile industry.
As well as being aesthetically pleasing, the wall is a cleaning agent. Nine of the plant species chosen by designer Mike Weinmaster from Green over Grey have been identified by NASA as substantially improving indoor air quality. The studies conducted in space found 10 plant species that are more efficient than mechanical filters at purifying the air of toxins such as carbon dioxide, benzene, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), with the additional benefit that the thousands of plants add oxygen and improve humidity levels in the terminal.
Edmonton’s living wall is one of the largest in North America and is divided into a large central panel of 1,120 square feet (104 sq m) and the left and right upper panels at 160 and 140 square feet (14.9 and 13 sq m) respectively. For those familiar with Canadian Artists, works by Emily Carr and Donald Flather inspire these smaller panels, whilst the main panel evokes imagery of high altitude cirrus cloud formations. As the plants grow, Green over Grey’s design allows for the shape of the wall to evolve and become a more three dimensional, the larger species (such as Lacy-Tree Philodendrons from Brazil, Staghorn Ferns from Indonesia, and Octopus Trees from Papau New Guinea) will be allowed to grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) out of the wall. The smaller plants will maintain the design and equally include Ferns and Bromeliad species from a global audience.
Living Wall technology such as the Edmonton Airports installation have been proven to assist in a buildings LEED certification and offer sustainability benefits to a structure including a decrease of up to 20 percent in electricity costs over mechanical air purification as well as employee advantages of clean air and reduced noise pollution.
Green Walls are right on trend currently in the design industry – they have visual and tactile impact, aside from the environmental benefits listed above. Aesthetically they automatically invoke images of eco-living and sustainability and with a host of companies now offering small scale, DIY hydroponic systems they are no longer only in the domain of large corporate buildings, but are popping up on private homes too.
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