Green Wall: The feasibility of a green wall in the Student Union Building
Struivig de Groot, Emma
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Green infrastructure is the concept of using plants in urban and indoor areas in order to receive the benefits of their natural biological processes and improve the overall living environment. One facet of green infrastructure is the “green wall”, created by integrating plants into vertical structural supports to form a living system. The following report will look at the feasibility of constructing a green wall in the Student Union Building of Dalhousie University. Humans possess an intrinsic connection with nature. This connection has been lost through the development of urban structures. Plants have been used for centuries to increase the well being of the community. Incorporating a green wall within the SUB will provide these benefits to the occupants and provide this space with a more welcoming atmosphere that is more user friendly. A values and opinions Interviews with industry leaders, literature review of previous studies and a survey were utilized in the development of this report. The space available in the student union building is a west facing wall that only receives moderate daylight. The green wall has the potential to be 6’ or 21’ tall, since it is located in an atrium area, the chosen height will greatly affect the scope, scale and cost of the green wall and its long term maintenance. The Student Union Building is funded by the students for the students, making their opinion an essential component of our analysis. The overwhelming response was in favour of a green wall but there were questions over expected costs. The primary design objective when creating a green wall is aesthetics. But lots of research has been conducted on both the quantifiable and qualitative benefits of incorporating a green wall into an indoor space. These included increased energy efficiency of the building, noise reduction, improved air quality and improved human well being. The expected benefits of a green wall will vary depending on leaf area, leaf density, site conditions and scale. Type of plants, scale of project and location of the wall can be manipulated depending on which green wall benefits are needed in the building. Three green wall companies and one expert were approached to provide estimates on the proposed green wall project; they were NedLaw, Easy Living Technologies, Green Over Grey and Sue Sirrs respectively. Information from each of these manufacturers was included in recommendations to SUB facilities management but are not included in this report, for reasons of confidentiality. Sue Sirrs, a local landscape architect provided her knowledge and past experience. She stated that the highest cost associated with the project would be the ongoing maintenance of these types of systems, which need to be factored into the business plan before going forward. Modern green wall technologies are are still evolving and as such their costs and benefits are not well-documented. This technology also poses the distinct problem of transparency within the companies as each company uses different techniques in the manufacturing and process of the system. Out of the green walls that have been investigated the main problem has been with faulty irrigation systems, however with the systems continually evolving this should not be a problem. As it stands the most important aspect of implementing a green wall in the atrium of the SUB is that it may attract more community members to utilize this space providing more revenue in the SUB while making the space warm and welcoming. A list of seven recommendations has been compiled due to the findings of this report. This list includes, working with the companies that were investigated as well as keeping the options open for new business partners, acquiring a lift as well as certified horticulturalist for maintenance, using this report as a baseline for future research, live tracking and visible reminders of what the wall is doing, the installation of rainwater cisterns, the installation of photovoltaic solar panels, and to consider incorporating this into the proposed addition. To move forward on this project the DSU will need to conduct broader student surveys to assess public opinion in regards to the addition of a green wall, get more in depth estimates from the companies that were looked at in this report as well as look into more and varied green wall providers and finally look at all of the potential stakeholders on campus that might want to collaborate on this initiative.