June 5, 2012
Vertical sustainability: Moveable ‘green walls’ coming to Gould Hall
A project under way at the College of Built Environments gives driven-up-the-wall new meaning.
Nancy Rottle, an associate professor of landscape architecture, and seven students from four different disciplines — aided by professionals on and off campus — are mounting the Biodiversity Green Wall, Edible Green Screen + Water Harvesting Demonstration Project on the southeast side of Gould Hall.
“This work will potentially show the capacity of building skins to ecologically contribute to the urban environment, ” said Rottle, who directs the Green Futures Research and Design Lab. “We want to use the project as a billboard for new sustainable practices, and to discover to what extent green walls and screens can help promote biodiversity, produce food and reduce energy use. By harvesting water to irrigate the green wall, the project will reduce potable consumption and may lessen storm water impacts.”
The project was recently awarded an honorable mention in the What Makes It Green competition sponsored by the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects and aimed primarily at architecture professionals.
The two green walls, each 10-by-10 feet, will together hold more than 500 plants, including 23 species, 70 percent native to the Pacific Northwest. SolTerra, a Pacific Northwest firm, built and will install the green wall, which is composed of permeable fabric mounted on an aluminum frame.
Since good maintenance is inherent to sustainability, the Green Futures Lab team, led by landscape architecture masters student Leann Andrews, has designed the walls to be mounted on pulley systems maneuvered from the second- and third-floor balconies of Gould. Manually operated, the systems avoid energy use and won’t require heavy maintenance equipment that would have been hard to maneuver in the space.
Along with measuring plant growth, the Green Futures Lab team will monitor such things as building and local air temperature impacts, biodiversity and water use in the areas affected by the walls and screen.
The Edible Green Screen, a system of 39-foot steel cables, will actually be a giant trellis, holding hops and kiwi vines grown from the ground. Hops were chosen because of visual appeal, fast growth and fun, Rottle said. UW Farm, the demonstration project on sustainable urban agriculture, is interested in harvesting the kiwi, chosen for its hardiness, beauty of its vine and fruit, and appropriateness for a south wall in Seattle.
Two 750-gallon cisterns will store harvested roof water for plant irrigation.
In the evening, LED lighting will illuminate the screen and walls as well as provide additional safety for the adjacent bus stop.
The overall design will also enhance the Varey garden, created several years ago Daniel Winterbottom and his landscape architecture students.
An $86,000 grant from the UW Campus Sustainability Fund and will cover not only construction costs and materials but also research and maintenance.
Rottle said construction to accommodate the cisterns has just begun.
“The armature will go up in a couple of weeks and then student volunteers will assist with planting it.” She said they expect it to be complete by the end of June.
If additional funding is secured, Rottle and her team will install solar panels in 2013, aiming to harvest enough energy to offset 100 percent of costs associated with the irrigation pump and electrical requirements of the project.