Thursday, October 3, 2013

Living Walls for Sustainable Commercial Design

I was visiting the Town Center in Jacksonville Florida's Southside area this past week when I was impressed with the success of a series of living walls constructed in varying locations throughout the large commercial development.

Living Walls are a great, ecologically friendly architectural addition to any building
The design included several different species of vines and multiple commercially products made specifically to support living wall plants, like the Green Screen free standing system pictured immediately below.
Green Screen trellising system screens a refuse collection area

Unfortunately, the plants used here were not native Florida evergreen vines but rather somewhat aggressive horticultural non-native species.  Substitutions with native species such as coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens (an evergreen) or Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens (another evergreen vine) with beautiful yellow flowers would have added to the biodiversity and provided amazing habitat and beauty.

However I am not knocking the design.  Any vertical green in the urban core has its benefits, from cooling urban heat island effect to cleaning stormwater and air.
Living walls add an interesting architectural twist to design

Living walls create beauty and shade

The important idea is to use and integrate plants in urban settings.  The more vertical green, the more benefits.  Trees also, as we are well aware, can be utilized to create visually interesting architectural points.
Palms as a center piece in the Town Center design

Palms are used to create visual height here along this walkway

On a more limited scale, vertical green systems can be created by the homeowner for a fraction of the cost of more expensive commercial systems and incorporate recycling into the process.

The photo below depicts an example where old chain link fence was used on a vertical wall section below a green roof.  The chain link fencing is quite strong and will provide a trellis system capable of supporting most vines.
Chain link fencing used to create a living wall trellis system

Remember, adding vertical green to the urban core has many ecological benefits.  It is always good to see projects such as Jacksonville's Town Center incorporate vertical use of plants into the architectural and landscape design.

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