Green Roofs for Healthy Cities GSky Plant Systems, Inc. — The leading provider of Green

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities GSky Plant Systems, Inc. - The leading provider of Green

Project: Vancouver Aquarium

Award Recipient: Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture Inc.

Client: Vancouver Aquarium

Design Architect: Stantec Architecture

Supplier: G-Sky Inc.

Mechanical Engineer: Colbalt Engineering

Built to replicate native cliff ecology, the living wall at Vancouver Aquarium was designed to educate visitors about of the benefits of green walls. The overall project used ecology as a guiding principle combining indigenous plantings, stormwater management strategies, green roofs, and a living wall to create a visible public example of what a sustainable landscape can achieve.

The objective of the green wall component was to create something that would align with the client’s interests, create an enjoyable space, and address issues of a noisy street and adjacent parking. In times of environmental concern and skepticism, it was also an opportunity to illustrate that buildings and ecology can coexist.

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities GSky Plant Systems, Inc. - The leading provider of Green

During the design phase, several new challenges surfaced. Traditional green wall technologies were too thin and difficult to replace. Most required constant irrigation and restricted root development, limiting choice of plant species, which in a winter climate are major concerns.

The green wall covers a 500 sq. ft. area at a cost $100 per sq. ft. To fit the design constraints, research led to specifying a technology never before used in North America: 12”x12” modular panels supported by a galvanized steel frame were used, making installation easier and more affordable. The frame was secured to the high-density concrete wall allowing a 1 (2.54cm) air space behind the panels.

If required, replacement plants can be pre-grown and installed fully vegetated, with less cost. The green wall panels are twice as thick as typical technologies at 3 3/8ths inches. This has invigorated plants’ root-growth, helping them to survive through multiple winters. Fifteen species of plants were tested in greenhouse conditions prior to the project. Eight species were selected based on their performance and attributes. All plants were native and had to be hearty enough to withstand the freeze thaw cycles of winter. Irrigation uses 100% non-potable rainwater collected on-site and the slow-drip technology has lowered water requirements by an estimated 50 per cent. Water and nutrients are supplied through an automatic drip irrigation system with two emitters per panel. All water is collected on the roof from rainfall and used for a multitude of purposes including irrigation, flushing toilets, and filling the freshwater aquatic tanks.

Through interpretive displays, 1,000,000 visitors annually are educated about the benefits of green walls and living architecture. Through intensive problem solving and technical execution, this green wall is now a living, breathing example of a building envelope. It has proven to be beautiful year round. The native cliff ecology recreated in the project demonstrates how people, plants, soil, water, birds, and insects can benefit from each other. Bees pollinate huckleberries and foamflowers, insects feed and nest in the foliage, butterflies bask in the sun, and visitors can even eat the strawberries! This program has helped earn the project LEED Gold certification.

Through pioneering new technology, promoting education, and advocating ecology this green wall is setting precedent for the future. Green walls are a reality of today, not a dream of tomorrow!

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