They've been a few months in the making, or should we say growing, but they're now out there for everyone to see, and actually, you’d have a hard time missing them. These green walls were recently installed in the atrium of the new Britomart East Complex in Auckland, and at three-storey’s high, they’re New Zealand’s largest living walls.
Not a bad feat for Natural Habitats, the landscape architect company behind the massive structure. Natural Habitats has been around for 30 years or so, but the green wall area of design has been a more recent addition, with the company installing New Zealand’s first green wall in a Stephen Marr store back in 2009.
These particular walls are only 120mm deep and feature a custom-designed planting palette that features a combination of native and exotic epiphytes, ferns, climbers and groundcovers, chosen for their low light and maintenance requirements. A collection of flowering plants provide seasonal variety, and have been specially chosen to ensure falling drifts of petals don’t stain the steel grey tiles below. Natural Habitats say the overall composition was influenced by the shadows that fall on the wall during the day, with repetition of planting patterns loosely referencing those found in traditional Maori carvings. And while these new walls look pretty impressive already, the vegetation still has another month or so until it reaches full coverage.
Other design features include a customised flat tray guttering system which complements the clean lines of the architecture, a remotely monitored irrigation system and light sensors which ensure additional lighting comes on when light levels fall below minimum requirements.
And because the walls contain an inert medium as opposed to soil, fixing them into the atrium’s existing stud pattern is easier.
Natural Habitat says that because the walls are located between two to five stories above ground level, the walls’ 60 custom made panels had to be carefully installed using a building maintenance unit and abseiling equipment, which was undertaken by Natural Habitats over a two week period in February.
We’ve talked about the benefits of green walls in previous stories, but its worth remembering exactly what benefits can be derived from these botanical structures. Indoor green walls are one of the best ways to achieve maximum plant coverage in minimum space to improve air quality. Studies show that indoor plants improve air quality through the removal of VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) and through the regulation of temperature and humidity levels. In fact, their temperature regulation role can reduce energy consumption by as much as 23 percent for air cooling.
Australian architectural firm Johnson Pilton Walker is behind the new building, which has a New Zealand Green building Council five-star rating, meanwhile the detail design of the Britomart East complex was carried out by Peddle Thorp Architects.