This weekend we get a special treat: we’ll be taking delivery of over 250 tropical plants and installing two indoor living walls. It’s the culminating step in a complete renovation of Area Yoga Studio in Downtown Brooklyn and promises to transform the character of the space.
Arranging and installing the plants presents lots of artistic and technical challenges, but a lot of the success of the green wall has taken place quietly over the last few months, in the careful process of plant selection.
We enjoy pushing the envelope of green contracting in New York City, and we like to think outside the box in our species choices too: the challenge is to avoid the tired old themes of corporate and institutional plantscaping without compromising ease of maintenance and good growth.
We start with a process of elimination based on temperature range, the space available, the access to sunlight and the budget.
Then we look at the things we can control, like light and water, and base our plant selection on what we can provide in a sustainable way. In this case we’re using T5 fluorescent lights, which have a great balance of energy efficiency, affordability and strong, broad-spectrum light for plant growth. Water for the green wall is recycled from the sink of a nearby bathroom, reducing the building’s water use as well as the outflow to our overburdened sewer system.
Next we list what functions we want the plants in our living wall to perform. Where an outdoor green wall installation would consider the effect on insulation and shading, in this case we were looking mainly for air purification, and managed to include plants that reduce levels of formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia and others.
This brings us to the most gratifying step in species selection: aesthetics. A complex palette of leaves and flowers that will add a sense of depth to the space has to be balanced with need for a meditative atmosphere of concentration. It is a yoga studio after all. At the same time the plants and their built context have to be matched: a challenge in New York when most of the viable indoor plants are native to the faraway tropics.
And finally we have to source our plants. We try to get everything as locally as possible, but there’s only one place in nature where conditions match the low light and moderate temperatures found in a New York City building: the understory of a tropical forest. That’s where almost all houseplants come from, and it means that our closest source is Florida.
Transporting plants over those distances is decadent in energy terms, but it does give us an opportunity to advance state of the art green design. We may have brought the plants a long way, but we’re using them to experiment with indoor living systems for grey water purification, and creating a magical space for Brooklyn yoga students to rest their eyes in shades of green while they practice. We think that’s work that needs to be explored, if anything to ultimately decide the process is not ecological enough.
So that’s how we arrived at the following list. They’re a beautiful bunch of plants and we can’t wait to get their hands on them.
Anthurium, assorted colors
So come take a class at Area Yoga on Montague street in Brooklyn and check out the new indoor living wall installation. It promises to be magical!