Reading through the March-April 2012 issue of Green Source Magazine I came across their products section, which featured some very interesting new green roof and living wall items and exciting companies.
By now most people are aware of and understand the benefits of living/ green walls and roofs;
-Health and wellness
-Improved air quality
The first product listed designed by Green Over Grey was an improvement on the typical modular living wall system. Their living walls use a soilless grow medium in a stainless steel frame which allows for a greater range of plants grown per module including anything from ground cover to small trees.
The company was commissioned recently to design/ build the largest green wall in North America in the Edmonton international airport using this system. While the design is nice and the system is effective it is still run on a hydroponic irrigation system that requires a pump running 24hours to the keep the plants watered, which in our opinion makes for a very nice wall but isn’t ecological.
We don’t use this system for that reason.
edmonton international airport green wall
The next company is Colbond Inc. they are global manufacturer of high-performance construction products and textiles. On their website is a section geared specifically to green roofs and roof gardens. Their products are a small range of drainage/ water retaining mats and liners for various roof gardening applications.
Their featured item is the “Enkamat” which anchors roots, drains water and grips growing medium, making it useful in sloped roof or high –wind conditions. Their “Enkadrain” is a water proofing membrane made from 40% pre-consumer recycled polypropylene. The company itself is not quite a “green company” having a very limited selection of green products compared to the rest of their catalogue.
We have used the Enkamat is our New York green roof installations with good results. Because it offers drainage and water retention in one it makes for an easier installation.
enka drain green roof system enkamat
Tournesol Siteworks is another company specializing in module green wall systems; this one like the Green Over Grey system is capable of supporting a variety of plants making it an improvement on typical systems. This VertiGreen trellis and Tournesol VGM exterior green walls use soil, between 4 and 8 inches and are designed for easy maintenance with modules that can be independently replaced/ removed. The framework for the wall garden is comprised of recycled polypropylene boxes and stainless steel mounting brackets.
A couple drawbacks are; this system does not come with a built in irrigation system, they recommend a water saving drip system but you are left to figure that out with your green contractor/ builder. This is an important part that could make or break its success. Also the system comes disassembled, your green builder has to assemble the pieces, do the planting and wait 1-3 months before they are ready to hang.
At first you may think this is not the most efficient system or company model. But it increases work for local labor, decreases shipping load, and moves you away from the “instant product” that people have become obsessed with at great cost to the environment.
Letting the plants grow in place has many benefits. You haven’t invested a lot of money in plants if they don’t survive, the plants that are happy will grow, you get to see them go from zero to full, and the cost is lower since you aren’t paying somebody else to grow your plants.
We like this product because it uses soil and not hydroponics. We also like the fact that it does not cater to people who are willing to spend lots of money for the instant fix. Assembly and growing in place is much more ecological.
The main issue I have with this system is that the square boxes are very visible even when the wall is fully grown. There is no way you can make the wall appear natural. If you highlight the squares like some installers have done then it looks great.
But Eco Brooklyn is more of a naturalist green wall installer in that we like it to look like it just grew there. For that reason we haven’t used this system despite all the great things we like about it.
The GAF materials corp is one of the largest roofing manufacturers in North America and have made an exciting and sincere commitment to sustainability within their company. Their greenroofing product listed is a way to simplify the installation and implementation of roof gardens by modulation.
Their Product DuraGrow does the work of four separate items by retaining the plants water, provides adequate drainage, protects its membrane and prevents clogging. The company also provides extensive warranties on all their products. The website www.gaf.com also has a section for green builders to put together a type of “scorecard” for each of their products to gain a better idea of their level of sustainability.
GAFs commitment to sustainability is exemplified by two of their manufacturing plants that have reached a level of zero waste to landfill, this means virtually nothing from the facility enters directly to the waste stream.
Gsky based in Vancouver, BC, Canada is probably leader in green wall panel systems with so many patents on their products and flexibility in the design. The panels are independent and customizable, they use nonsoil structural growth medium, and they pre-grow the plants into the panels before shipping, the irrigation is a very sophisticated automatic drip system that monitors the moisture levels throughout the day and the system itself is mountable to virtually any surface.
Carlisle-SynTec, Inc is a company focused on modular green roof systems but with the ability to work with intensive or extensive systems and produce region specific sedum tiles for the extra conscious green builder. Their Hydropak is a module system built with 100% recycled HDPE trays pre-grown plants in a varied growing medium.
There is the “greenscreen” system by Greenscreen in Los Angeles, CA. This is the least exciting item of the bunch in my opinion. The greenscreen is essentially a glorified trellis in that it is only a simple welded wire mesh grid in 3D.
The system only provides a climbing/ hanging support for plants, though can be mounted to an exterior wall or left free standing it is a not a product an east coast or NY green contractor would want to invest in as the shipping cost economically and ecologically would greatly outweigh the limited benefits provided. Not a bad product and relatively inexpensive compared to more integrated systems, just not quite worth shipping out of state.
greenscreen in Pheonix, AZ
Overall we at EcoBrooklyn avoid greenwall systems that require a 24hr hydroponic irrigation system – those pumps are very energy intensive and not green. The Tournesol system is a bit more desirable due to its use of soil as a grow medium, this allows you to stay away from high energy irrigation systems that are constantly run, however to support the added loads of the soil, the fully grown plants, and the water weight you need additional support mechanisms which means more material, an added resource we feel is better than the energy wasted in hydroponic systems.
The soil based systems also have much better tolerance to extremes in weather since the soil acts as a humidity and temperature buffer. As a New York living wall and green roof installer you have to pay special attention to those extremes since a New York winter can be freezing while the summer can be blistering.