It’s not easy being green

Stephanie Jones, a horticulturalist at the Nova Scotia Community College’s IT Campus in Halifax, says a living wall adds a touch of nature to the school. Photo: Michael Lee

Stephanie Jones cleans the plants with a spray of water and fertilizes them with a seaweed mixture. After removing dead leaves, she runs down her checklist to ensure nothing is forgotten.

The process lasts between three to four hours.

It seems like a lot of work for one person, but not to Jones, a horticulturist at the Nova Scotia Community College’s Institute of Technology Campus in Halifax.

“It sounds simple, I guess, because I’ve been doing it for so long,” she jokes.

Living walls are a highlight of the college’s achievements in sustainability.

Over in Dartmouth, with a beautiful view of the harbour, the college’s Waterfront Campus boasts the first exterior living wall in Eastern Canada.

Tim Amos, a faculty member at the college’s Kingstec Campus in Kentville, was one of its principal designers. He says the idea of a living wall came about when the college decided to become more sustainable.

Nedlaw Living Walls, a company in Breslau, Ont. that specializes in green spaces, laid the foundation for their construction and design.

But the college designed the exterior wall rather than calling on Nedlaw. He says the school tried to model it after a “giant bonsai pot,” given the shallow soil and extensive network of roots.

The wall cost roughly $250,000 to build and maintenance is less than $10,000 a year.

Although native species are used for the outside wall, inside they are tropical plants; the shelter allows them to grow year-round.

In December 2013 nearly 60 per cent (upwards of 5,000) of the plants on one of the walls at Waterfront Campus became stressed and died. Photo: Michael Lee

Vanessa Lea, a horticulturalist at Waterfront Campus, spends between 30 to 40 hours a month working on the exterior wall and two interior ones.

Working both inside and outside can lead to unexpected changes in her day.

“It might be pouring rain, you might switch your day. You were going to go out shoveling, now you’re inside watering interior plants,” she says. “Nature will let you know what needs to be done.”

Besides providing cleaner air, living walls cool buildings and act as humidifiers. Jones says people are happier and work more efficiently when surrounded by green space. They also are known to reduce stress and boost creativity.

Horticulture students at Kingstec Campus travel to Waterfront Campus to study the green technology there. The walls enhance their understanding of plant hardiness, performance and propagation.

Lea says comfort, quiet and tranquility are the walls’ greatest assets.

Amy Richards, a second-year child and youth care student at Waterfront Campus, often sits in front of the walls to eat lunch. Friends and family tell her that they wish their schools had more green spaces. “It just feels nice to be around them.”

Dalhousie University’s Truro campus and Saint Mary’s University also have living walls.

Jones recalls a moment that made her hard work worthwhile.

“Somebody said one day that the wall was like a work of art.”

For more information on the benefits of green spaces, go to greenplantsforgreenbuildings.org

 

 
 

One thought on “It’s not easy being green

  1. Ms. Jones,
    what about …ORCHIDS ? ! Your indoor living walls are just so vry awesome…I bet a few orchids would thrive in the walls. I have lots of them in my home, I know orchids would LOVE that environment! I bet you could place a just few up on the indoor living walls and be vry surprised at how they would live and thrive…thank you for reading my msg, bye bye…and congrats on the walls, vry vry impressive and beautiful.
    Marie Reid

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