New TSA Security Checkpoint at Appleton International Airport Features a Three-Sided, 276-Square-Foot Green Wall Installed with the LiveWall® Indoor Living Wall System
In 2018, Appleton International Airport (ATW) in Appleton, Wisconsin completed a multi-million dollar renovation and reconstruction of 50,000 square feet of its commercial passenger terminal. Designed by Mead & Hunt, the project included expansion and enhancement of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint. The new checkpoint features a three-sided, 276-square-foot green wall installed with the LiveWall® Indoor Living Wall System.
ATW Growth, Terminal Renovation
Appleton International Airport serves Northeast Wisconsin via four airlines (American Airlines, Delta, United and Allegiant Air) with nonstop service to ten destinations, including five major hubs (Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul) and five warm weather destinations (Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Las Vegas, Orlando/Sanford, Phoenix/Mesa and Tampa/St. Pete).
ATW is one of the fastest growing airports in U.S. In 2018, passenger traffic at ATW’s commercial terminal grew by 24 percent to a record 677,239 passengers. To support its growth and elevate the customer experience for travelers, ATW undertook a major renovation and reconstruction of the terminal in 2018.
“We expanded our ticket counters and baggage claim, remodeled the restrooms, added a new restaurant and gift shop, and opened a new mothers’ room in collaboration with our ‘ATW Health Connection’ partner, ThedaCare. A major goal of the project was transforming the TSA security checkpoint into a more open, bright, pleasing, and calming space.” ~ Abe Weber, director, Appleton International Airport
Security Checkpoint Issues
Getting through security is one of the most stressful aspects of air travel, usually endured in one of the most unpleasant places in an airport. The typical airport security area, often shoehorned into existing space, is cramped, sterile and uninviting. Even for passengers with TSA-PreCheck or CLEAR biometric screening, screening is a tedious routine in a dreary space.
“We set out to make ATW’s TSA checkpoint the most visually appealing and pleasant in the U.S.,” said Patrick Tracey, marketing manager, Appleton International Airport. “The living wall is one of the critical architectural elements in realizing this goal.”
“The area between security and the gates was a bottleneck. The pinched space would often push security lines back into the terminal,” said Mitchell Walker, designer, aviation architecture, Mead & Hunt. “Our design opened up and expanded the checkpoint space.”
In addition to maximizing the space in the security area, the project established dedicated lanes for entering the security lines from the terminal and exiting to the terminal from the gates. Adding glazing, both at the exterior and for interior partitions, allows borrowed light to brighten the area. Featuring a living wall complements these measures to calm and de-stress the checkpoint.
Walker and his Mead & Hunt colleagues did have to work around an obstacle: a large structural wall situated in the corridor between the checkpoint and the gates. The wall contains the primary mechanicals but is a physical presence and barrier right in the area they were trying to open up. Their plan for the new checkpoint turned that problem into a solution.
“Installing the living wall on the existing structural wall was a great solution,” said Kevin Winkler, project manager, SMA Construction Services (Green Bay, WI), general contractor for the terminal renovation. “The green wall hides the wall that hides mechanicals.”
Living Wall Installation
ATW officials had seen living walls at other airports and at a local credit union. They were enthusiastic about incorporating a green wall in the terminal renovation.
Completed in August 2018, the living wall at ATW covers three sides of the structural wall. The section facing the TSA checkpoint, which is visible from inside the terminal, is 10’-8” x 8’-3 3/8.” The wrapped corner section is 6’-8” x 10’-11 3/8.” The section facing the gates is 10’-8” x 10’-11 3/8”.
The living wall is situated at the end of the security lines in the “composure area” (where passengers can sit, put their shoes back on, and gather their belongings). As a green feature, the wall has a natural, biophilic calming effect. The side facing the checkpoint signals to departing passengers that they can leave the stress of security behind them, relax, and look forward to their trip. The side facing the gates, paired with the adjacent video wall, welcomes arriving passengers. According to Walker, that side also serves as a natural wayfinding feature directing arriving passengers away from the security lines to the new designated exit to the terminal.
The LiveWall® Indoor Living Wall System was selected for the project. It is a modular system that establishes a “vertical garden” mounted onto a wall. In the typical indoor installation, its vertical furring tracks are attached onto the surface of a wall, which has been protected with a waterproof membrane. Horizontal aluminum rails, which include conduits to bring water to the system’s integrated irrigation components, are bolted to the tracks.
LiveWall modular planter boxes, which are high-impact, UV-resistant, architectural quality moldings, slide into the rails along a specially designed slot. Finally, separate liner inserts, which are removable and reusable plant containers that hold the growing medium and pre-grown nursery plants, are dropped into the planter boxes. The ATW wall includes 148 LiveWall modular planters.
“The system is like a combination of an erector set and LEGOs, easy to install with LiveWall’s shop drawings,” said Winkler. “After our plumbing contractor hooked up the water and plumbed the drain, our crew of two guys had the system installed and ready for the plants in two and half days.”
Plant Selection and Maintenance
“We did not want a formal, static look of straight rows of plants contained on the side of the wall,” said Mead & Hunt’s Walker. “Together with airport officials, we envisioned a natural, lush and dense appearance with a sense of movement, the plants organically growing out from the wall.”
Taking into account anticipated patterns of light and shade, LiveWall made recommendations for a mix of five varieties of indoor plants. The head of the horticulture program at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton also contributed suggestions.
Six months after the installation of the living wall, ATW contracted with Beauty By The Yard (Neenah, WI) to maintain the plants. “Once the plants are in place, it can take several months to see how they are adapting on a wall,” said Cathy Reich, owner, Beauty By The Yard LLC. “You also have to monitor and experiment with lighting and water schedules to get them optimal for the plants.”
Reich agreed with Brandon Lamaide, lead maintenance technician at ATW, that the Philodendron were growing too fast and tall relative to the other plants. She replaced them with Chinese evergreen. Reich also determined that the plants were getting too much light and adjusted the timer so the lights would be on for 12 hours a day starting at 5:00 a.m. She recalibrated the irrigation schedule, too.
Once she completed these initial maintenance tasks, Reich put in place a monthly maintenance routine, which includes inspecting the plants, cleaning out brown leaves, trimming the plants, and checking the moisture level of the growing medium.
Results and Recommendations
“The LiveWall green wall softens the feeling of the terminal and de-stresses the TSA checkpoint,” said Scott Volberding, C.M., ACE, operations and maintenance manager, Appleton International Airport. “It provides a calming effect, and it quickly became an unexpected attraction.”
“Travelers are delighted with the wall. We see passengers taking selfies in front of the wall after they go through security. Their positive experience of the living wall makes for a memory they want to save and share on social media.
It also has a positive effect on the TSA agents. They are happy with the wall and appreciate that the redesigned security checkpoint and living wall give them a more pleasant and enjoyable place to perform their duties.” ~ Patrick Tracey, marketing manager, Appleton International Airport
ATW has a significant sponsorship agreement with ThedaCare. The local non-profit healthcare organization, which includes a network of seven hospitals and 31 clinics, is the official ATW Health Connection partner. According to Tracey, with the plants on the living wall, the new security area is so appealing and beautiful that ATW has expanded the sponsorship program to extend ThedaCare’s brand presence and associate their brand with the TSA space.
Based on the success of ATW’s efforts to improve the customer experience, Tracey advises other airports to aim higher when considering modifications to their security areas. “The TSA checkpoint can be re-imagined and elevated to become a positive focal point and a highlight of an airport,” he said.
“When you decide to include a green wall in a project, it is important to rely on experts with horticultural knowledge, understanding of all the issues involved, and experience making installations successful,” said Walker.
“From the first phone call to discuss our goals, to developing a basic layout with guidance on sizing and positioning the living wall within the space, specification of required components and parts, detailed design and plant selection, delivery of materials and shop drawings, to determining the final layout as it would actually be installed when we got on site, LiveWall proved to be a knowledgeable, experienced and engaged partner.” ~ Mitchell Walker, Mead & Hunt
~ Amber Poncé and David Aquilina
Publisher’s Note: See the Appleton International Airport (ATW) Living Wall Project Profile in the Greenroofs.com Projects Database.
Amber Poncé is the Business Development Manager for LiveRoof® Global, LLC and LiveWall®, LLC. Since 2006, Amber has played a key role in expanding the LiveRoof Global network of professional horticulturists and growers into an industry leading supplier of green roof and green wall systems. She is an accredited Green Roof Professional with more than a decade of experience in green roofing – including experience with growing media formulation, plant selection and production, shipping logistics, and installation and maintenance. Amber has helped develop green roofing industry standards. She currently sits on the green walls committee of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.
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David Aquilina, Strategic Storyteller, is a public relations consultant and freelance writer. An accomplished, award-winning communications professional, he achieves results that showcase his clients, build and boost their brands, and launch and promote their products and services. A frequent contributor to green industry publications, David makes his home up on the edge of the northern prairie near Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Contact David Aquilina: