Living Wall Blooms on Bloomington Parking Garage by Amber Ponce and David Aquilina

April 15, 2018 at 2:06 pm

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

LiveWall Green Wall Installation Adds a Living Element of Green Design to the Monroe County Parking Garage in Bloomington, Indiana

Photos Courtesy of LiveWall®

When you think of parking garage design and construction, what descriptive words come to mind? Bland, austere?

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

Monroe County in Bloomington, Indiana constructed a six-story, 240-space parking garage for its employees in 2017. Their new parking garage is surprisingly different. A LiveWall® living wall fills five of its window openings with a variety of seven different annuals that bloom in shades of yellow, red, pink, purple, and green.

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

“The idea was to break up the otherwise stark exterior of the structure with an interesting and visually appealing element achieved by incorporating some green design,” said Stephen Andoh, AIA, LEED AP, project manager, Axis Architecture + Interiors, the project architect.

Many nearby buildings have second and third story window boxes with flowers. “Installing a total of 180 LiveWall modular planter boxes was like putting window boxes into the window openings of the garage,” said Julie L. Thomas, Monroe County commissioner. “The five sections of green wall make a lovely, lively addition to the exterior.”

Green Wall Installation

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

“LiveWall was a good choice for an outside green wall exposed to the elements. Its components and parts are strong and durable,” said Joel Fleming, project manager, Hagerman Construction Corporation, the project’s general contractor.

“LiveWall’s structural design lent itself to a secure installation within the garage windows in a way that allows for easy access from behind the green wall inside the garage for maintenance or changing out plants,” said Logan Messmer, project engineer, ProCLAD, Inc., a building envelope contractor selected to install the parking garage living wall.

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

The LiveWall outdoor system establishes a vertical garden mounted on exterior walls. In the typical outdoor installation, the system’s vertical furring tracks are attached directly onto the surface of a wall. Horizontal aluminum rails, which include conduits to bring water to the outdoor system’s integrated irrigation sprayers, 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, drop into the planter boxes.

However, in this application the system was not mounted on a solid wall surface. The parking garage living wall had to be installed across window openings within the structure’s wall.

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

“We had previous experience installing trellis systems that grow vines up the side of a wall from the ground up,” said Messmer. “This was different because there is more substantial structure to support the modular planters and irrigation components.”

After LiveWall gave our project managers and engineers a 30-minute installation tutorial, it was not hard to figure what we needed: a frame within the windows to which we could secure the horizontal rails.”

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

The window openings in the parking garage measure 8 feet long by 6 feet tall. Each of the five sections of green wall has six rows of LiveWall modular planter boxes that cover the openings. ProCLAD designed and installed a metal framework within the window openings with 4-inch by 4-inch by ¼-inch tube steel. They bolted the LiveWall system’s horizontal aluminum rails to the tube steel frames. The modular planter boxes were then slid into the rails’ slots.

“The integrity of the system underwent a challenging test the day the plants went in,” said Thomas. “We had a huge, powerful thunderstorm with intense rain, wind and hail. The green wall and plants came through fine.”

Plant Selection

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

Thomas and her colleagues initially thought of using perennial plants. LiveWall suggested they might consider annuals.

“Perennials or annuals can both work. The selection of annuals for living walls is much more varied and colorful, and they only require maintenance during the growing season,” said Dave MacKenzie, horticulturalist and president of LiveWall. “Annual bedding plants are also generally less expensive than perennials. Using annuals gives you more flexibility to try different plants and change the appearance of a living wall from year to year.”

On the Monroe County parking garage installation, the sections in the top, the third and the bottom of the five windows feature alternating columns of Yellow-, Red- and Purple-leaved Coleus plants. Their distinctive foliage colors stand out, and they bloom with light purple flowers in the summer and fall. The bottom rows of modular planters in these three window sections are planted with Dichondra argentea (Silver Falls). Clusters of their small, silver-green leaves trail down from the planters. The second and fourth windows feature alternating mixes of Red and Pink Begonias, which bloom abundantly from summer through the first frost. Deep purple Sweet Potato Vines (Ipomea batatus) trail from the bottom row of these windows.

Results and a Surprise

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

“The living wall is stunning, eye-catching, and appealing,” said Andoh.

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

Commissioner Thomas has received text messages, emails and comments from county officials and employees, the general public, and her constituents. They have all been positive — rare for a county project, she noted.

There was one surprise. Thomas did expect the green wall to be beautiful. “What I did not anticipate is the captivating effect of the wind moving through the leaves and flowers of the plants. A light breeze can make the living wall come alive.”

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

~ Amber Poncé and David Aquilina

Publisher’s Note: The Monroe County Parking Garage is featured as Greenroofs.com’s Project of the Week for April 16, 2018.  See its Project Profile in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Amber Poncé

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

Amber Poncé is the Business Development Manager for LiveRoof Global, LLC and LiveWall, LLC. Since 2006, Amber Ponce has helped to expand the LiveRoof Global network of professional horticulturists and growers to an industry leading supplier of green roof systems. In her role as business development manager, she has trained dozens of professionals in technical aspects of green roofing and living walls. She currently sits on the green walls committee of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. She is an accredited Green Roof Professional with over a decade of experience in green roofing – including experience with growing media formulation, plant selection and production, shipping logistics, installation and maintenance. Amber has helped participate in the development of standards related to green roofing and worked with a team of engineers to coordinate the first ever full-scale wind uplift test on green roofs.

Designed with a healthy regard for plants, LiveWall® is the patented living wall system that achieves simplicity and sustainability in harmony with nature. LiveWall is the result of four years of R&D by the professionals who created LiveRoof®, the superior green roof system. LiveWall green wall solutions are engineered with horticultural and structural features specific for indoor and outdoor environments. LiveWall supports plants as nature intended — roots growing down, stems and leaves growing up. With unsurpassed versatility to grow a diversity of plant types, LiveWall transforms ordinary walls into inspiring, thriving vertical landscapes that are simple to install and easy to maintain.

Contact Amber Poncé:
616.935.1964
AmberP@LiveRoof.com

David Aquilina

LiveWall Green Design on Bloomington Monroe Parking Garage

David Aquilina, Strategic Storyteller (www.linkedin.com/in/davidaquilina), is a corporate communications consultant and freelance writer.  An accomplished communications professional, he achieves results that showcase his clients, launch and promote their products and services, build and boost their brands, and support their marketing initiatives. 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:
612.716.5628
davida@strategicstoryteller.com
StrategicStoryteller.com