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

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening with LiveWall by Amber Ponce and David Aquilina

November 19, 2017 at 3:58 pm

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Outdoor LiveWall Installation Creates a Vertical Garden Growing Fresh Vegetables and Herbs to Promote Living Walls for Urban Horticulture

Photos Courtesy of Phipps and LiveWall®

Founded in 1893, the LEED Silver (2006) Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a local landmark in Pittsburgh, Pa. and listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Phipps has been Pittsburgh’s green oasis for more than 120 years. Nearly half a million people visit annually. Historically, Phipps has excelled at showcasing the beauty of plants.

Today, the conservatory is a green leader among public gardens — recognized for its leadership and commitment to sustainability including environmental conservation, renewable energy, green building design, and healthy living. Their latest innovation in green leadership is the installation of LiveWall Green Walls.

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Phipps offers a variety of adult and youth programs, classes and events to educate guests about the benefits of sustainable gardening, raised-bed vegetable gardening, local food production, and healthy eating. In addition, Phipps sponsors Homegrown, an outreach program dedicated to increasing community access to fresh produce, promoting better food choices, and improving the overall health of families.

Since 2013, the program has established more than 200 vegetable gardens in urban and underserved neighborhoods.

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

The Phipps Production Greenhouse before greening. Photo © Lofty Views.

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

However, space limitations for garden plots can be a challenge for urban gardening. That is why Richard V. Piacentini, executive director, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, encouraged the organization to explore green walls as a space-saving alternative.

“Growing vegetables and herbs on its green wall display is an innovative way for Phipps to demonstrate how families and community groups can grow their own fresh, healthy produce on vertical gardens if they do not have room for large garden plots,” said Dave MacKenzie, president of LiveWall.

Testing Green Wall Options

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Starting in 2015, Phipps tested LiveWall Inspire Living Wall Panels alongside several other living wall systems on the south-facing wall of its Production Greenhouse Facility. Standardized Inspire panels are 4-feet wide and 7-feet, four inches tall. Each has 24 molded plastic modular planter boxes.

“The other options we evaluated all had shortcomings,” said Michael Bechtel, display horticulturist, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

“With just small pockets of growing medium, some of the other green walls dried out too fast on the sunny, south-facing wall. Others have plastic parts that did not withstand the hot summer sun and started to crack and snap off. In addition, with all the other green walls we tested, we had to water the plants by hand.”

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

According to Bechtel, LiveWall Inspire proved to be the system of choice because of its soil volume and depth for growing and sustaining plants on the sun-drenched wall, the strength and durability of its materials and components, and its integrated spray irrigation.

“It is most professional and well-designed system. The others just did not seem like they could hold up and scale up to the size of the vertical garden we wanted across the length of the Production Greenhouse Facility,” said Bechtel. “With its car bumper grade recycled plastic, the LiveWall planter modules are strong and durable.”

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Inspire Living Wall Panels are pre-assembled green wall frames. They include vertical furring tracks that attach to the building wall and establish air space between the wall and the panels for ventilation. Rows of aluminum rails, which serve as conduits bringing water to each planter box, run horizontally across the tracks.

LiveWall molded plastic modular planter boxes then fit into place and are fastened onto the rails. Separate liner inserts, plant containers with growing medium and pre-grown plants, drop into the planter boxes. For outdoor installations, the system uses precisely metered spray nozzles for irrigation to water plants much like natural rain.

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

After completing initial testing in 2015, Phipps installed nine more Inspire standard panels in 2016. In the spring, beets, carrots, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi grow in the vertical garden. Summer plantings include basil, rosemary, thyme, celery root, and various peppers.

Lessons Learned

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Bechtel advises giving careful consideration to the growing medium selected for vertical gardening on living walls. In 2016, he experimented with a potting soil for the growing medium that was too lumpy and porous. Water flowed through too quickly. Switching to a different growing medium with better water retention qualities was a substantial improvement.

He and his colleagues have also experimented with various organic fertilizers. They found a slow-release granular product, which applied every two to three weeks during the growing season yields impressive growth.

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Bechtel also has a supply of extra inserts for the LiveWall modules. He uses them to start plants in the greenhouse. Being able to easily swap the inserts in and out of the planter boxes on the wall is especially useful for transitioning from spring to summer plants as well as for preparing the living wall for winter.

The Fruits of the Garden

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

“With our green walls, we have the opportunity to study, evaluate and learn about growing edibles on space-efficient vertical gardens, said Bechtel.

“It is a forward-thinking approach that enables us to offer education and assistance to homeowners, schools and community organizations on planning, installing and maintaining their own green walls so that they can benefit from fresh produce.”

A visit to Phipps to see the green walls can be tasty as well as inspiring. Guests can see vegetables and herbs growing organically on the green walls and then taste them in delicious dishes served at Café Phipps, named by Food & Wine magazine as a “Best Museum Restaurant.”

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

The living walls with a view towards the Center for Sustainable Living. Photo by Michael Tessler.

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

  ~ Amber Poncé and David Aquilina

Publisher’s Note: The Phipps Conservatory Production Greenhouse Living Walls are featured as Greenroofs.com’s Project of the Week for November 20, 2017.  See its Project Profile in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Amber Poncé

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

Amber Poncé is the Business Development Manager for LiveRoof Global, 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. She has actively participated in the development of industry testing standards and building codes, and currently sits on the policy and growing media committees of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. She is an accredited Green Roof Professional with seven years hands on 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

Phipps Conservatory Showcases Vertical Gardening on Display with LiveWall

David Aquilina, Strategic Storyteller (www.linkedin.com/in/davidaquilina), is a corporate communications consultant and freelance writer.  David makes his home up on the edge of the northern prairie in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Contact David Aquilina:
612.716.5628;
davida@strategicstoryteller.com
StrategicStoryteller.com

Green Walls Extend a Green Welcome to Restaurant’s Guests by Amber Ponce and David Aquilina

July 10, 2017 at 1:59 am

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

LiveWall® Green Walls at Brome Burgers & Shakes in Dearborn, Michigan Express the Brome Brand, Bringing its Commitment to Sustainability to Life

Photos Courtesy of LiveWall® and Brome Burgers & Shakes

Attached to an existing wall or freestanding, erected indoors or outdoors, green walls transform unadorned walls into vertical gardens. Restaurants, hotels and resorts are finding that green walls can boost their brands and help build business.

“Indoor green walls make interior spaces more appealing and relaxing and improve indoor air quality,” said Dave MacKenzie, president of Hortech, Inc. (Spring Lake, Michigan) and LiveWall, its eco-friendly green wall subsidiary.

“As an element of design, they can serve as living representations of a commitment to sustainability.”

A special location

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Brome Burgers & Shakes opened in 2015. Brome’s is winning a loyal following for their ethically sourced, creatively prepared, simply delicious, and reasonably priced food.

“We are all about sustainability, green living, wholesome food, and self-awareness about the environmental impact of our choices,” said Sam Abbas, founder, Brome Burgers & Shakes.

“We want everyone who visits our restaurant to experience the core values of our brand in every aspect of our operations.”

Brome’s commitment is evident in the restaurant’s location. Abbas chose to refurbish a corner building that was constructed as a retail store.

“Every decision we made about the project reflects our responsibility to the environment,” he said.

“We hope to inspire our customers, suppliers, contractors and competitors to appreciate the values that inspire us and express them in the ways they live, do business, cultivate food, and enjoy it.”

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

An adaptive re-use design developed by the Hallarsan Group (Detroit, Michigan) renovated the long vacant 3,700-square-foot space and created a modern, open, light-filled restaurant.

The sustainable design preserved the cedar trusses of the original 15-foot-high ceilings.

During construction, the original concrete floors were revealed and refurbished. The tables were custom fabricated out of reclaimed wood from dilapidated structures in Detroit, and much of the furniture was sourced locally.

The idea of using green walls as a focal point of the interior was developed during a design brainstorming session.

The green walls stand out

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Completed in June 2015, the Brome Burgers & Shakes green wall installation is one of the most prominent design elements in the restaurant.

The green wall took a large, blank wall area that would have otherwise just been painted or wallpapered and brought it to life.

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Plant Palette

The installation totals 309 square feet, divided in two sections each 16 feet long by 9 feet 10 inches high. A mix of six different tropical plants, selected because they thrive indoors, grow on the wall.

The plant palette features Pothos, Epimedium, and Tradescantia Red.

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

In addition to the featured green walls, the interior includes a front window planter. Its greenery is reflected in the glass top of the adjoining counter, which has eight seats.

System selection, installation

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Before all of the different plants were installed.

Bell’s Landscape Services, Inc. (Wixom, Michigan), which has provided commercial and residential landscape construction and maintenance in Southeast Michigan for more than 38 years, recommended, sold, installed, and maintains the LiveWall green walls.

They won a Gold Award for Creative Landscape – Green Initiatives from the Michigan Green Industry Association for the project.

“We got into green wall installation and maintenance as a way to grow our business,” said Marcy Bell, president, Bell’s Landscape Services, Inc.

“I did our research on the market for living architecture and on various green wall systems. We decided to go with LiveWall. It is the most complete system, the best engineered and the most hospitable to plants.”

Bell’s introduced LiveWall to Abbas. He then did his own due diligence on alternative systems.

He agreed that LiveWall’s design and ease of maintenance made it a good choice.

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Mike Bell, chief executive officer, Bell’s Landscape Services, commented that the system is well designed and assembles part by part in a logical fashion following the installation process explained in the installation guide and schematics.

The first step is installation of the vertical strips that mount to the building wall and to which the other components are attached. The vertical strips also establish the necessary air space between the wall and the system.

Next, horizontal aluminum rails with conduits for the tubes bringing water to the integrated irrigation system, are mounted to the vertical strips.

For indoor installations, LiveWall uses drip stake assemblies, which inject water into the growing medium. Molded plastic modular planter boxes fit into place on the rails.

Finally, separate liner inserts which have been pre-planted slide into the planter boxes.

“Maintenance is straight forward,” said Mike Bell.

“Every six weeks, we clean out any die-back, trim the plants (especially the ones in the lower rows of the modular planters), check soil moisture, and inspect and adjust irrigation.”

Results and reactions

“The green walls propel our brand forward,” said Abbas.

“They create an atmosphere in which it becomes more than serving and enjoying great burgers and shakes but also about making a positive impact on everyone’s lives.”

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

People in Michigan appreciate green spaces that bring nature to them. When people step into Brome Burgers & Shakes they receive a “green” welcome even on cold, grey days.

“We see the positive response every day,” said Abbas.

“Customers at tables beneath the green walls taking selfies, posting photos on Facebook, Snapchatting with friends as they enjoy their food.

The green walls are a focal point.”

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Abbas has plans to expand, growing Brome Burgers & Shakes to ten locations in Michigan and then on to Chicago.

“We plan to integrate green wall systems into all our future locations.”

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina


~ Amber Poncé and David Aquilina

Publisher’s Note: The Brome Burgers & Shakes Green Walls are featured as Greenroofs.com’s Project of the Week for July 10, 2017.  See its Project Profile in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Amber Poncé

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

Amber Poncé is the Business Development Manager for LiveRoof Global, 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. She has actively participated in the development of industry testing standards and building codes, and currently sits on the policy and growing media committees of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. She is an accredited Green Roof Professional with seven years hands on 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

Green Walls Extend Green Welcome Brome Restaurants Guests Ponce Aquilina

David Aquilina, Strategic Storyteller (www.linkedin.com/in/davidaquilina), is a corporate communications consultant and freelance writer.  David makes his home up on the edge of the northern prairie in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Contact David Aquilina:
612.716.5628;
davida@strategicstoryteller.com
StrategicStoryteller.com

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out as a Signature Symbol of Sustainability for the Gilmore Collection, By Amber Poncé and David Aquilina

September 21, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Commitment to Sustainability is a Defining Element of the Gilmore Collection, Western Michigan’s Premier Hospitality Enterprise

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Gilmore Collection owns and runs 14 restaurants, two nightclubs, a comedy club, and a full-service catering operation.  The company has developed a reputation for delivering wonderful food, beverage, entertainment, atmosphere, and hospitality at each of its locations in Western Michigan.  The Gilmore Collection also includes the Redstone Inn, a historic turn-of-the-century style Rocky Mountain resort in Colorado.  Gilmore Collection restaurants are known for their intimate bond with the communities they serve through preservation of historic architecture, marvelous hospitality, creative culinary expertise, and local sourcing of products.  An authentic commitment to sustainability is a hallmark of the Gilmore Collection.

“There is nothing more important to me than Gilmore Collection’s commitment to sustainability. The pivot in our corporate culture toward being even more eco-friendly is clear and, more importantly, genuine,” said Greg Gilmore, chief executive officer. “We look at every facet of our business practices to ensure we are acting responsibly, in a timely manner, and with laser focus on making tangible changes today and as we move forward into the future.”

Historic preservation and restoration

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

The foundation of the company’s commitment to sustainability is its tradition of saving and restoring historic buildings and turning once-vacant structures into thriving landmark destinations that enrich and enliven local communities and neighborhoods.  For example, the Kirby House (Grand Haven, MI) is located in a historic hotel, which dates back to 1873 when it opened as the Gildner Hotel.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Nick Fink’s Saloon, the oldest tavern in Grand Rapids was established in 1888.  Today, it thrives again while retaining its historic character after its acquisition and makeover by the Gilmore Collection.

Pasture to plate since 1978

Long before local sourcing of food became a trend in the restaurant business, it was a long-established practice for the Gilmore Collection.  Its menus feature fresh products from more than two dozen regional farms, orchards, bakeries, and other local producers.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

The Gilmore Collection takes local sourcing to a whole other level: hyper-local.  They plant and harvest produce at on-site gardens.  The garden at the Blue Water Grill is almost an acre in size.  Mangiamo!, an Italian-inspired restaurant located in a restored 19th century mansion, has a quarter-acre garden.

The Gilmore Collection’s most recent innovation in hyper-local sourcing, green walls, bring gardens right into their restaurants.  Green walls, also called living walls, are structural systems that partially or completely cover wall surfaces with plants.  Attached to an existing wall or freestanding, installed indoors or outdoors, green walls provide growing media and support for plants on the face of a wall.

“Green walls transform plain walls into vertical gardens. With flowering plants and greenery, they make the settings where they are installed more pleasant and relaxing. Green walls can also be used for herbs and vegetables,” said Dave MacKenzie, president of LiveWall, LLC (Spring Lake, MI). “They are an attractive design and sustainability feature for restaurants, hotels and resorts.”

The B.O.B. and its green wall

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Before the green wall.

The B.O.B. is the Gilmore Collection’s most ambitious project, and it exemplifies their commitment to sustainability.  The B.O.B. is an acronym for Big Old Building, and it is big.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Judson’s Grocery can be seen on the right side of the Edison Light and Fuel Co. Photo source: HistoryGrandRapids.org from the Grand Rapids City Archives.

The 70,000-square-foot, four-story, red brick building was constructed in 1903 as the Judson Grocery warehouse.  It stood vacant for decades before the Gilmore Collection saved it from demolition and began its transformation into a landmark hospitality destination in downtown Grand Rapids.  Opened in 1997, The B.O.B. offers multiple venues, including bars, restaurants, comedy and nightclubs, and the rooftop Sky Patio, which is accessible through Bobarino’s restaurant on the second floor.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

The 900-square-foot Sky Patio was not truly complete until 2015.  That is when its signature green wall was installed.  The distinctive double-sided green wall surrounds guests with the beauty of nature and provides fresh ingredients for the food they enjoy.

“Our living wall on the Sky Patio is a vivid symbol of our commitment to sustainability and support of the local environments where our restaurants are located,” said Alice Jasper, director of sustainability, the Gilmore Collection. “It greens up the exterior and interior of the rooftop patio, contributing to the beautification of downtown, making the patio more inviting from the street below, and enhancing the dining experience of our guests.”

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

The green wall was constructed in August 2015 with the LiveWall® system.  The two-sided green wall totals 608 square feet.  Three exterior sections (48 inches in height) are attached to the outside of the fencing that surrounds the patio.  Facing out to the street, these sections frame the Sky Patio on three sides with flowering annuals and perennials.  There are five interior sections (45.5 inches in height), three on the inside of the perimeter fence and two on the back wall of the building.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

“Local sourcing of ingredients is one of our main sustainable hospitality practices,” said Barbie Smith, the Gilmore Collection’s gardener. “With the green wall at the B.O.B., we grow ingredients right near the tables where our guests dine. You cannot get more local than that.”

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

In addition to flowers, the interior sections include vegetables and herbs used in the kitchen.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

“The green wall is a vertical garden with a variety of edibles. What chef wouldn’t want a garden with fresh herbs and produce right in their restaurant? A green wall makes it practical,” said Mick Rickerd, chef at Bobarino’s. “We utilize the herbs in all our everyday dishes and the vegetables, like Swiss chard and rainbow carrots, in daily features. Our mixology team incorporates fresh basil, mint, lemongrass and thyme into special summer cocktails.”

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

The ownership experience

“A green wall is a cool and clean way of growing plants in a restaurant,” said Smith.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Having a vertical garden inside a restaurant requires some management and maintenance.  In addition, having the right kind of system for a restaurant is essential.  The LiveWall system installed at the B.O.B. features integrated irrigation.  Well-designed, unobtrusive irrigation that runs on a timer and without disturbing food service operations is essential.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

LiveWall is a modular system with plastic planters that attach to its rails.  The plants grow in inserts, specially designed plastic boxes that drop into, and can be removed from, the planter modules.  This design is ideal for herbs and vegetables, which are planted annually.  Annual blooming flowers and edibles are started in the inserts at a greenhouse to prepare them for the summer season.  As soon as the risk of frost has passed, a restaurant green wall can be ready to go.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Smith visits the green wall once a week.  She checks the moisture level of the growing medium and adjusts the irrigation system.  She also checks the growth of the plants, paying careful attention to pinching off the herbs so they do not flower.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

“Every week, I talk to the chefs and bartenders and let them know what is ready to use,” she said.  “They pick the herbs and vegetables themselves when they need them.”

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

The Gilmore Collection is continuing to expand on-site gardening for hyper-local sourcing of menu ingredients. “As we continue to support and express our commitment to sustainability, our goal is to have gardens or green walls at each of our locations by the end of 2017,” said Jasper. Two new green walls have already been installed at other locations, and more are in the planning stage.

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

“The living walls and gardens are long-term projects. We do not expect any immediate business results, other than they are beautiful and create a great ambiance, particularly at the Sky Patio at The B.O.B.,” said Gilmore. “I do believe that the ambiance has resulted in increased revenues.”

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

~ Amber Poncé and David Aquilina

Publisher’s Note: The B.O.B. Sky Patio was featured as Greenroofs.com’s Project of the Week on August 22, 2016.  See its Project Profile in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database.

Amber Poncé

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

Amber Poncé is the Business Development Manager for LiveRoof Global, 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. She has actively participated in the development of industry testing standards and building codes, and currently sits on the policy and growing media committees of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. She is an accredited Green Roof Professional with seven years hands on 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

Double-Sided Green Wall Stands Out Signature Symbol Sustainability Gilmore Collection

David Aquilina, Strategic Storyteller (www.linkedin.com/in/davidaquilina), is a corporate communications consultant and freelance writer.  David makes his home up on the edge of the northern prairie in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Contact David Aquilina:
612.716.5628;
davida@strategicstoryteller.com
StrategicStoryteller.com