GPW: San Francisco Residential Living Wall

July 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm Project of the Week: 7/18/11
San Francisco Residential Living Wall
San Francisco, CA, USA
330 sf. Greenroof

Year: 2010
Owner: Michelle Bond
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
Building Type: Single-Family Residential
Type: Green Façade
System: Single Source Provider
Size: 330 sq.ft.
Slope: 100%
Access: Accessible, Private

Project Description & Details

A newly remodeled modern house in San Francisco sits on a bottom of a hillside with a significant retaining wall at the rear of the property.  The backyard is sunken into the hill edged with three large, tall concrete walls surrounded by greenery; the space is terraced into two large open spaces with raised beds along the backside.   The owner/designer’s mission was to develop the space into a striking display of vertical gardens that would take advantage of the walls to their utmost possibilities.   The goal was to create and display a living wall that brings biodiversity, beauty and enjoyment to the owner’s familial lifestyle.  This planting display is modeled after a natural vertical garden similar to a woodland cliff on a north facing hill in California.   The vision of 75 varieties of shade loving plants, a mixture of subtropical plants with northwestern ferns and fern-allies, gives the wall its lush looking state.

The framework of the living wall was made out of Tournesol Siteworks modules and bracket systems, consisting of 96 VGM modules measuring 20″x20″ and 10″ deep with 1,536 plants.   The growing medium was made with a locally available 50/50 mix of coir based “Ultra Potting Soil” and perlite, although Tournesol Siteworks typically recommends a less-organic lightweight mix (90/10 inorganic/organic).   A fertigation system was installed with the irrigation system to replenish nutrients in the soil otherwise lost by water constantly dripping down through the modules.  After six months, the wall is approximately 85% filled in and the plants are thriving.

Designers/Manufacturers of Record

Owner, Greenwall Designer: Michelle Bond, Thumbellina Gardens
Greenwall Manufacturer: Tournesol Siteworks
Plant Suppliers: Sloat Garden Center, Flora Grubb Gardens, San Francisco Foliage, & Pacific Nurseries
Irrigation: Ewing Irrigation Products & The Urban Farmer
General Contractor: Ral Dasco
Fertigation Tanks and Fertilizers Supplier: GYOSF INC

Additional Info

Installed in late November 2010, the San Francisco Residential Living Wall had been in planning for six months prior to the installation.   When the homeowner/Thumbellina Gardens landscape designer Michell Bond moved in to the newly remodeled home with the large retaining wall in the back, the terraced backyard was also newly planted with nice but subdued plantings.   So Michelle wanted to redesign the space for maximum viewing pleasure and place her own designer’s aesthetic to the  open space, plus she wanted to really green up the bland, barren wall!

First, since the original retaining wall  had three different elevations, it had to  built up so that it would be level across the top in order to accommodate her design of the 12 feet high and 27.5 feet wide living wall.

Designer Michelle had each module numbered to easily follow her planting plan below:

Each Tournesol Siteworks VGM module was planted with 16 4″ plants, one per window.   To get the plants acclimated to their eventual vertical position, after  three weeks of planting the modules were  tilted 45 degrees.  It took 3-4 weeks for the plants to perk up and settle into their new modular pockets and were ready for installation a few weeks later.

Here are  the 50 species (not including varieties)  of plants that were used throughout the wall, including:

Aeonium “Mint Saucer,” Acorus gramineus, Aloe, Serrisa, Adiantum pedatum, Blechnum, Campanula   Porcharskyana, Carex   fraseri, Crassula, Cissus rhombifolia, Cupressus macrocarpa, Daphne cneruom, Dryopteris erythrosa, Davallia trichomanoides, Euphorbia, Anthericum sanderii, Fatsia japonica, Glechoma hederacea, Gaultheria procumbens, Hedera helix (ivy), Iris, Pellea rotundifolia, Iberis sempervirens, Juniper c.   procumbems nana, Lomandra longifolia, Fuchsia, Nephrolepis cordata, Ophiopogon japonicus, Oxalis oregana, Pellea falcata, Polypodum, Erigeron, Polystichum tsus sinensis, Plectranthus, Polystichum munitum,  Tradescantia, Pyrrosia (staghorn fern), Sedum dasyphyllum, Selaginella (moss), Silene uniflora, Solerolii (baby tears), Sequoia sempervirens, Saxifraga, Achemilla, Vacinuum, Sesleria,   Cymbalaria muralis, Vrisea, and Viola hederacea.

Michelle says that the only plants that have had difficulty were the Serissa, Vrisea, and the Alocasia and that all the others are loving their new high-attention  status in the backyard!

See the Tournesol Siteworks’ blog post about it here.

Did we miss something?   We’d love to hear from you! Click here to see more information about this project in The International Greenroof & Greenwall Projects Database. See how you can submit yours here.

Love the Earth, Plant a Roof!

~ Linda V.

GPW: YVR Canada Line Station 4 Living Wall

March 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Last week’s  Greenwall Project of the Week (GPW) was the beautiful YVR Canada Line Station 4 Living Wall, located at the Vancouver International (YVR)  Airport’s SkyTrain station.   The first Canadian airport to install a greenwall, international visitors to this beautiful city are greeted by the living tapestry, just one of the sustainable initiatives and ecological solutions for the airport.   Since YVR is situated within the estuary of the Fraser River on Sea Island, a large conservation project was created here to offset the environmental impact the airport causes, including a wildlife preserve and public beaches.

Inaugurated  early in August 2009, months in advance of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic  and Winter Paralympics, the $1.9 billion (CAD)  Canada Line is a rail-based rapid transit line linking central Richmond, Canada, the Vancouver International Airport and downtown Vancouver, B.C.    The Canada Line terminus at YVR-Airport Station is linked by a bridge to an award-winning $125-million (CAD), five-story steel and glass structure known as the Link.   Connecting to both the international and domestic terminals, the Link’s  signature  oval structure provides a unique visual connection to the land, sea and sky that surround the airport.  

Designed to eliminate visual interference, the  YVR Canada Line Station 4 station sits  60 feet high straddling a road.   Both the YVR Station and the Link were designed by Kasian Architecture with Read Jones Christoffersen as structural engineers,  and  Sharp Diamond Landscape Architecture was brought in to design the massive green wall and other features.

One of the largest living walls in North America (the largest at the time in 2009), it measures 17.0m high and 11.6m wide (about 55.8 feet x 38  feet), and houses a total of 27,391 individual plants!   Landscape architect Randy Sharp used a modular system by G-Sky, a B.C. based company, for this living wall that encompasses  2,107 stainless steel  panels.    His design concept stresses the connection of the vegetated wall  to the rapid transit station to the ground.

Randy was also  involved with the Landscape Master Plan for the Vancouver International Airport and its unique ecological environment.   He says his overall vision for the Grant McConachie Way corridor, which leads into YVR,  was to serve as a natural gateway linking Vancouver to B.C., Canada, and the world beyond.   Drawing upon the estuary thematics of Sea Island, he desired the landscape experience  to feature a four-season effect in a bold design that would grow and evolve over time.   Highlights include major tree and shrub planting to enhance view corridors, other landscape designs for various Canada Line Stations, the ongoing development of a multi-use trail system for Sea Island, and a gateway feature signage program.

“Green facades and living walls provide an exciting fresh canvas for landscape architects and designers to be creative.     These vertical landscapes provide as yet unexplored opportunities for biodiversity, greywater treatment, urban agriculture and energy performance, not to mention the creation of green collar jobs.” ~ Randy Sharp

But the stunning greenwall isn’t the only green  element here – two  greenroofs, one extensive and the second intensive – are also featured.   First Nations art inside and outside the terminal grace the property, too, and enhance the sense of place.

Randy has designed and installed another  of metro Vancouver’s most significant living walls, the  Aquaquest, the Marilyn Blusson Learning Centre, Vancouver Aquarium  – the first modular living wall in North America, as well as many greenroofs, too.   In fact, he and his company have received multiple awards in design excellence for both greenroofs and walls.

There’s been a lot of public commentary (and pride) about the green design of  YVR Canada Line Station 4’s living wall, particularly in the blogosphere.   While not everyone appreciates the environmental benefits of greenwalls, everyone loves the aesthetics.   Responding to a blog post last summer in Price Tags, John Wilson retorted:

“This specific green wall sends a message to everyone visiting Vancouver (and Canada). That message is that we’re a progressive cosmopolitan city that cares about the world and the environment, and we’re open to using new methods and technologies because we’re also big on innovation. We’re a player in the world. Interesting things are happening here.”

Vancouver, B.C., is indeed a progressive,  green city that’s always included  at the top of the world’s most livable cities.   The Vancouver Airport Authority also maintains a Public Observation Area here where people of all ages can see take-offs and landings and learn about the area’s unique ecology and history, too, with all sorts of hands-on activities.   See a video about it here.

Next time you’re at YVR, check out their new green wall  at Canada Line Station 4.   According to locals, the best views are from the parkade bridge connecting the International Terminal at Departures level 3, or from Chester Johnson Park, International Terminal Arrivals level 2.

~ Linda V.