Pushing Nature Into Urban Planning with Living Walls

Pure Fitness living wall at the Westgate Hotel by GreenScaped Buildings
Pure Fitness living wall at the Westgate Hotel by GreenScaped Buildings

Greenscaped Buildings’ spectacular living wall at the Westgate Hotel is a perfect example of integrating nature into the urban environment.

The Downtown San Diego Partnership, the leading advocate for the revitalization and growth of downtown San Diego, recently offered this observation and it stopped me in my tracks: “For the first time in 100 years urban growth has outpaced suburban growth.”

Assuming this is true, as an advocate for integrating nature into our everyday environment, I see opportunity. Think about the typical suburban environment. There are yards, parks, and other spaces where nature is present. Now think about the typical urban environment. It’s full of concrete, glass, shadows and hard surfaces, but not a lot of nature or plants.

This means people like me need to push even harder to make sure nature is included in urban planning. Living walls are ideal in these situations. The modern version has been around for about 20 years, just as this shift in growth has been taking place. No wonder living walls are rapidly gaining in popularity, especially in areas with limited space for traditional gardens.

Living walls can exist inside with proper lighting, or outside in almost any climate. They can be planted randomly or have intricate patterns. Living walls can be self-sustaining with a recirculating irrigation system, hard piped with drip irrigation and a drain, or watered by hand.

Here’s the challenge. It isn’t so difficult to design, specify and install a living wall and have it look good on day one. The critical question to ask is this: How will it look in a year? Three years? Five years?

Over the past five years, Good Earth Plant Company and GreenScaped Buildings has conducted long-term trials of 20 different living wall systems, both inside and out. We have learned a lot, sometimes learning it the hard way.  We have an opportunity coming up to share those lessons learned at the upcoming 2015 Green Roofs and Walls of the World Virtual Summit. Right now we’re working hard putting together a video based webinar. We have learned so much working with clients in San Diego and across the United States about best practices for installing and maintaining living walls, and we are eager to share what we’ve learned. Whatever we can do to encourage the use of living walls in the fast growing urban environment is time well spent.

In the meantime, if we can bring nature into your environment, urban or otherwise, get in touch and give us the opportunity to make it happen for you.