Good Earth Plant Company got a nice surprise this week: our living wall project at 655 W. Broadway has won a Silver Award in its category in the 2021 Biophilic Design Awards. We love seeing our client projects featured, and we love seeing everyone else’s work.
Awards make us feel great, but what’s more important about them is providing an objective measurement of the quality of our projects. Are we doing the best possible work we can for our clients? Where do we rate against our (mostly friendly) competitors? What can we learn from THEIR award-winning projects?
This project has a special place in our horticultural hearts. It was the last major project we completed before the coronavirus pandemic sent the world into forced hibernation. We were worried about many things, but we were especially concerned about the care and upkeep of our clients’ investments in beautiful plants and biophilic designs like this.
Fortunately, we carried on and still had access to most buildings, even if we were the only people besides security guards going in and out for months. It was a shame people couldn’t enjoy this beautiful wall for so long. But now the occupants and visitors can enjoy it every day. It’s a symbol to us of the hope and resilience living things like plants give us. They want to survive, and they don’t “think” about it. Like the shoe company slogan, they just do it. All they need is a little light, a little water, the right temperature, and some care – and they will hold on.
We’d love to share the story behind this design and installation.
Longtime Good Earth Plant Company client Avison Young asked for our help with their renovation project of a major upscale San Diego office building at 655 West Broadway. We proposed a living wall the lobby’s height to greet people entering the building and add a “wow” moment upon first impression. The wall design was a first for us. It is constructed on a radius (concave curve). It is 27 feet tall and the largest indoor living wall in downtown San Diego.
The 300 square foot wall is made of 105 SageLife biotiles, separate modules filled with rock wool substrate. Eight different plant species for a total of 1,972 plants in the wall, including Dracaena warnekii, Neon pothos, Ferns, Compacta, Schefflera Arboricola, and Cordatum philodendron. The biotiles were planted in late September 2019 in preparation for installation in early 2020.
The irrigation system includes a fertilizer injector added to the water. A remote moisture monitoring system provides a convenient way to ensure plants get the right amount of water. We can see how much water the wall is using and can turn it on and off remotely. The wall uses approximately three ounces of water per square foot per day, or seven gallons total daily.
Some challenging surprises
Like a lot of projects, there were some challenging surprises. The drainage system didn’t allow enough width to catch any drips outside the wall which could damage walls and furniture. We had a limited time window coordinating with other contractors for installation. It was all successfully navigated, and the results are everything the client asked for. Special thanks to Avison Young General Manager Barbara Putis and the team at White Construction of San Diego, especially Darrin, Jesse, and Nancy. They were wonderful people to work with despite the hiccups.
What makes this design biophilic?
Healthy places support healthier people. Like never before, as we emerge (hopefully!) from the pandemic, healthy people fuel a healthy economy. Living with the ongoing reality of future pandemics is accelerating demand for healthy spaces.
In 2015, The Human Spaces report into The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace led by renowned organizational psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper found employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15% higher level of well-being, are 6% more productive, and 15% more creative overall.
It concluded that office design was so important to workers that a third (33%) of global respondents stated it would unequivocally affect their decision whether or not to work somewhere.
Access to fresh air, light, nature and any other biophilic design option gives employees the confidence their work environment is as safe as possible and at least as inviting as their work from home environment. It will be a primary driver in a return-to-work strategy. Access to nature is increasingly critical for employee mental health and overall wellbeing. Client Avison Young recognized this need even before the pandemic made it a must.
Workplace biophilic design embraces bringing the outdoor environment indoors through the use of light, natural materials, textures, views, access to outdoor spaces such as patios or terraces, and the integration of plants in containers and living walls.
Safe workplaces are a priority in 2021 – and beyond
Indoor environments mimicking outdoor environments will give employees greater confidence their wellbeing is not at risk. The 655 West Broadway living wall project provides an ideal example of workplace design integrating a biophilic design approach.
According to the Human Spaces report, natural light is the most desired workplace element (44%). Live indoor plants are the second most desired workplace element (20%), followed by quiet working space. But more than half of all workplaces have no plants in them at all (58%).
This impressive living wall of plants provides an immediate visual connection to Nature. It greets visitors as they enter the building, offering a calming welcome. The living wall raises humidity, which studies show provides the optimal working environment and helps stop the spread of the viral droplets which cause illness. The grow lights add full spectrum diffused light, and the design using limited varieties of plants in a random pattern adds both complexity and order. These are all essential elements of biophilic design.
You can learn more in a white paper I co-authored earlier this year, The Nature of the Post-Pandemic Workplace.
Good Earth Plant Company’s 655 West Broadway project was featured in an article in the San Diego Business Journal reporting on biophilic design trends in the workplace. At the time, we didn’t appreciate how important the health of our indoor environments would become.
In the article, Avison Young senior general manager Barbara Putis said, “We get so many compliments on it. It’s a decorative feature. You have a big, empty wall space. Are you going to look at a plain drywall wall, or are you going to look at a beautiful living creation? It’s another form of art.”
Making our clients like Barbara happy is everything to us. We could win plenty of awards, but none would come close to client happiness and health. This is the motivation behind our mission statement: We enrich peoples’ lives with plants. We see the results, and the science backs us up.
You can see all the winners here from across North America. Congratulations to all the winners! Many friends are recognized, and we are happy to be among this group.