Look up, way up. That’s exactly what students tend to do as they sit near the three-storey-high wall of plants installed in the newly opened Atrium building at Saint Mary’s University.
Called a Living Wall, the installation not only adds some greenery to the large indoor space but also acts as a giant “biofilter” to remove airborne contaminants. This reduces the need to pipe in outside air – which, depending on the season, often needs to be heated or cooled – thus saving energy and giving the institution some serious green cred.
The university is “a living laboratory” for a sustainable future, and the living wall is “a fine example of this,” says Gabrielle Morrison, vice-president, administration at Saint Mary’s and chair of its sustainability committee.
The plants were installed by an Ontario company, Nedlaw Living Walls, whose president Alan Darlington first conducted research on the concept in the 1990s with colleagues at the University of Guelph, where he was an adjunct professor. In 2008, Dr. Darlington merged his company with the Nedlaw Group, which specializes in the installation of plant-topped roofs.
There are living walls installed at several locations, including the University of Guelph-Humber campus in Toronto and Queen’s University, but this is the first one in Atlantic Canada.