Living proof of sustainability

Semiahmoo Library
Semiahmoo Library's living wall provides energy savings in summer.
— image credit: Eileen Jarrett photo

The “living wall” on the Semiahmoo Library – featuring year-round foliage that changes according to the season – has proven effective, not only in providing energy savings, but also in demonstrating a path of esthetically-pleasing sustainability that is being copied in the private sector, said Surrey Coun. Bruce Hayne.

Hayne, chair of Surrey’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, said the wall, installed just over three years ago, has demonstrated the concept can cut energy costs.

“I think it’s done better as far as energy efficiency is concerned, speaking with the engineering department,” he said.

“In the summertime, air conditioning costs have been reduced because the wall absorbs the heat – there have been more than $1,000 in savings annually, roughly speaking, in the electrical costs for air conditioning.”

This has been offset by a rise in winter heating costs, he acknowledged.

“In the wintertime, it’s had a little bit of the opposite effect, because the sunshine, too, is being absorbed by the wall. The heating bill has gone up, but because it’s gas heating, it’s only been about $500 – so we’re still ahead.”

From a beautification standpoint, it’s also been a successful experiment, Hayne said.

“The community has responded to it very positively – so positively that we’ve added a living wall to the new city hall.”

The concept is also being considered for other city buildings, including the new Grandview Heights Aquatic Centre, Hayne added.

He noted that Guildford Town Centre’s renovation also includes living wall elements both inside and on an exterior overpass.

“So the private sector is taking notice,” he said.

“While the annual energy savings on one building may not be a significant amount, when you multiply that over the entire city, it does have a significant impact,” he said.

“It shows leadership in wanting to demonstrate sustainable ways of building and operating buildings,” he said, noting that – as a high source of CO2 emissions – buildings are second only to automobiles.


“It shows we’re travelling in the right direction,” he said.



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