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Library goes green with living wall

Unique project provides energy savings as well as visual appeal

While there are no shortages of parks around the Semiahmoo Peninsula to enjoy the greenery of trees, flowers and plants, there is one place where one might not expect to find such foliage growing – on the wall of a South Surrey building.

The ‘living wall’ began to take root last fall on the south exterior wall of 1815 152 St., home to the South Surrey RCMP and Semiahmoo Library.

More than 10,000 plants – including shrubs and small trees – were installed, a City of Surrey project estimated at costing $272,000 and described as “the largest and most diverse project of its kind in North America.”

The process began in late summer of 2010, when Green over Grey – the company hired to do the work – started working on designs for the 3,000 square-foot wall, including colours, shapes and flowering schedules. The planting was completed within a few months, and before long, the first of the flowers began to bloom.

In addition to its unique visual appeal, the wall also provides improved air quality and energy savings. According to Green over Grey, the additional insulation created by the two-inch layer of air between the plant and the concrete can decrease heating and cooling costs by up to 20 per cent.

The garden mimics the way plants grow along cliffsides and bluffs, and requires no soil; using a hydroponic system, the plants are added to a recycled-fabric layer through which nutrient-enriched water is circulated. The plant layer also protects the concrete from the elements, much like a rainscreen would.

Despite being the first of its kind on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, the living wall project isn’t a new concept – the oldest such wall was planted in Paris about 30 years ago, and covers approximately 10,000 sq. ft.

Living walls can also be found around Europe and Asia.

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