Creating Living "Eco" Walls
Imagine one of the outer walls of your home transformed into a "living" wall adorned with ornamental and edible plants. Or, an interior wall transformed into a vertical garden, lush with tropical plant materials that also help to purify your indoor air.
EcoWalls, LLC, a green business that manufactures innovative and decorative vertical planting systems can conjure up that pleasing indoor or outdoor landscape. Their living walls are an innovative way to expand urban gardening, while serving up a natural way to purify the air we breathe.
The company–and the living walls it's created since 2008–are the brain child of two young men, both products of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Michael Coraggio, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in landscape architecture and Ryan Burrows, a current graduate student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources.
"For folks with limited space a living wall is wonderful solution to still maintain green space or have a garden," said Coraggio. In an urban setting, living walls also allow for some ability to grow your own food and provide people with an opportunity to reconnect with nature in the built environment.
Coraggio and Burrows became acquainted with vertical gardens while they were both students at Rutgers. After graduating, Coraggio came back to campus to work with Burrows, developing and testing their product idea with faculty from the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Floriculture Greenhouse. The team was able to create a modular system that incorporates a unique combination of sustainable and lightweight materials for growing plants vertically. The material used in the system maintains the proper balance of water and nutrients, drastically reducing the amount of resources used to grow plants vertically.
The duo has landed several high-profile partnerships and, in some cases, ongoing collaborations to create living walls for Walt Disney World, Atlantis Resort, The Palmyra Resort, Philadelphia Style, The San Diego Zoo Safari Park and The Philadelphia International Flower Show.
In spring 2011, the company entered an exciting partnership with Disney's Epcot®, in Orlando, Florida, creating six living walls in the park for the Epcot® International Flower and Garden Festival. The largest green wall designed and installed by EcoWalls, LLC is located in the Festival Center building at the Disney theme park and is on permanent display.
For the Epcot® International Food and Wine Festival held in fall 2011, Coraggio and Burrows integrated edible plants, namely banana and pineapple, into their living wall design, offering visitors the opportunity to experience the farm-to-table concept upon entering the Festival Center.
Burrows has an extensive research background in environmental toxicology and embraces the living wall concept for its aesthetic value as well as its practical use as a tool to improve the environment.
"Our dual focus in design and science has been instrumental in creating a unique sustainable living system that will not only visually enhance a space but can also be used as a useful tool to accomplish goals of improving water and air quality or creating habitat and corridor space for native wildlife," said Burrows.
Burrows recently spoke about integrating water re-use systems into living walls to reduce water consumption and purify gray water at the 2011 CitiesAlive Conference hosted by Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, the Philadelphia Horticultural Society and the City of Philadelphia.
The company has expanded its "green" footprint into the urban classroom as well. By integrating an aquaponics system with fish into their living walls, they recently created a mobile living classroom as an educational tool for schools. (Aquaponics is the science in which aquatic livestock produce effluent that is used by a crop of plants as nutrients for growth, and, in turn, the plants purify the water before it's returned to the fish.) They debut their first mobile living classroom at the Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield, NJ, this year.
"Through this small but vital innovation, we now have a broader educational tool–the first mobile classroom combining living, breathing fish and vertical plant habitat that can move to where the students are and provide valuable educational lessons," added Burrows.
"EcoWalls, LLC, is now not only creating functional gardens in tight urban spaces, but by adding an aquaponic system and integrating fish alongside the plants, we are able to literally create a miniature ecologic system which teachers can use as an educational component to discuss water purification and ecology with students," said Coraggio.
EcoWalls, LLC, is one of several small businesses located at the Rutgers EcoComplex, in Bordentown, NJ, a state of the art business incubator that assists start-up companies, including "green" businesses.
For more on the living architecture of EcoWalls, LLC a small "green" business that has grown into a full-service, vertical garden design and installation company, visit greenecowalls.com.