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May 11, 2019 greenwallmojo0

Its rare to see your total vision brought to reality!

I am so thankful for the opportunity to physically see something that only existed in my head for a long time. This week was one that got me out of the office and around town here in Saint Louis to visit several living wall project sites.

My week started out with a visit to the Urban Harvest STL foodroof farm on a downtown rooftop.

I met their new director and all of the foodroof farm team for an educational and idea sharing session. The back drop was one of Verdant Technologies, VerTexx vertical living walls and it was a productive beauty. The team had it planted up with early season greens of many types, which were thriving vertically and creating so much food in so little space (normally un-used space) for plant production.

Education
Foodroof Vertical Gardening Education

The mission of urban harvest is one that I greatly respect and I’m proud to participate in as we do. They are trying to eliminate food deserts in our region and it always surprises me how many food deserts, by definition, we have here in St. Louis. There is so much need for quality food available to those that have few to no options nearby. Saint Louis is similar to a lot of large urban areas in this regard and we are fortunate to have non-profits such as Urban Harvest to push the envelope and show us what can be done, while leading the way to end food inequality.

Vertical Greens at Urban Harvest STL
Early May 2019 Vertical Garden Greens
Vertical Gardening is Fun
Young Vertical Garden Volunteers

My next stop was the Missouri Botanical Garden to take a look at the existing and new walls in the Kemper Home Gardening Area.

 

VerTexx at MoBot Flowers
Beautiful Ornamental VerTexx Wall
Structure Behind the Beauty
Great Section View of How VerTexx Works

I have been working with the botanical garden for the last few years and it’s so great to see their genius and creativity coupled with the complete scientific mastery of growing all types of plants. The area in which our walls are on display, is the Kemper center for home gardening and if you live in St. Louis, it’s the most incredible place to just walk through and see what’s possible in terms of making a garden productive, nutritious and gorgeous at the same time. We are so proud to be part of their garden and the examples that they showcase. Home gardeners from all over come to visit the botanical garden for ideas to take to their own yards.  I am pretty fired up to see how they plant up the new vertical vegetable living wall! Right now, all of the structural components are in place, so its perfect to gain a better understanding of how the system works. Once the planted socks are added, it will become all about the plants.

VerTexx at MoBot Garden
Vertical Garden Structure in Place

Personally as a living wall innovator , I have been fascinated with growing plants as part of the buildings we inhabit and the structures that we create, for my entire career.

Now we call this Biophilia but it had no catchy name when I got started. Check out my favorite advocacy group, Green Plants for Green Buildings for the whole scoop on Biophilia.

My career started with plantable concrete retaining wall blocks.  They were designed to cover themselves over with vibrant plants, creating many times more environmental benefit and a completely different aesthetic than a normal structure. Now that my career has moved into Vertical Living Wall’s, I am having a more consumer friendly experience. Not everyone needed to manage a grade change with a structural retaining wall and many may not place plants on their walls growing vertically in some type of holder as part of their buildings. However, everyone needs to eat and we are all feeling the pinch of food being grown far away from its end use and the pitfalls that come with that. Not to mention the lack of self reliance or regional reliance to produce nutritious food for ever growing populations.

With the reduction of arable land and the soil degradation of the land that is under cultivation, vertical walls growing greens and herbs close to the consumer are going to be a more viable option every day going forward. From hotels and restaurants to actual homeowners and end-users on their patios and balconies. Vertical Living Wall’s have so many options and so much potential. I’m proud to be inventing in such a climate and fortunate to have all the years of experience, good and bad, behind me to influence the road ahead. The road ahead looks so exciting to me and seeing the true expression of what’s been created so far puts more wind in my sails!

 


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February 27, 2019 David Ameryun2

My lifelong passion for all things Green.

If you follow my career or listen to my webinars and presentations at all, you will hear me proclaim my life-long passion for nature, the environment and how that led me to green building and living walls as outlets for positive change. If you engage my consulting and innovation services at any level you will quickly hear how I see all created things as connected and therefore, the underpinning of my passion and motivation.

I am also an active seeker of spiritual growth and read extensively on the subject. Naturally that leads me to spiritual teachers who understand the connection between nature ( all creation ) and the Universe. Today I was reading a daily meditation from one of my favorite teachers, Fr. Richard Rohr, and felt like the reading was spot on for illuminating my own passion and how it comes through in my work.

I hope you enjoy this segment and the notion of “the greening of the self” and maybe you will even look up Richard to hear more of this type of information. The following is an excerpt from today’s meditation.

 

The Natural World

Kinship with All Life Thursday, March 15, 2018
Joanna Macy vividly reconnects our seemingly separate selves with nature, both present and past:
The conventional notion of the self with which we have been raised and to which we have been conditioned by mainstream culture is being undermined. What Alan Watts [1915-1973] called “the skin-encapsulated ego” . . . is being replaced by wider constructs of identity and self-interest—by what philosopher Arne Naess [1912-2009] termed the ecological self, co-extensive with other beings and the life of our planet. It is what I like to call “the greening of the self.” . . .
Among those who are shedding these old constructs of self . . . is John Seed, director of the Rainforest Information Centre in Australia. One day . . . I asked him: “You talk about the struggle against the lumber companies and politicians to save the remaining rain forests. How do you deal with the despair?”
He replied, “I try to remember that it’s not me, John Seed, trying to protect the rain forest. Rather, I am part of the rain forest protecting itself. I am that part of the rain forest recently emerged into human thinking.” This is what I mean by the greening of the self. It involves a combining of the mystical with the pragmatic, transcending separateness, alienation, and fragmentation. It is . . . “a spiritual change,” generating a sense of profound interconnectedness with all life. . . .
. . . Unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible. . . .
By expanding our self-interest to include other beings in the body of the Earth, the ecological self also widens our window on time. It enlarges our temporal context, freeing us from identifying our goals and rewards solely in terms of our present lifetime. The life pouring through us, pumping our heart and breathing through our lungs, did not begin at our birth or conception. Like every particle in every atom and molecule of our bodies, it goes back through time to the first splitting and spinning of the stars.
Thus the greening of the self helps us to reinhabit time and our own story as life on Earth. We were present in the primal flaring forth, and in the rains that streamed down on this still-molten planet, and in the primordial seas. In our mother’s womb we remembered that journey, wearing vestigial gills and tail and fins for hands. Beneath the outer layer of our neocortex and what we learned in school, that story is in us—the story of a deep kinship with all life, bringing strengths that we never imagined. When we claim this story as our innermost sense of who we are, a gladness comes that will help us to survive.

Joanna Macy, “The Greening of the Self,” in Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth, ed. Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee (The Golden Sufi Center: 2013), 145, 147, 155-156.


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February 27, 2019 David Ameryun0

I fell in love with Living Walls in 1987 when I went to Europe after college graduation.

My degree background was in science and I was headed to grad school in the fall. Having grown up in farm country and with most of my jobs being in landscape, I appreciated plants but I had never heard of or seen a living wall. While moving around Europe, my eye was drawn to walls intentionally covered in plants and they jumped out at me everywhere. They made lots of sense to me and were beautiful in a way I had not imagined before. Living walls fascinated me then and I am now amazed that they have been the focal point of my career……but not how I had planned it.
In the early 90’s when I was setting out to create my first Living Retaining Wall System, no sooner than the first walls went up, did the drive to understand how to make them successfully grow over with healthy plants and stay that way become front and center to my mission. Lots of history, relationships and many stories have shaped my understanding of the subject. For the purpose of this post, I will stick to the main points and will offer some deep dives in other posts over time, so keep coming back for more.
Here I will cover the main issue any designer will need to overcome if they are to be successful with the specification and performance of living walls. Living Walls or Green Walls come in many types and perform in service applications from structural to facades and slopes to vertical. They all have the same needs and many of the questions discussed here apply to them all. Living Walls are environmentally beneficial while naturally beautiful, which makes them a great tool for Green Building but will not be utilized as often as they should, until more well thought out systems become available and specifiers become comfortable with their successful grow-in.
 
Living Walls Consulting Presentations
The Big Issue With Living Walls
 
Living Wall Consulting Facts
The Hard Truth About Living Wall Systems
Its a fact that vendors will not discuss but most systems that claim to be living walls or to support plants covering the face are line extensions of non-living systems that have not been well thought out for the living applications they are sold for.
Living Wall Consulting Questions
Get These Questions Answered For Success

Plants grow in soil.

  • The more soil in the face the better and great soil, appropriate to the plants intended is even better. Living Wall vendors must understand this and communicate it.
  • If the product vendor cannot show how a large quantity of the right soil gets into the face, accurately every time…. they are not offering a properly thought out system.
  • Potential living wall systems must securely hold the soil so that it stays in place long-term or the plants will not be long-term either.
  • A qualified living wall system vendor will know exactly how many cubic feet of the right soil is held securely in the face of their system…. or living walls is not really their business model.
  • Well thought living wall systems will have several ways for plants to be introduced into their facings. Whether from seed mixed in the soil during installation or blown on the face after installation or live plugged into the face during or after structural completion. Their system will elegantly accommodate the method of introduction and they can quantify it and stand behind it. Its complicated and more to discuss that I care to type in this blog post.
  • Lastly, water is a key factor that can overcome poor seasonality of construction or harsh weather patterns to bring success to vegetation grow-in. Not all walls can be irrigated or need it but if a system has not designed an elegant system to add irrigation to their facing system…. they are not really in the living wall business. Again, lots more to discuss but this is a good start.
There is so much more to cover and it leaves me with plenty of room to run in later blog segments. Proper vendor and product selection is a major factor in the ultimate success of a living wall so this is a great place to start.


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January 5, 2019 greenwallmojo1

Maintenance………..the mere mention of it has been a deal closer in the wrong direction for my entire career in the Living Wall niche!

Having been in the living wall business for the last 25 years, the one thing that has never gone away is that no matter who you’re talking to, the first difference they can see between a “traditional wall or structure” and one that is “living or green” is that the living option will require some maintenance. Generally that has been the eventual deal breaker.
Designers want to head the most environmentally beneficial direction, at least initially. When talking with designers and their clients, benefits of living walls are obvious and desirable. Project teams always get excited because it is the right thing to do and the outcomes can be structural, beautiful and so environmentally beneficial.
Budgets drive product selection and pretty early in every specification process the question gets brought up about the cost of maintenance and it being the big difference between the non-living product and the living product. My ability to positively guide the maintenance discussion has always been the key in being able to close the deal to get a living wall built. Many times, an owners lack of desire and commitment to maintain the living walls for an extended period of years, finally killed the deal at some point.
I think I probably would have closed almost every project I approached, if it weren’t for the negative perception of maintenance and the notion that it was going to cost a fortune over the long haul.
Maintenance perception and successful management strategies are the big hurdles standing in the path of living walls of all types being way more commonplace. I have dreamed of a day when living walls were the mainstream rather than the niche. We are close to that day.
Vertical Living Wall with Succulents at Habitudes in Irvine, CA
Understanding Expectation is Everything
I feel like product manufacturers are the first voice in the maintenance discussion. Unfortunately, I have not seen much demonstrated understanding of the need for good information, its dissemination or an understanding that the lack of it holds back huge sales volume for those manufacturers.
A Few Questions to Ponder:
  1. Does living wall maintenance cost a fortune compared to non-living?
  2. How big of an impact is it really and does a living wall pay any dividends or simply increase cost?
  3. How can maintenance cost be controlled or predicted?
  4. Where does maintenance cost really begin?
  5. Does it begin when the project is built or does it really begin when it’s being designed on the drawing board?
  6. What factors drive maintenance cost and can the specifier manage them?
  7. Does product selection and job-site execution impact the long-term cost of maintenance?
I am going to try to take a different approach to answering the 7 questions above.
My monthly “Living Wall Success” webinar is coming up this Wednesday, June 13th and its the perfect venue for more fully disseminating and discussing the answers to the questions posed above. Even if you do not attend the webinar, it will be recorded and the link to the recording will be posted on our social media outlets, website etc.. You can either register for the webinar on our website event calendar or check back for the recording and review it as much as needed.
I prefer that you register for the webinar, bring your questions and ad to our discussion live. See you there!

The webinar is complete now and it went well with lots of questions and participation by the attendees.
Rather than posting a new blog as a follow up, I am dropping some of the slides and info from the webinar right here for review. You can reach out to us for the recorded webinar if you want to see and hear the live recording and we will be happy to send you the YouTube link.
 
Maintenance Webinar Title Slide
Living Wall Maintenance Webinar Title Slide
 
Elements of living wall fear
The Living Wall Fear Factor
Before we can deal with the 7 questions posed for discussion earlier in this blog post, we need to talk about the effect of fear on the whole process!
Remove fear with clear and complete information, plus confident understanding of a systems maintenance needs and drive up the use of those systems across the board!
 
Living Wall Maintenance Answers
Answers to Living Wall Q1
All walls need maintenance. Living Green walls of all types need it but it can be predictable. Even non-living walls need maintenance and it can be problematic since designers and owners are not expecting any maintenance.
 
 
 
 
All walls need to be maintaiined
No Free Puppy – Q2
 
Living Wall Maintenance Begins with Designers
Living Wall Answers – Q3-Q7
We discussed quite a bit more than is delivered in the slides here and you may want to dig deeper. Please reach out to us on our contact page and we will be happy to send you the link for the recorded webinar or to discuss it all directly. Send in your questions and maybe we can help out.
We want you to be an advocate for Living Green Walls and Slopes so that we can all benefit from the beauty and environmental performance!
 
Living Wall Construction
Living Wall Construction