Is it possible to replicate a natural ecosystem on a building’s facade?

Is it possible to replicate a natural ecosystem on a building’s facade?

vertical garden spain

In some parts of the world it would be a major triumph if we were able to clad a building with indigenous plants. For this reason the new vertical garden growing on the front of Palace of Congresses Europe (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain) is of tremendous interest.

Successfully recreating a natural ecosystem can add a tonne of environmental value to any development project. It is certainly a noble goal; unfortunately recreating nature is not that easy, especially when you are trying to build a plant community in a highly modified environment,  like a vertical wall.

Irrespective of the planting bed location (ie wall vs ground) recreation of a natural plant community is usually a hard task. The difficulty can be partly attributed to the history of horticulture. Traditionally plant knowledge has been focussed on amenity species rather than say obscure plants that support rare insects. Recreating natural plant communities is a relatively recent design approach. Unfortunately time is required to accumulate knowledge of plants. It is not easy to quickly understand the behaviour of plants in a range of given conditions.  Money is also another stumbling block. Larger budgets are required to fund the procurement of rare plants. Ongoing budget is also required to pay for the more intensive maintenance costs frequently associated with natural plant communities.

These issues have not stopped Urbanarbolismo and Unusualgreen studios. The design team has completed the 1492m2 vertical garden at the Palace of Congresses Europe with the aim of recreating the ecosystems of the surrounding landscape.

It may be the very first project of its type. It will be a very interesting project to watch.  This project offers a possible template for testing plant communities throughout the world.

The designers’ describe the project as follows

The design performs the ecosystems that exist in the surrounding of the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. From left to right the facade shows the wetland vegetation of Salburua, the agricultural field plots Alava, the ecosystems from the loamy hills and beech forests of the mountains of Vitoria.

At the base of the facade we have placed a corten steel backlit socket which contains an explanation of the ecosystems and plant species of the vertical garden. 97% of the species used in the garden are native or endemic from Álava.

This is one of the first vertical garden reproducing native ecosystems of the area where it is located. The use of native plants in the design has been one of the main challenges of the project, many of the plants from Vitoria are adapted to periods of drought and are struggling to survive in moist environments such as conventional vertical gardening systems. For this project we redesigned the f+p system, optimizing substrate saturation so that these plants can perfectly grow .

The hydroponic system used to maintain this garden gives the optimal substrate nutrient conditions , pH, conductivity and humidity for this type of vegetation, the whole system is monitored by remote control in order to save water , energy and supervise the development of plants .The main reason to make the project was to improve energy consumption of the Palace of Congresses, the vertical garden “f + p preplant ” system adds a thermal resistance of 2,644 m2.K / W . This represents a 270% increase on the existing facade insulation, resulting in energy savings.

The use of native plants in the design has been one of the main challenges of the project, many of the plants environment Vitoria are adapted to periods of drought climate plateau and are struggling to survive in moist environments such as conventional systems Vertical gardening.

For this project we redesigned the system f + p optimizing substrate saturation so that these plants can thrive perfectly.The hydroponic system used to maintain this garden gives the optimal substrate nutrient conditions, pH, conductivity and humidity for this type of vegetation, the whole system is monitored by remote control in order to save water, energy and control the development of plants.

vertical ecosystem

 

Urbanarbolismo and Unusualgreen studios