Behind the Living Wall

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Our wall! What in the world happening to our beautiful living wall?! A couple of months ago the maintenance team started noticing plants dying off and so the detective work began to try and solve the mystery of the dying wall. Here’s a look at the factors which contributed to our beloved wall’s shabby appearance.

Lights. Unlike the sun, the energy emitted by light bulbs slowly degrades over time. This degradation which occurred at a rate faster than anticipated means that although the lights were on for 8 hours a day the concentration of light was too low for plants to sustain metabolic activity. This degradation coupled with a sensor failure led to the current situation. A system of sensors is in place to monitor the environmental conditions of the living wall, however when this system fails it can be difficult to determine what the root cause of the problem is as was the case this past summer. 

The living wall is a massive six storey high hydroponic system installed vertically (for added challenge). The plants receive a continuous flow of water and nutrients which cycle around the system. As plants soak up this delicious mixture of water and nutrients more water is added and again more nutrients. Sometimes too much of a good thing can in turn become a bad thing. 

In order to maintain an optimal balance of nutrients and water, the water already in the system needs to be flushed out from time to time. However the incoming water has to be just right, plants unlike human are not well adapted to deal with rapid temperature changes and even the slightest change can sometimes cause wilting or death.

Now that our dear wall has been diagnosed, it’s nearly time to bring it back to its leafy splendour! There are roughly 2000 plants on the FSS living wall comprised of 12 species which filter the air of FSS. 

 ~ alice - outreach and communications coordinator

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