How to Design and Install a Living Wall

As rooftop gardens, hydroponic installations and the like continue to grow in popularity among restaurants and other retail businesses, designers now find the need to build their list of contacts to help them learn more about designing and even constructing green spaces.

Designing and installing green or living walls have certainly become a big part of the mix, and while they might not be the most complicated to maintain, they require some careful planning and collaboration prior to installation.

“Installing a green wall is not cheap, but it can be a strong branding or storytelling opportunity, and some restaurants use them to grow herbs and vegetables for the menu,” says Mike Bell, CEO of Bell’s Landscape Services Inc., in Wixom, Mich., which provides commercial and residential landscape construction and maintenance. Bell has worked with a variety of green wall suppliers.

“There is a lot of strategy that goes into designing them — more than people might think,” Bell adds. And he should know. Bell designed and installed two green walls at Brome Burgers & Shakes in Dearborn, Mich., among other green walls in restaurants, offices and other building spaces throughout the state.

Here Bell offers a quick list of the top steps involved in designing, installing and maintaining green walls.

Step 1: Choose Your System

It’s best to first decide what you want the living wall to do for your operation because this impacts what type of system you choose, says Bell. A restaurant might view a green wall as a way to support a farm-to-table message, offer a different kind of artwork, or think of it as functional, such as a way to grow herbs and vegetables for the menu.

Some green walls use hydroponic growing systems that expose the roots of the plants to trickling water via a drip system set at an angle so the water cascades down the unit. This system may be easier to install but the danger of having open water flowing creates the potential for fungus and mold to develop, Bell says.

Another system uses soil and planter boxes with probes that send water directly to the roots. Because of the use of soil, this system can accommodate both smaller and larger plants, including vegetables.

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