Future of Flora

Sourced from The Eagle

Ten feet tall and composed of about 300 metal diamonds, Texas A&M University’s newest living wall is no ordinary garden.

What was once a blank expanse of brick now hosts a variety of Texas-tough plants, attracting small wildlife and catching the eyes of students as they walk past A&M’s Langford Architecture Center. Designed and built by two professors and a team of graduate students, the first-of-its-kind system eventually may be found off campus and around the world.

For Bruce Dvorak, associate professor of landscape architecture, the story of the wall starts on top of the Langford Center, where, in 2013, he started work on a green-roof research project. These specially-designed rooftop gardens can help manage stormwater runoff, conserve energy and reduce air pollution in urban environments. Before joining A&M, Dvorak had worked on several other green roofs, including one on top of Chicago City Hall that helped popularize the concept throughout the Midwest.

As part of Langford’s green roof, Dvorak and his students installed three different living wall systems from vendors, hoping to test their effectiveness in College Station’s climate. Whether it was due to a lack of proper growing space or ineffective irrigation, none of these walls stayed green for long.

“They all died,” Dvorak said. “Every one of them has their own issue.”

With these issues in mind, Dvorak later joined forces with Ahmed Ali, assistant professor of architecture, and a group of graduate students. In the fall of 2017, they started designing a wall of their own.

One key difference this time around was the material. While most current living wall systems use plastic or fabric containers to hold the soil and plants, Ali brought something new to the table. He previously had secured two tons of leftover sheet metal from General Motors, giving students the raw material for a host of different projects and helping avoid the high energy cost associated with recycling steel.

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