Mark PaulGreenwalls – latest fashion or much more

My profession and passion is the building of greenwalls. I have been designing and installing them for over twenty five years. In this time I have learnt how to choose the most suitable plants; how to support and feed them and how to maintain the walls. I have learnt that as with all things horticultural the devil is in the detail and not all greenwalls are equal.

Internal green wall at Origin Energy, Melbourne

Internal green wall at Origin Energy, Melbourne

It seems to me that the idea of green walls or vertical gardens is the new gardening trend. Wherever I look, whether it is a blog, a magazine or a gardening show on TV there are articles and beguiling pictures of the latest examples. Some have edible plants; some are simple to install; and some are absolutely massive. Like all horticultural fads and fashions some will last and provide benefits, some will wither and die.

What is a green wall? Well, there are millions of examples in nature. When, you see a rock or tree colonised by plants, you’re looking at one of nature’s living green walls in action. These natural green walls are the ultimate testament to persistence and survival. From location to location the plant survival rates differ according to water, air, soil, temperature, nutrients and the light. It is the naturally occurring green walls that have inspired me and provided the vision of reclaiming the built environment.

Origin Energy Greenwall, Melbourne

Origin Energy Greenwall, Melbourne

Myths and Misconceptions

I find that there are many misunderstandings as to what are greenwalls. When people discover what I do, they always appear interested, but there are many misconceptions. Here I share a few of the common ones.

1.    Greenwalls are all the same. There are big differences in greenwalls. I specialise in greenwalls that are built to last, easy to maintain, and of course easy on the eye. I do not build them to supply food. The ones that we design and install have several major features, including;
•    The plants are chosen to increase biodiversity
•    The growing media is environmentally sound
•    They are maintainable. There is nothing sadder than a green wall which is dying, or dead, or sparsely planted.

St Rose PET Project Bottle Greenwall

St Rose PET Project Bottle Greenwall

2.    Greenwalls are expensive to install and maintain. In my decades of experience I have built and maintained many greenwalls; some of these are enormous installations, such as the twenty two storey green wall in the Origin energy building in Melbourne.
Other installations are modest in comparison. One of my favourites is one built on the balcony of a high-rise residential apartment in Sydney.
When costings are made I have proven over and over again that these walls, with their many benefits, prove to be reasonably priced. Benefits include provision of clean air and of course there is a ‘feel good’ factor.

3.    All Greenwalls are environmentally friendly. They are not. Some are designed without environmental factors in mind. It is necessary to consider structure, growing media, watering, nutrition and many other factors. Greenwalls and roofs, that are planted in massive podiums are not environmentally friendly, the carbon footprint of these engineered solutions is large. At the Greenwall Company we use recycled materials as our growing media. We also endeavour to place the walls so that they are designed as an integral part of the building and so save additional construction costs.

Pyrmont residential greenwall

Pyrmont residential greenwall

4.    Green walls are a new idea. Not really, there are some very early examples; including those possibly grown in Babylon in 600 BC. What is new is that they are now very popular, but not all examples meet expectations.

5.    Greenwalls are just decoration. Well some are, but a well built wall can contribute to the environment in a positive way. Well designed walls contain species of plants that are grown to promote biodiversity, minimise maintenance, provide insulation and replicate nature.

6.    Singapore leads the way in greenwalls and greenwall legislation. Many countries are now embracing the idea of green walls. A well-designed wall ensures that all components are constructed with environmental consideration in mind. Over engineering of structures, for example, provide green walls that are far from carbon neutral.

Origin Energy exterior with interior greenwall visible

Origin Energy exterior with interior greenwall visible

At the Greenwall Company we strive to provide green walls that provide biodiversity. We also have a dream of greening the built environment; and to this end we replicate nature as far as possible. Twenty five years of experience means that I build environmentally and beneficial walls. They are not ‘bits of green, decorative, fluff’. I would love to receive readers’ thoughts on green walls and on our quest to improve biodiversity. In a future blog post I plan to share which plants we select for our projects and why.

Origin Energy, Melbourne

Origin Energy, Melbourne

Bottle greenwall closeup

Bottle greenwall closeup

Bottle greenwall

Bottle greenwall

 

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Mark Paul

About Mark Paul

Over the past 25 years Mark Paul, a qualified horticulturist has become a name synonymous with reclaiming the built environment, a passion he has had since childhood and which lead him to create The Greenwall Company. With his extensive experience and understanding behind the science of plant biomechanics, Mark pinoneered the installation and design of greenwalls and green roofs in Australia. Mark Paul’s vision for the “future city” is clear: By dressing buildings and giving these unique plants a home and a value, ‘preservation through cultivation’ can make a difference. His success has won Mark several national design awards. More recently Mark took the title of Australian Horticulturist of the Year in 2012 and The Product Design Award in the category of Housing and Building at the 2012 Sydney Design Awards.

6 thoughts on “Greenwalls – latest fashion or much more

  1. Interesting post. I wrote a round-up recently of green walls installed around Europe by French botanist Patrick Blanc. There are lots of claims about their environmental friendliness, and indeed they are increasingly used by businesses to suggest their eco-credentials, but some experts are starting to challenge whether they are really all they claim. There is certainly an issue about maintenance – many of them look rather scrappy after a couple of years – including some big columns Blanc installed in the French Embassy here in Delhi, which I saw the other day.
    I wish I was in Australia and could come and see some of the ones you have built!

  2. Wonderful post, thanks Mark. Can you direct me to any in S E Qld you have built? I am intrigued by the bottle wall you picture. Would like to view detail of how it’s put together.
    I imagine a wall of bromeliads could work as they live on air almost. Imagine the colour and patterns! I have successfully made vertical brom gardens on old stumps. A wall might be a very different matter though. Will definitely research more on this. Thanks for the interesting and inspiring start.

    • Mark Paul on said:

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your interest in our walls.

      Currently we have a wall in King Geroge Square in QLD and one at the Univeristy of Queensland.

      The bottle wall you see pictured was a project I created with a local school in Sydney as an initiative to contribute to National Recycling Week. The bottle greenwall was made out of over 680 1.25 litre PET bottles.

      The idea behind this project was to bring the community together to help collect, recycle and build a sustainable greenwall, while at the same time help reduce our carbon footprint using everyday items to create a beautiful edifice.

      And Bromeliads are great in to use in greenwalls – I love bromeliads myself and frequently use them in my own walls.

      Please feel free to look at our website http://www.greenwall.com.au, and contact us if you would like any additional information or direction.

      Mark

  3. Eugene on said:

    Very interesting post and informative.

    I’m more familiar with greenwalls via glossy lifestyle magazines rather than in the flesh. From a distance they look sublime. Be keen to see more of them, but those I have seen have been disappointing in that they didn’t stand up to close scrutiny. The mechanics looked clunky and unnatural as though the plants are growing out of some weird industrial detritus. I’ve only seen a couple and that was some time ago. Perhaps you could point a Melbournite to some?

    I don’t mean to be rude, but I am not sure I understand what you mean by your “quest to promoting biodiversity”? Could you indulge me by elaborating further please?

    Terrific post though!

    • Thank you for your interest in our greenwalls.

      Our quest to promoting “biodiversity” means by having more species of plants on the greenwall this forms communities, particularly on external walls where you can attract fauna, birds, frogs, lizards, butterflies, caterpillars, etc. Depending on the species you put together, you are then mimicking normal ecological systems.

      Also, by having a greater array of plant species, it also minimises risks for the client and installer for particular species failure from insects, disease and unsuitable plant choice.

      We are also preserving bio-diversity in cultivation of a diverse range of plants, rather than mono cultures, commonly seen in agriculture and many architectural installations.

      Sites to look at in Melbourne, is a difficult request, due to our client’s confidentiality issues. Please feel free to look at our website http://www.greenwall.com.au, and contact us should you require further information or directions.

      Thank you for your interest in our walls.

  4. Vireya on said:

    Recently I was in the Melbourne CBD and discovered that the Patrick Blanc wall in the Melbourne Central shopping centre has been removed. It was looking a bit sad in places last year, but it seems a shame to pull it out rather than renovating it.

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