Making a living wall

(Edmonton) As students and staff head back to campus after the summer break, the Tory Business Atrium has a new look. A living wall now adorns the north wall of the space. 

The idea of installing a living wall was born out of a conversation between Ray Dumouchel, associate director of facilities and operations, and Wayne McCutcheon, manager of landscape maintenance and construction.

The living wall is made up of 1,800 plants and is featured over three “H” shaped sections. While one might think that the shapes were intentional, “it was merely designed that way to cover up the dark brick on that side of the building,” said Dumouchel. “The design shape, though, is fitting for Henry Marshall Tory and I think he would have approved.”

The plants are in flowing lines and, in addition to providing a visual improvement to the space, will also improve air quality, says McCutcheon.

“Considering how much time we spend indoors in winter, the revitalized space will provide a nice place to take a break from the elements outside,” said McCutcheon.

In addition to the living wall and new planters, the furniture has been refurbished and a new layout and lunch counter will be in place for the start of classes.

The wall itself, McCutcheon says, is fairly low maintenance and will require little watering. “The atrium is even brighter now that the trees are no longer there, allowing for more natural light,” he said. “It changes the way the whole space looks.”

The trees, which have been a fixture in the atrium for the past 25 years, are no longer in the space. “They reached their life expectancy and needed to be removed after years of trying to deal with an aphid problem,” said McCutcheon.

Dumouchel and McCutcheon are part of the team responsible for buildings and grounds on campus and, despite having to remove the trees, they wanted to bring the outdoors inside for all to enjoy. The solution after some research was a living wall.

The team working with Dumochel and McCutcheon worked tirelessly to get the space ready for September and provide a welcome-back atmosphere for students and staff.

“We wanted to make it a space where students and staff could meet, eat their lunches and just relax. We hope with the new look that it ill be a welcoming space,” said Dumouchel

Plans are already underway to change out the planters seasonally to keep the look of the space fresh and timely.

Dumouchel won’t rule out the idea of other living walls on campus, but will wait to see how this “first” works for his team before considering adding future living walls in other parts of campus as space and budget permits.

“We’re really excited to welcome everyone back to this new space.”