Tag Archives: green building

Here’s how to build a vertical garden

The following post is an excerpt from Mainland Aggregates Blog

The_Ultimate_Guide_to_Building_a_Vertical_GardenAt first glance, one might not think that small spaces and gardening are much of a match, but the revolutionary idea of vertical gardens is quickly changing that perception.

Urban gardens or apartments have limited space available, but you can still grow flowers, herbs and vegetables, if you decide to set up a vertical garden.

Setting up a vertical garden may take a lot of work, but don’t get discouraged.  The fruits and veggies of your labor will be well worth the effort.

You have two options when deciding to build a vertical garden:

  1. You can call in a specialist, like a botanist, an urban greening specialist or a bio wall designer, which will make your job very, very easy. He will do all the planning and the work and you will just have to take care of the wall afterwards.
  2. Or you can do it yourself. A successful garden is earned through a trial and error process. There are books that can teach you, but experience will be your best professor.

Here is a list of books that will help you through the whole process: Books to Check Out
vertical garden book collage

Things to consider:

  1. What do you want to grow?
    Flower, vegetable, herb, or fruit?
    For more information on what grows best in vertical gardens, check out What Should You Grow?
  2. How much time, money and labor will this take?
    Tending a vertical garden may require a lot of time from you.  Harvest amounts depend on the square footage of your garden.One grower in California produced 500lbs worth of greens in one year from a 5 by 20 foot section. She grew vegetables and herbs such as tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchinis, basil and lettuce.This grower spent 8 hours initially to prepare her growing space.  Another 30 minutes of daily hand watering for a few weeks, until her plants were large enough to use the irrigation system.  And for the rest of the season, she spent 1-1/2 hours each week tying, tending and finally harvesting her vegetables.
  3. Where will you set it up?
    – Determine whether the vertical garden will be inside your house, or outside on the garden, lawn, terrace, or balcony.
    – How long does the sun shine on your location? Plants need as much sunlight as possible, so if your terrace doesn’t get much direct sunlight, you might not have the results you hoped for.
    – If you choose a location near a window, you may want to consider pest control.
    You will be building racks to support the plants, which will lean or attach to the wall.
    – Think about the irrigation system you need to put in place and how you can set that up in relation to the water pipes inside the house. Make sure not to flood your neighbors.
  4. How much will it cost? Most vertical gardens are inexpensive. There are several types you can try, such as PVC, wood, metal or plastic, but none of them are pricy.An outside vertical garden can cost somewhere between $50 and $300.  Inside gardens will be more expensive because you’ll need to waterproof the area.A DIY garden will always be cheaper than one designed and erected by a specialist. Don’t be afraid to do it yourself. It’s not too difficult.

Patrick Blanc’s Waterfall at the New York Botanical Gardens

Building your Vertical Garden:

  1. Build the Frame
    A vertical garden is made of three layers, closely attached together – the frame, the plastic sheeting, and the fabric.  You will want to build the structure before you hang it, which will make it easier for you take down.The frame can be built with PVC pipes which are sturdier, lighter and less expensive than metal.  You can build the frame yourself, using ¾ inch PVC pipes, elbows and four-way joints.  Tools and kits may be available at your hardware store.Alternately, you could use a system of wooden stacked vertical garden planters.  But wood may not be the best choice because it requires pressure treating for water protection and may still rot.
  2. Add the Plastic Sheeting
    Use expanded PVC sheets, which will act a back-up for the layer of fabric, and which is easy to attach. If you are installing on wood wall instead of a PVC, you will need to ventilate behind the wall.
  3. Add the Fabric
    Carefully attach the fabric firmly to the frame, as this is the actual layer in which your plants will be seeded and grow and which will hold the water they need.We recommend felt carpet padding, but you can use any material that holds water and doesn’t rot.To build it:
    – You will need two layers of fabric.
    – Attach the layers directly to the frame with galvanized screws of stainless-steel staples.
    – Make sure the layers are pulled so they don’t have any wrinkles or creases.
    – Attach it firmly so that it can hold the weight of vegetables and water.
  4. Add the Irrigation System
    It’s not possible to water vertical gardens manually like with horizontal gardens. You will need an irrigation system that will keep the fabric and the plants moist at all times.We recommend calling in a plumber or specialist for this step.  Even if you’ve chosen to do this project yourself, we recommend bringing in an expert so that you don’t parch your plants or flood your house.Some water will leak at the bottom of the vertical wall. You can add more plants below the structure to capture the excess water.
  5. Add a fertilizer injector
    A fertilizer injector will sprinkler liquid fertilizer on your plants all year long. It will make this process more time-efficient and spare you some manual labor.
  6. Work on the design
    You’ll want to think about the appearance of your wall before you start planting.  Here you have endless possibilities.  If you are growing decorative plants or flowers, it will be easy to give your vertical garden any shape you want, just keep in mind vegetables are heavy.
  7. Plant your plants
    With a sharp knife, make a small horizontal cut in the fabric of the installation.
    Thoroughly clean the plants root of any soil or debris in order to keep the roots from rotting.  Insert the plant into the slit you just made.
    With staples, attach the fabric to the plastic back, in a not too tight, but close semi-circle, in order to create a stable and protective envelope around the plant.

And that’s it!

Pick your own red ripe tomatoes from the vine for salad, make a strawberry pie with your own fresh fruit, or read a book in the shade of your flowery, natural wall.  A vertical garden is a rewarding return to nature in the middle of the crowded city.

Check out this DIY video from PopScreen on How to build a Patrick Blanc style vertical garden:

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Take look at the “world’s greenest office tower”



Tom Paladino’s company was on the design team for the Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh and he says the project changed his life.

The Tower at PNC in Pittsburgh is being billed as the greenest office tower in the world. It has a skin that breaths, a solar chimney, a park in the sky, wood-clad porch doors, indicators that tell you what the weather is outside, and something called The Beacon – an interactive light sculpture that broadcasts data about how much energy the building is using.

The tower is shifted on the podium and street grid for maximum sun exposure.  A double-walled “breathable” facade provides a thermal buffer while allowing air to pass through.

Operable Skin, The Tower at PNC

Operable Skin, PNC Tower

So what’s a solar chimney? It’s a vertical shaft with a rooftop solar collection panel that creates an updraft that draws cool outside air through the skin, across the floors, and up and out of the building, without requiring fans, for almost half the year.

A “living room” space links every two floors of the building, and a five-story indoor park offers views of downtown Pittsburgh.

The Park at The Tower at PNC

The Park at PNC Tower

Paladino acted as owner’s representative on sustainability and LEED management issues.  The 800,000-square-foot, 33-story building was designed by Gensler to reflect PNC’s commitment to green building, energy efficiency and innovation.

The design and systems will help reduce energy consumption by 50 percent and reduce water use by 77 percent compared with a typical office building, Paladino said.

“It was ridiculously simple, and at the same time,  a challenge in its aspiration,” said Tom Paladino in his blog post on the tower.

“LEED shifted from being the purpose of the green building program to being one of the desired results. We moved to a higher purpose, creating a headquarters that would serve PNC as another tool of the business.”

The building was designed to be “the most progressive workplace ever and to attract a highly social, digitally native, and an environmentally conscious work force,” Paladino said.

The Tower at PNC is built green for future generations to enjoy.

The tower cost $400 million.

ESI Design's Beacon at PNC Tower

ESI Design’s Beacon at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

Outdoor space at PNC Tower

The Tower at PNC

The Tower at PNC

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Lake Washington School District honored for sustainability

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

McKinstry is recognizing the Lake Washington School District as a “model of Northwest sustainability and environmental stewardship,” with its Champion of Sustainability award.

The district was honored during the Sept. 27 Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.

In partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, the annual Champions of Sustainability program recognizes one organization during a regular-season home game that exhibits  innovative energy and waste reduction in the built environment.

What did they do?
In 2006, LWSD adopted a resource conservation management  program focusing on energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction. Since then, the district has saved $9 million in utility costs despite having increased its buildings’ square footage and number of students.  Electricity use has fallen by 20 percent and natural gas consumption is down 30 percent. Conservation-minded students also helped trim the district’s waste disposal budget by 42 percent.

LWSD also has the largest solar energy capacity of any school district in the state, at 615 kW – enough energy to power about 60 homes. The solar panels at Finn Hill Junior High alone account for 355 kW.

Geothermal heating systems have been installed in its new high schools and several elementary schools. Because the temperature underground stays constant throughout the year, geothermal systems that circulate water through the ground can heat schools using much less energy than standard systems.

Rain gardens and other sustainable stormwater management practices at schools save LWSD $64,000 annually, as compared to traditional water treatment systems. The measures also reduce the concentration of pollutants funneled into local waterways.

Last year, the district renewed its commitment to sustainability by launching powerED, a behavior-based program designed to bring new levels of effort and tools to conserve utilities, increase efficiencies and promote sustainability in LWSD schools.

About the Champions of Sustainability Program:
McKinstry’s Champions of Sustainability program is part of the Defend Your Turf campaign, aimed at water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and community involvement within CenturyLink Field and Event Cente,r as well as in terms of its impact on the city.

For more information on Defend Your Turf, visit www.centurylinkfield.com/defendyourturf.

About McKinstry:
McKinstry has implemented a number of facility-wide energy conservation initiatives at CenturyLink Field and Event Center, including the installation of one of the largest solar arrays in the state, mechanical system upgrades, high-efficiency lighting and ultra-low-flow water fixtures. These upgrades make the stadium a national model for sustainable sporting facilities.

McKinstry is a full-service, design-build-operate-and-maintain (DBOM) firm specializing in consulting, construction, energy and facility services.  For more information, visit  www.mckinstry.com.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

How green is the future? Yudelson’s 2014 predictions

The following post is by DJC staff:

Sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson, has released his annual list of the top 10 green building trends and says he expects this year will see a rapid increase in energy retrofits on existing buildings, a new focus on water conservation, and a switch to cloud-based systems for monitoring and managing energy use.

Jerry Yudelson

He says the expansion will be global thanks to the economic recovery in most of Europe and North America. “There is no doubt that we are seeing more agencies, architectural firms, development organizations and companies building green each year,” he writes, “and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its constituent elements.”

By the way, Yudelson also announced he is the new president of Green Building Initiative, the organization responsible for the Green Globes green building rating and certification system that he says is increasingly competing with LEED.

Yudelson Associates’ Top 10 Green Building MegaTrends for 2014

  1. Green building in North America continue its strong growth in 2014, with the ongoing expansion of commercial real estate construction together with government, university, nonprofit and school construction. This will build on the fact that in 2013 green building project registrations in new construction accounted for about 30% of all new projects.
  2. In 2014, there will be rapid uptake of energy-efficiency green building retrofits.. Note: this trend will be strongest in corporate and commercial real estate, along with the “MUSH” market (Municipal, University, School and Hospital) projects, given the availability of cheap financing and the rise of numerous new players in the building energy retrofit market. Yudelson says absolute building performance, and resultant operating cost, (vs. the relative improvement approach still enshrined in most rating systems) is going to be an increasing focus for building owners.
  3. Zero-net-energy buildings are become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors. LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications and labels have become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage among building owners. Developers of speculative commercial buildings have also begun to showcase Zero Net Energy designs in order to gain marketplace advantages. Systems such as the Net-Zero Certification of the International Living Building Institute are driving this trend, but it has been growing steadily for about five years.
  4. LEED will see enhanced competition from Green Globes. This trend is supported by the fact that the Federal government has released its “once every five years” assessment of rating systems and has now put the two systems on an equal footing for government projects. More importantly, LEED will struggle to convince owners, designers and consultants in all sectors that LEED v4 represents more value than hassle.
  5. The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from certifying new building design and construction to full greening of existing buildings. This trend has been in place since 2010, and we expect it to accelerate in 2014.
  6. Green Buildings will increasingly be managed by information technologies, especially those in the “Cloud.” This trend is reflected by the large number of new entrants and new products in fields of building automation, facility management, wireless controls and building services information management over the last three years. In fact, we are calling 2014, “The Year of the Cloud” for how quickly this trend will become fully established.
  7. Green Building Performance Disclosure will continue as a major trend. This is highlighted by disclosure requirements enacted in 2013 by more than 30 major cities around the country, laws that require commercial building owners to disclose actual green building performance to all new tenants and buyers and, in some places, to the public. This trend will spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor reductions in carbon emissions from commercial and governmental buildings.
  8. Healthy Building Products, Product Disclosure Declarations, along with various “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern to healthy building advocates, will become increasingly contentious. This trend has manifested through such tools as the Health Product Declaration and the inclusion of points for avoiding certain chemicals contained in LEEDv4, currently scheduled for full implementation in 2015. We predict that building product manufacturers will increasingly try to gain or maintain market share based on open disclosure of chemicals of concerns. We also foresee that industry-developed disclosure systems will begin to compete with systems offered by dozens of third-party rating agencies.
  9. Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow, especially because of the prospect of increasing focus on implementing aggressive state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2020 and the move toward zero-net-energy buildings. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for larger rooftop systems on low-rise commercial buildings, parking garages, warehouses and retail stores, as well as on homes.
  10. Awareness of the coming crisis in fresh water supply, both globally and in the U.S., will increase as global climate change affects rainfall and water supply systems worldwide. Leading building designers, owners and managers will be moved to take further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings by using more conserving fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new onsite water technologies.


Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

When it comes to certified wood, GSA is right to question LEED

The following post is by William Street:

Contrary to what Meghan Douris wrote in these pages in your Building Green issue (“Is LEED’s Future with Federal Projects Under Threat?” 2/28), the Government Services Administration is correct to seek opinion regarding LEED’s acceptability for public procurement projects, given the cost involved with LEED certification and LEED’s unfortunate discrimination against two respected and widely used certification standards, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS).

Photo by Luciano Burtini/sxc.hu

There's more than one forest certification system.

The fact that GSA is seeking input on their use of green building rating systems is a positive development. This will hopefully shed light on the problem with GSA’s use of the US Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. USGBC, unlike Green Building Councils in Italy, Germany or Australia — all of which recognize the importance of all forest certification systems — has been victimized by narrow interest groups seeking to push their own political agenda at the expense of actual science-based energy efficiency, local jobs, competitiveness and inclusivity. USGBC has never publicly explained why they only reward wood certified to the Forest Stewardship Council standard.

PEFC, the world’s largest and only purely non-profit forest certification system — which includes SFI and ATFS,  both of which are independent, non-profit, charitable organizations — has proven on every continent and in all governmental procurement and independent and neutral evaluations that it is a superior system to FSC. PEFC affiliates are recognized by Green Building Councils in many other countries, but not by the USGBC. Thus, wood products from SFI and ATFS are placed at a market disadvantage while forest products from FSC (many of which are sourced outside of the U.S.) are accepted, even though FSC‘s for-profit structure is not recognized by, and fails to comply with, the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and ISO guidelines.

In the U.S., SFI and ATFS are the only forest certification systems to require and enforce compliance with the International Labor Organization’s core labor standards for forest workers.  Strong labor standards mean safer work, better wages, sustainable jobs and viable rural communities that depend on them.

Rather than attempt to create a monopoly for FSC, USGBC should do what practically every other national and third-party system has done: recognize and reward wood from all sustainably managed forests. To do otherwise is to promote deforestation in the tropics and the conversion of sustainably managed forests here into resorts, golf courses and second homes.

It’s well past time to stop fighting over the well-managed forests of North America and start speaking with a single voice to send a unified message to the rest of the world: that green buildings benefit from using wood from all sustainably managed forests. By speaking with a single voice, Americans can truly be a force against deforestation and the conversion of forests to other land uses.

William Street is director of the Woodworkers Department of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter