Tag Archives: Green projects

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:

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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

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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.

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There’s gold in your gray water

An inside look at the rainwater capture system's holding tank

An inside look at the rainwater capture system’s holding tank

Along with a new age of sustainability comes new interest in gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems.  These systems capture water from your house’s bathroom sinks, showers and rainfall then reuse it to irrigate the lawn and flush the toilets.

The engineering behind the effort can be tricky, but in the simplest terms it goes like this: water from the “gray water sources” gravity-flows into a collection basin. A pump in the basin then pushes the water through a filter and disinfection array and into a storage tank.  The water in the storage tank is periodically circulated to keep it clear and bacteria-free. Finally, a pressure controlled pump automatically delivers recycled water to your irrigation system when your irrigation timer activates. It’s simplistically complex.

Whether on a household level or a commercial level, many have decided to invest in the water conservation effort.  Gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems can save 50 to 70 percent of a family’s monthly water usage. You’ll save that same 50 to 70 percent on your water bill.

How much does it cost to install? Do-it-yourself systems start at $3,500.  Systems for average sized homes start at $11,000.

To learn more, visit www.reusegraywater.com

A small, home-installed system

A small, home-installed system



A 10,000 gallon holding tank for a rainwater capture system being buried underground at the Santa Monica Library


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After a nine-year cleanup, Port of Everett site is a winner

ESY Before and NowThe Waterfront Place Central cleanup at the Port of Everett was named the Environmental Project of the Year by Washington Public Ports Association.

The site is a 65-acre former industrial property in the heart of the port’s 2,300-slip marina, which it says is the largest public marina on the West Coast. The site will become a new mixed-use development with public access, retail, commercial space and housing. Construction is expected to begin on that in 2016.

Between 2006 and 2015, the port has done cleanup projects across the 65-acre site, removing nearly 150,000 tons of contaminated soil, remediating groundwater plumes, dredging sediment from the bay, and removing failing bulkheads and other old creosote-treated wood structures.

Strider Construction did the upland cleanup, and Magnus Pacific did the in-water cleanup.

The port worked with Ecology to divide the 65 acres into six separate cleanup sites, with the ultimate goal of creating a new waterfront destination in Everett. The final, major cleanup at the site will be complete this month.

Port officials say Waterfront Place will unify the marina and surrounding property to create a unique community.

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