Living wall now dead

Following complaints and high maintenance costs, HOL's living wall is coming down

The House of Learning's living wall was somewhat of a centrepiece for the building. (Sean Brady/The Omega)

The House of Learning’s living wall was somewhat of a centrepiece for the building. (Sean Brady/The Omega)

The House of Learning’s living wall is coming down following complaints and problems with maintenance. The removal of the four-storey-tall six-meter-wide wall of plant material began last week.

TRU’s Director of Facilities Warren Asuchak cited a number of reasons the wall had to come down.

“With the right budget, the right amount of maintenance, a living wall can be fabulous,” Asuchak said.

But the location of HOL’s living wall was not ideal, Asuchak said. Between two external doors, it was difficult to control temperature and humidity and plant die-off was the result.

“In the right application, there are probably some buildings on campus, in a more controlled environment, where we could have done a great job with it,” Asuchak said.

Money was also a problem. According to Asuchak, facilities was spending approximately $1,000 per month to maintain the wall, plus replacement plants to account for the ongoing die-off. Initially, it was thought that the wall wouldn’t be a major source of maintenance.

The wall was also the subject of a number of complaints, which includ­ed an “objectionable odor,” humidity problems and a wet floor. The com­plaints on humidity problems came from library staff in the building, who worried that the increased humidity wouldn’t mix well with books on hand.

The wall was somewhat of a point of pride for the university, and often a showcase of the building, which officially opened in 2011. The idea behind the wall was to purify the air and regulate the temperature in the building, although many have blamed the wall for failing to do the latter.

“The living wall saves energy costs, improves building acoustics and ensures optimum air quality for building occupants,” is how the wall is described on TRU’s website.

Before the decision was made to take it down, staff and faculty in the House of Learning were consulted, with 71 per cent of the 45 respondents agreeing that it should be removed.

Seeking further consultation, Asuchak said he was told by an archi­tect he consulted that the energy put into constructing and maintaining these living walls might never be offset by the amount of carbon filtering they produce.

In its place, Asuchak said a series of woodgrain panels will be installed.