Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina is home to one of the most impressive living walls in our country. The campus’ Rogers Science and Health Building displays a double helix pattern created with different types of flora installed along the 24 feet wide by 35 feet tall wall. The recently completed building is Platinum LEED-certified and acts as a symbol and tool for teaching about botany, irrigation systems and environmental conservation.
Sustainable landscape designers Denise Eichmann and Mark Hawry, along with the university’s Dr. Reed Perkins worked hard to identify the appropriate plant species to be installed. A vertical wall is an unnatural growth environment for plants in terms of several factors, requiring sufficient research for a successful design. The designers found a range of plants that could handle the drainage, solar input and elevation conditions of the wall without disrupting the surrounding plant life.
The wall features 14 non-invasive plant species, among them sedges, Christmas ferns, coral-bells, sedums, English lavender, yellow jasmine and lenten rose. The installation process involved the implementation of over 700 panels that were labeled so that the correct plant would make it into the container that allowed the double helix design to come to life. The DNA strand is made up of evergreen plants so that it stays green year round, and the flowering greenery surrounding it changes the viewing experience for each season.
A unique irrigation system captures rainwater and feeds it to seven different zones on the wall, each of which contain like plant types. Each zone is watered and fertilized separately from one another through an automated system, and a drainage system allows spent water to be properly re-circulated. The green wall also absorbs the solar energy thus cooling the building, an essential architectural feature for those hot North Carolina summers.
The green wall is a symbol of a botanical life support system, and showcases the building as “a place of science, discovery and imagination.” As Dr. Perkins states: “Queens University of Charlotte is demonstrating conservation, as the abundance of green design features ensures that students learn both in and from the building.” The double helix wall is an impressive display of greenery and blossoms that act as a tremendous inspiration and a symbol of our ability to collaborate with plant life for a mutually useful and beneficial outcome.