New green wonder: the Hanging Gardens of ... Portland?
A portion of Oregon's federal stimulus money is being used to create the world's largest 'living wall.'
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The GSA, landlord for federal office buildings, lists other energy-efficient features: Elevators that generate electricity on the way down, solar arrays on the roof, smart lighting systems that adjust to the daylight available, using some of the collected rainwater to flush toilets.Skip to next paragraph
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The building's three other walls will have less striking treatments: shades on the south and east walls and windows that drink in the indirect north light.
The building's roof will stick out — about 20 feet — and look like a giant mortarboard. The overhang is designed for shade.
But attention is likely to turn quickly to the plans for a greened-up west wall.
Sean Hogan – a writer, nursery owner, and garden designer who worked on a green wall several years ago for the parking garage at Portland's airport – says irrigation and plant selection will be critical to keeping a green wall green in Portland's summers.
Despite its national reputation as a drizzly place, the city's climate is Mediterranean, with warm to hot temperatures from late spring to early fall and little rainfall. Garden irrigation is commonplace.
The idea of vertical gardens has a root in antiquity — the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, probably near Baghdad, were in legend one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Their existence and extent, however, are in question.
More recently, green roofs have become established as a way of providing insulation and controlling stormwater runoff, among other benefits, and green walls have begun to emerge as not only pleasing to the eye but also part of highly efficient buildings.
At small scale, green walls can even provide fruits and vegetables, but they are used mostly for energy and environmental benefits: insulation, cleansing urban air, deadening sound, sequestering carbon.
The president of a trade group that promotes green roofs and walls says the Green-Wyatt installation is likely to be the most extensive in North America so far.
"The GSA has been a real leader in the use of green roofs and walls," says Steven Peck of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. "It's nice to see the government leading by example."
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