fmME takes a look at the latest trend in the ME - vertical gardens.
An indoor vertical garden has opened at an arts and cultural centre in Downtown Dubai.
The benefits of the installation include improved air quality and lower energy consumption, providing a natural shield between the weather and inhabitants. It also saves space by using a large quantity of plants on walls in lightweight recyclable metals, with no large pots or plant beds.
It also cleans interior air space in removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other harmful toxins like benzene and formaldehyde.
Mohsin Jawaheri is the project manager and coordinator for the Pavilion and worked with a team from the initial demolition to the fit out with contractor AMBB Interiors and reports to Emaar.
“Each vertical garden is given a unique design and selection of species. The composition of plants takes into consideration the specific environment where it will be built, such as the local and micro climate, sun exposure and the surrounding context,” he said.
“The vertical garden is a very low maintenance installation with trimming and refilling the nutrient box located in the control box.
“A well executed design is also a way to minimise the future maintenance demand of the garden. A plant’s growth habit, size and behaviour on a vertical surface is important to know in choosing the right combination of species, to keep the competition between plants at a healthy level.
Finding the right plant for the right place makes sense for any garden, but maybe even more so in a vertical garden.”
The facility, which is managed by Emaar FM, houses a theatre, library, art gallery and restaurant. It is a non-commercial contemporary art space and has two galleries for local and international artists.
The building was formerly the sales office of Emaar Properties but together with the multidivisional group Cultural Engineering, it joined forces to renovate the building and convert it into a cultural centre.
It also serves as a space for the neighbourhood with a café, operated by Emaar Hospitality Group as well as a cinema, library and bike rentals.
According to Kamal Soubra, landscape manager, Gulf Landscape & Irrigation Systems (GLIS), there are many benefits in having a green wall or roof garden, including the energy costs customers save on air conditioning.
For example, an outdoor grass roof considerably insulates a facility, deflecting the heat of the sun, which is normally absorbed by concrete.
GLIS was founded in 1984 and has a range of services including design, construction and maintenance of landscaping and irrigation projects.
It is currently trialing a number of green vertical gardens in its nurseries.
GLIS has constructed many landmark projects in the UAE including Emirates Golf Course, Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, Nad Al Sheba Golf Club and Horse Race Track, Etisalat University in Sharjah, Khalifa Park in Abu Dhabi, and most recently Dubai Health Care City and Dubai Festival City.
“We are working on installing green vertical gardens on the walls and roofs of certain projects and we are currently carrying out a number of experiments in our nurseries to see how they work with the local weather conditions both indoors and outside,” said Soubra.
“We are doing a number of trials to see which plants are best suited to the Middle East. The green wall is made up of many small components and we take into consideration the shallowness of the pot or container to discover what is the best mix of soil and fertiliser and to see how the irrigation process works.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for the corporate business client or FM.”
Soubra said GLIS is encouraging more contractors to think about having a vertical garden or roof installed in their building or on their premises and clients are becoming more familiar with the idea.
Speaking about how the walled garden works, Jawaheri said a synthetic, absorbent felt surface is attached to a 10mm PVC-board structure which gives an even distribution of water over the surface and provides mechanical support for the plants as they grow attached to the felt.
A cut is made in the outer felt layer and the plants are inserted in between that.
As a soilless surface, the construction is very light, less than 25kg/m². Including plants, but depending of what species are used, the average surface depth is increased with 200-500mm.
“The irrigation system is designed to minimise water consumption. It consists of an automation-unit with equipment for control of nutrient injection and irrigation cycles. When a surface has a variation of sun exposures, the irrigation is divided into segments in order to programme it specifically for each part,” added Jawaheri.
“Within the multi-layered felt surface a drip-tube is integrated. Water consumption varies with heat and sun exposure, but compared to normal green spaces or a lawn, the consumption is normally lower. It averages between 2-5 l/m2/day.”
Direct sunlight can deliver over 100.000 lux whereas the average light level in an office is around 300-500 lux.
“Even if the least light demanding species are used, artificial light is normally necessary indoors. A few species will stay fine at 900 lux, but a slightly increased level on some parts of the surface will broaden the variation of species that can be used.
An artificially illuminated surface has shifting light levels, due to the fact that light reduces with the square of the distance from the light source. Some areas might have 3.000 lux and others 900 lux.
The plant design is made with this in mind, taking advantage of the higher levels for more demanding and interesting species.
As the supply of the basic needs of plants (light, water and nutrients) are automated, this leads to unusually healthy plants and reduces maintenance demand and makes the vertical garden possible to use on high buildings or other places where accessibility is limited.
The garden is designed so that the plants´ natural growth habit is given space. During a year, the garden will profit from pruning approximately two times a year. All plants that are used are perennial, but as the years go by, a few will have to be replaced. These maintenance measures will ensure a long term attractive garden.
It is during the design phase that the final selection of species is made, based on the physical conditions, aesthetic preferences and availability.
At the construction site, the first step is to set up the supporting structure and prepare for the irrigation. When the technical system is completed with the mounting of the felt and the integrated drip-tube, the surface is ready for plantation.
During the whole process a dialogue is kept with the architect and client to achieve the desired result.