24 May 2011 –

Three-storey high vertical gardens are the focal point of the atrium at Auckland’s Britomart East building which has a five star rating from New Zealand’s Green Building Council, and houses tenants including Ernst & Young and Westpac.

Designed, built and installed by Natural Habitats it is the largest green wall in New Zealand.

Studies have shown that indoor plants improve air quality through the removal of volatile organic compounds and regulation of temperature and humidity levels.

Natural Habitat said this was achieved by having a custom designed planting palette with a combination of native and exotic epiphytes, ferns, climbers and groundcovers, chosen for their low light and maintenance requirements.

A collection of flowering plants were specially chosen to ensure falling drifts of petals did not stain the steel grey tiles below.

The overall composition was influenced by shadows on the wall during the day, with repetition of planting patterns loosely referencing those found in traditional Maori carvings, the company said.

As the walls are only 120 milimetres deep, containing an inert medium as opposed to soil, they can be easily fixed into the atrium’s existing stud pattern.

Other design features include a customised flat tray guttering system which complements the clean lines of the architecture, a remotely monitored irrigation system and light sensors which ensure additional lighting when light levels fall below minimum requirements.

Sitting between two to five storeys above ground level the walls’ 60 custom made panels had to be carefully installed using a building maintenance unit and abseiling equipment, undertaken by Natural Habitats over a two week period.

Natural Habitats is also responsible for maintenance, inspecting the walls every fortnight.

“The walls’ are essentially a hydroponic system which is fully irrigated and fertigated,” site manager Brent Atherfold said.

“Provided these vertical gardens are properly maintained they will last indefinitely,” Mr Atherfold said.

The wall is being well received by the complex’s occupants. One said: “The green wall has been the single most outstanding feature of our new work environment. It causes people to stop and take time out to look at the detail of it, which is extremely important in an otherwise rushed corporate environment.”

– By Lyn Drummond
editorial@thefifthestate.comau