Federal St goes green: GreenAir installs New Zealand’s largest living wall

3 June 2014

Business is looking up on Federal St, Auckland, with the recent installation of New Zealand’s largest living green wall.

Federal Street in central Auckland is now home to the Southern Hemisphere’s first ever circular green walls, which encase seven pillars that rise to meet a 48m long living green wall above. 

GreenAir is responsible for the design, build, installation and maintenance of the green wall installation. The installation has a total area of 130 square metres, containing 3500 plants. 

Introducing greenery, biodiversity and improved air quality into this challenging city-centre location was a challenge, and installing the green pillars required a creative engineering and planting approach. 

GreenAir designed and constructed circular Fytowalls to wrap around the columns and support the plants, working on the project with landscape architects Boffa Miskell since late 2012.

Fytowalls are vertical ‘planter’ panels, with pockets that contain a non-soil growing medium, which are used to grow plants vertically.

The pillar planting, inspired by the under-canopy of the Waitakere Ranges where GreenAir CEO Simon Chamberlain grew up, contains more than 80% New Zealand native plants.

But the selection of plants provided its own challenges.

“Parts of the green wall are exposed to the Southerly wind at one end and have limited direct sunlight,” says Simon. 

“We needed to be sure the plants would thrive in the location, and that hardier species would protect more vulnerable ones.”

The columns don’t just look like tree trunks, but have been designed to work like a tree trunk from an ecological perspective too.  The top of the columns will be colonised by larger species, which will grow up, extending to the horizontal green wall above. 

“We combined New Zealand natives, like climbing rata, coastal and fragrant ferns, so the seven columns, right in the city, would remind people of the plants that grow up tree trunks in the bush,” Simon says. 

Once established, the plants will work like a tree canopy. The plantings below the canopy will reflect natural ‘epiphytic ecologies.’ An epiphyte is a plant that grows on the trunk or branch of another plant, deriving its nutrients from the rain or air.

The top, middle and lower canopy species of the installation are arranged to suit light and wind exposure; and the thickness, angle and length of the plants around them.

The green wall is part of the Federal Street shared space project, a joint initiative funded by Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and Sky City.

Auckland Council estimates the social cost from air pollution in the city to be $1.07 billion. Studies show that in city streets bounded by buildings, careful placement of plants can reduce concentrations of nitrogen dioxide by up to 40%, and of microscopic particulate matter by up to 60%.

Auckland Council Design Champion Ludo Campbell-Reid says,

“The green walls on Federal Street give the experience of our native forests where you’d least expect them – right in the heart of the city centre.”

Watch Simon on video by clicking here. The link is available until Friday 6 June.

GreenAir’s marketing and PR has been supported by another SBN member, GoodSense, since 2011.