COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The ‘Living Wall’ at Texas A&M is bringing life back into the city of College Station as hundreds of plants improve the quality of living conditions.
These plants, along with their structure, serve as a protective layer to buildings, shielding them from excessive heat or cold as Texas climates range.
This 14-foot wall according to professors at Texas A&M is the key to a smarter city.
“To design a living wall system that would accommodate the plants that might possibly grow on a living wall here in Texas,” said Bruce Dvorak, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Texas A&M University. “Since it gets hot here, we have some extreme climate conditions, the plants need plenty of soil and moisture to grow and thrive.”
Bruce Dvorak is an associate professor in landscape architecture at Texas A&M and says he worked on developing this wall with graduate students.
“They came up with some research on temperature of different surfaces so that we could design the system so it wouldn’t get too hot and we did different things with the design to make the plants grow in that condition,” said Dvorak.
One of those graduate students is Karishma Joshi.
She says the living wall became part of her life.
“My time at Texas A&M it was always studies and the Living Wall,” said Karishma Joshi, Landscape Designer/Texas A&M Graduate. “It’s so close to me as a student and I’m really happy that it’s still standing and it’s green because every time we replant it, we actually measure how the plants are working.”
Joshi says the ‘Living Wall’ is economical as they take scrap metal pieces and reuse it in the environment.
“It’s a circular economy,” said Joshi. “We are making use of the waste coming out from car industries and converting it into a very nice, sustainable design solution.”
Dr. Ali with the school of architecture at Texas A&M says he partnered with General Motors and received twenty tons of sheet metal to sample to create the plant structure.
“It’s not just another living wall but it acts as skin or an envelope to the building,” said Dr. Ahmed K. Ali, Associate Professor of Architecture, Texas A&M University. “It shields the building from excessive heat and provides a secondary envelope for the building.”
With over 300 diamond shaped planters, Joshi and other researchers determined how vegetation would survive in Texas weather.
“How do they perform in the Texas climate and it’s a south facing wall so even that’s a challenge, and we have to work with metal and that’s an additional challenge to deal with the microclimate,” said Joshi.
While researching how successful the living wall would be, Professor Dvorak says the winter storm in 2021 caused them to start over.
“It knocked back all the plants, or most of them,” said Dvorak. “We had to shut the water down. We had to essentially replant the wall.”
Joshi says working on this research project has spearheaded projects of her own as a landscape designer.
“It really creates an impact having worked on this kind of research which actually came into reality,” said Joshi.
Dr. Ali and Professor Dvorak say the hope of this wall is to inspire other companies to adopt similar structures to see the positive effects it has on the community.