University of Guelph-Humber plant wall in late September 2019

In the beginning of September, the plant wall suffered a technical glitch.

The biofilter plant wall was installed at the University of Guelph-Humber by Nedlaw Living Walls in 2004.

In the beginning of September, the plant wall suffered a technical glitch. According to Monique Lee, maintenance specialist at Nedlaw, the wall’s computer monitoring system falsely read that the wall was getting watered by the pumps. As a result, the wall had no water for what the company spokesperson said was a short period and it dried out. After Nedlaw maintenance workers shook the dead leaves off the plants, new buds began to grow in.

Lee said, “for plant walls or any plant in any horticultural system, when there’s no water, plants are stressed,” said Lee, “their immune system is compromised.”

The wall at Guelph-Humber is an active biofilter which uses the plants to filter and clean the air. As the wall continues to heal, it decreases what Lee refers to as sick building syndrome, in which poor ventilation conditions affect stress of students and staff.

The wall has been known by students to bring positive change in their moods. Shelby Lafreniere, a visiting Seneca College student said, “I think it’s really soothing to look at… I got up to go get food and when I saw it, I actually felt happier.”

Jimmy Vincent, the coordinator of camps, education and community outreach at the Humber Arboretum said, “tropicals are very, very difficult plants to grow in the first place. So when you’re trying to grow them in such a precarious growing condition, sometimes there can be challenges.” Vincent mentioned how impressed he is with how the plant wall is maintained.

The plant wall is completely integrated into the ventilation system of the building, but the ventilation system has not been affected by the drying out of the wall, as it has been hydrated since the technical glitch. 

According to Lee, the plant wall is connected to the ventilation system; the air flows in and out of there and the plants detoxify the air. None of this process was affected during the glitch, said Lee.

Colm Millar, a first year Family and Community Social Services student said, “it gives its own unique kind of twist,” said Millar, “you see that and know it’s Guelph-Humber.” 

First year Humber student Marcus Furtado

Marcus Furtado, a first year Humber College student described how the plant wall increases the awareness of  green initiatives and helps the environment in post-secondary facilities.

Vincent said that some people looking at the wall will think no one is caring for the wall, but that the care is not the issue, maybe one of the plant species had a growth issue, or there were pests damaging the wall. Lee said to keep the plant wall resilient “we just do more regular visits to keep an eye on things, but she’ll be fine.”