Algonquin College – Living Wall Restoration

Last year, our team at New Earth Solutions (NES), successfully restored a failing five-storey living wall at Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario. The wall, originally built in 2011 at the Algonquin Center for Construction Excellence (ACCE), was the biggest living wall in Ottawa for many years. 

The installation at Algonquin College is a testament to their commitment to making all new buildings LEED-certified, creating healthier and more efficient green buildings for the future. The ACCE space is used by staff and students alike, for studying and events such as press conferences and open houses, and is a source of pride for the college.

The living wall at the ACCE, which was originally constructed by a different company, was functioning fine until the pandemic hit in March of 2020 and the college no longer had the resources to maintain it. Amanda Barr, a horticulturist at Algonquin College, explained, “We couldn’t use the lift to get up on the wall. We couldn’t clean the leaves to remove pests or clear the drip lines to ensure water was still flowing out. Additionally, the wall was originally connected to the HVAC control system in the building to help clean the air, but it was slowly killing the plants. So, we had to stop that”, thereby removing one of the major functional benefits of the living wall.

As a result of these issues, most of the plants on the wall died, leading the Algonquin College staff to reach out to New Earth Solutions for assistance. Mitchell Cowburn, co-founder of New Earth Solutions, stated, “We had the right infrastructure to support the repairs and reconstruction of the wall at Algonquin College.” One of our advantages is that our company operates greenhouses that already grow hydroponic plants, which are easier to adapt to a hydroponic wall setting than plants grown in soil.

As our team worked on restoring and reconstructing the wall, the campus occupants were excited to see it replanted. While we were working, our team heard countless stories from the community about how pleased they were to get the wall restored and back in working order and how, before it died, it was one of their favourite parts of the campus.

Each floor of the building has its own relationship with the wall, where visitors can observe its function and enjoy the space. The first floor has a communal area with tables for studying and eating, while the upper floors offer additional study spaces with alternate viewing points of the wall.

Now that the restoration is complete, the Algonquin College community is thrilled to see the living wall restored in all its former glory. Barr had high praise for the New Earth Solutions team, stating they are a “great group of individuals, super professional, and did clean work.” She expressed that they really knew what they were talking about when it came to not only the living wall but about green design and green buildings as a whole. After one week of work, the living wall is once again providing a beautiful biophilic environment for staff and students to enjoy.