green walls, PNC Plaza, PNC green wall, PNC Pittsburgh
Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo
The 2,380 square-foot-"green wall", installed recently at One PNC Plaza, an office, hotel and
condominium project in downtown Pittsburgh, was photographed on Oct. 5, 2009.

Corporate Green Walls Could Inspire Energy Conservation Efforts

October 13, 2009 05:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
An enormous green wall has been installed at PNC headquarters in Pittsburgh, an extreme energy-saving method that can be recreated by homeowners and businesses on a smaller scale.

Green Walls Taking Hold

Taking the concept of green building and landscaping a step further, PNC Financial Services Group Inc. has affixed hundreds of vegetative panels to the side of its headquarters building in Pittsburgh. The two-foot by two-foot panels together compose what is known as a green wall “the size of two tennis courts,” according to Dan Nephin for The Associated Press.

Green walls, which are naturally insulating and reduce air pollution, have already been put in place on buildings in other cities, such as Los Angeles and New York. According to Joanne Westphal, a Michigan State University professor of landscape architecture, green walls provide shade that helps keep buildings cool, and “help capture rainwater and release it more slowly into the atmosphere and stormwater systems,” Nephin reported.

Green walls are already popular in Asian cities, where a lack of space makes the vertical vegetation a perfect alternative to sprawling gardens, Plenty Magazine explains.

The PNC Wall and Green Living Technologies

The average cost per square foot of green wall is between $100 and $125, according to George Irwin of Green Living Technologies LLC, the Rochester, NY-based company that grew the plants for the wall and built it. The company asserts that each green panel on the PNC building “can offset the carbon output of one person a day.” PNC claims its green wall is “the largest in North America,” totaling about 2,400 square feet of “more than 15,000 ferns, sedums, brass buttons and other plants,” Nephin wrote. The wall was designed by Kari Katzander of Mingo Design of New York, according to the PNC press release. Katzander, whose Web site describes more of her work, has also designed walls in New York City.

Background: Landscaping to reduce energy costs

Over the past year, vegetated rooftops have been showing up in surprising places, including Major League Baseball stadiums and New York City factories. These green roofs, topped with grasses, succulents and other vegetation, are being built across the United States and Canada due to increasing efforts to prevent pollution, lower energy costs and thwart runoff.

Homeowners and businesses can also reap the benefits of green roofs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes “beneficial landscaping,” also known as either “natural” or “native” landscaping, as an approach that hinges on the balance between human needs and the needs of ecosystems. The EPA outlines the principles of beneficial landscaping, including reduced use of pesticides and power equipment, and practices that conserve soil and water. Also learn energy-saving techniques, such as how and where to plant deciduous and coniferous trees for optimum shading.

Use the color-coded Regional Climate and Microclimate map provided by the Energy Efficiency Advisor to determine a landscaping course of action suitable for your “regional and local climate.” Scroll down the page for a list of related articles, including “Energy Efficient and Green Home Remodeling” and “Conserving Energy One Window at a Time.” 

Visit Sustainable Sources for energy-saving landscaping tips, including windbreaks, using vines and arbors to create shade and different types of heat absorbent and reflective materials.

Related Topic: Making home improvements in a recession

Many people that want to renovate during the economic downturn are choosing small, affordable and green projects that still provide the satisfaction of bringing something new to their homes. A crucial first step for homeowners is assessing the investment to determine whether a renovation is financially sound. Some home improvements can help homeowners begin saving immediately, such as energy-saving features and appliances for kitchens and bathrooms, while others may provide savings over the long term.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines