University of York
The University of York’s new Environmental Building practises what it preaches with a flourishing living wall by ANS Global.
The University of York has demonstrated its commitment to advancing knowledge and sustainability in the built environment by installing a verdant living wall. Designed, planted and installed by ANS Global, the living wall is sited on the south elevation of the University’s new Environmental Building. It formed a fundamental planning condition of the construction project, which incorporates a number of sustainable features and connects to the University’s existing district heating system.
A key aim of the project was to create an innovative learning and research space to house the University’s Environment Department, the York Environmental Sustainability Institute, the Stockholm Environment Institute, and the Bioarcaeology Department. The three/four-storey building on University’s Campus West features laboratory and teaching facilities, an auditorium and office space with a total GIA in the region of 4850 m2.
The 220 m2 living wall incorporates a series of large windows, which means it actually covers 143 m2 of the building’s exterior. More than 21,830 plants were used in its construction, all chosen for their important contribution to biodiversity and wildlife. The objective was to attract bees and butterflies in particular; hence the planting arrangement of blue, purple, pink, white and yellow foliage - selected because the insects are drawn to these colours. Incorporating a range of species indigenous to the local area, the wall will change with the seasons and continue to bloom all year round.
“We wanted to deliver an exemplary building for the University of York that complements and manifests the ideals of the academic departments housed within it,” said Bharat Patil at Bond Bryan Architects, the company responsible for the design of the Environmental Building. “We had used an ANS Global living wall in one of our previous projects and it ticked all the right boxes in terms of quality and sustainability. Living walls have an array of ecological and practical benefits for a building and its occupants, so this formed an integral part of our design specification on this project.”
Providing a strong visual impact and sustainable message, a green wall can help to reduce the carbon footprint of a building by keeping it cooler in summer and warmer in winter, thereby reducing the need for mechanical heating and cooling. It protects exterior walls from weather damage and corrosion, and adds sound insulation, which is particularly useful in busy urban environments. Due to plants being a great source of oxygen, living walls can also offer natural ventilation and assist with air purification, helping those in and around the building to breathe more easily.
The modular structure of ANS Global’s living walls makes them very easy to install and maintain. The pre-grown cells add instant visual impact and start providing biodiversity and ecological benefits as soon as they have been installed. They incorporate a rainwater harvesting system which works to keep the plants hydrated and in optimum condition using the most natural, energy-efficient method possible. Moreover, the soil and foliage have water and pollution absorption properties that traditional building materials do not offer, bringing further eco-benefits to the built environment.
“ANS Global was really helpful with the design and detailing for ancillary components such as box window surrounds and end cappings,” said Lucy Morris at William Saunders Architects, who provided Contractor design expertise on the project. “The proposal was supplied to the Main Contractor (Morgan Sindall) as a part of the Employer's Requirements, and I’m pleased to say that the end product still looked great when viewed this summer, six to eight months after completion.”
The University of York’s living wall has helped put the £13.9m Environmental Building on track to achieve a Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology (BREEAM) Excellent rating for sustainability. The team are currently awaiting final BREEAM certification.
Bharat Patil added, "The green wall adds vibrancy and excitement to the user's experience whilst providing an instantly recognisable symbol of a world-class sustainable design.”
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The Environmental Building is a flagship project where the University has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to sustainability and environmentally friendly design, construction and building operation. The living wall is a stunning example of that commitment and is something that the University and the entire project team involved in its delivery are justifiably proud of - Gary Ashmore, Head of Estates Development