June 20, 2019 | 74° F

Living Wall promotes health, wellness at Rutgers

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

The living wall is found in the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) building, and spans three floors. Its purpose is to showcase a diverse selection of plant life in order to benefit the building’s aesthetics while also promoting health.

Featured in the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) building, which was completed in 2015, is the largest interior living wall in New Jersey. 

“(The IFNH) underscores the commitment of Rutgers University to new transformational initiatives across the many disciplines impacting food, nutrition and health,” according to its website.

A modern steel, glass and brick structure, it also houses the Center for Childhood Nutrition Education and Research (CCNER), the Center for Lipid Research (CLR) and the Harvest Café. 

The wall spans three floors next to the staircase past the labs and childhood development areas in the IFNH. Rather than a wall simply painted green, it is comprised of various species of plants, growing together on a vertical plane, seemingly rooted to the wall. 

It covers approximately 1,320 square feet with more than 5,200 plants of 46 different species, and was awarded the 2016 Landscape Architectural Merit Award: Planting Design from the New Jersey Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA), according to Greenroofs

The wall was designed by EcoWalls LLC, which was founded by Rutgers alumnus Michael Coraggio, shortly after he graduated with a degree in landscape design in 2008. EcoWalls LLC worked together with The Ballinger Company, an architectural firm, and Parker Interior Plantscape, Inc., a display company, in order to implement the design.

“(Living walls) create biodiversity, improve air quality, they can filter water and act as a bio-filter, so they’re an interesting way of solving problems,” Coraggio said, according to American Farm Publications

Living walls need specific lighting, irrigation and rooting techniques to be sustainable, according to Greenroofs. Indoor spaces usually do not apply enough ambient lighting for the plants to survive. 

“One of the things I found interesting in the industry as a whole was the sustainability factor of living walls,” Coraggio said, according to American Farm Publications. “They always looked good going in, but after about a year, they were going through 90 percent plant replacement on some projects.” 

The purpose of the wall is to showcase a diverse selection of plant life in an unexpected way in order to benefit the aesthetic and biological quality of the building, as well as to promote health and wellness. 

The intention was for it to become a tool for instruction and an educational destination for certain courses, according to Greenroofs.

The solution EcoWalls settled on after drafting all supporting construction drawings, conducting a feasibility study and coordinating the design was to use a specific medical-use foam to anchor the plants in the living wall system. 

According to Greenoofs, the wall was designed to be 100 percent water efficient, meaning it would reclaim and reuse all leftover water involved in the system. Light fixtures were also placed onto the staircase to provide sufficient light energy for the plants. 

Coraggio said all of his clients are unique, so he has to tailor each space according to its variables and limitations. 

“My job is to relay the information the architect needs and create a sustainable outcome for the client, so we’re one piece of a larger puzzle,” he said, according to American Farm Publications. 

Audrey Xu

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