Students help build wall of greenery

The outdoors is coming inside of the Agriculture building.

Laurent Corradi and Marie Christine Steffanetti, both renowned hydraulic system engineers and co-founders of Vertical Gardens Technology, LLC out of New York City, visited SIU Thursday to construct a plant wall in the Agriculture building. They will work on the project through Friday, and the end result will be a wall covered in shrubs that are planted into it.

Karen Midden, an instructor of plant, soil and agriculture systems, said while green walls are in Chicago and St. Louis, this is a first one in southern Illinois and the agriculture department is very proud.

She said she began construction plans in March when she was notified the SIU Sustainability Council’s Green Fund Committee granted the department the money needed for the project. The funding came from a $10 green fee that began in fall 2009.

Students pay the fee one time each semester, and the money goes toward projects that advance campus sustainability, according to the university’s sustainability website.

Midden said she visited New York in April to observe different green walls and learn more about their construction when she met Corradi at the Vertical Gardens Technology.

“It was completely by coincidence that (Corradi) happened to be there the day I was visiting,” she said. “Once I began telling him what I was doing, he became interested in coming to help because he has never been able to work on a project with students, so this is a first for him.”

Corradi said he did not expect so many people to offer help with the construction, and he believes the extra hands will help speed up the process.

Midden said the wall begins with plants that have already grown. When Corradi and Steffanetti construct a wall, they staple tile over the area the plants will live, place felt material over the tile, cut slits into the felt and place a plant inside each slit. The wall is linked to the building’s plumbing and electrical system and is automatically watered periodically, Midden said.

“We work closely with architects and designers to create a living art piece using live plant materials and help them to bring the project to life,” Steffanetti said.

Aleshia Troutman, a junior from Flossmoor studying plant and soil science, said she is a student in Midden’s class and has enjoyed the hands-on experience.

“The green projects are a lot of fun, and we all learn a lot from them,” Troutman said. “I don’t know exactly what I want to do yet once I graduate, but this is helping me learn about different aspects of agriculture.”

Midden’s classes have also helped build rain gardens and a green roof earlier this year.

“I truly believe that plants can change a person’s mood and spirit for the better, which is why I love what I do,” she said.

 

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