D.I.Y, HOW-TO & SUSTAINABLE LIVING
Vertical Gardens: Saving Water, Space & Waste
Maybe you've been looking at that tight alley running up the side of the house wondering how to get a garden bed and the bins to fit in there. Or perhaps you're tired of looking out the bathroom window to a completely blank timber fence. Either way a vertical garden is going to make those areas look amazing! But that's not all a green wall can do for you and your family.
According to a Monash University study, "Green walls, or vegetated walls, offer multiple benefits in urban areas, such as temperature control, energy savings, increased livability and acoustic dampening, with the addition of space saving, as they are suspended on building walls."
Read on to learn how these eco-friendly, modern systems can do all that!
Are you on water restrictions from your local council? Or just tired to standing in the yard with the hose? Atlantis Gro-Wall® are the perfect solution for both indoor and outdoor vertical gardens with automated watering. Vertical gardens are created utilising natural soil mixes to retain nutrients. This modular system, as well as geofabric strips in each pot, enables localised moisture retention and access to individual plants.
Because of this useful framework, and the angled planting style, the plant's leaves are exposed to as much sunlight as possible, while the soil remains shaded. This means less water is required to keep the plants healthy, when compared to a comparable sized open garden bed.
Depending on the type of green wall system you are using, it may come with a drainage/excess water collection channel. Otherwise, you can still create a catchment at the base of your wall and actually reuse that water for the same garden, or other areas of your property! In order words, no water is left to evaporate on your outdoor pavers, the deck and so on.
Gro-Wall® modules can be fixed to any structural wall including brick, concrete, wood, sheet metal, drywall and other surfaces. The modules allow for vertical and horizontal expansion and require only standard potting mixes. No framework is required as the structure is self supporting. You can even have your walls back-to-back for a brilliant eye-catching centerpiece in the garden.
The range includes a unique facade-style structure made from the same durable material. It is made up of small individual pieces that connect together without the need for glue or cutting. This makes Gro Wall Facade the perfect framework for green walls that need to fit into a very specific shape or tight space. It's also very cost effective for large areas and can double as fencing with the right framing.
Of course, these vertical gardens would be on Eco Sustainable House if they weren't made from eco-friendly materials. In the case of the Atlantis Gro-Wall® products, and our Australian-made Green Wall Pots, they are made from at least 85% recycled polypropylene. This plastic is fully UV stabilised, doesn't react to ground chemicals and won't leech anything into the soil. They have a lifespan of 50 plus years!
The Monash University study mention above was conducted on the pollutant-scrubbing properties of green walls. It found that most such walls produced a significant impact on the pollutants in the air around them. Their research also showed that using grey-water on your green walls didn't affect this ability to offset fossil fuels.
Plant replacement is also greatly reduced, with a 0-5% rate when using the Gro Wall systems (assuming correct maintenance), compared to an industry standard of around 30%.
Feel free to browse our Vertical Gardens page for more information on individual models of green wall systems or email email@example.com with your enquiry.
Infiltration Tank Installation Guide
Whether you're a tradie looking to use the Atlantis underground infiltration system for your next project, or a homeowner who needs a versatile stormwater solution, Eco Sustainable House can help. We've compiled a basic guide below to give customers and installers alike an idea of how the system is put into the ground and assembled.
The photos shown here and the steps laid out are based on a typical infiltration tank for a residential project. Atlantis Flo Tanks can also be used for Detention and Rainwater Harvesting applications.
1. Assemble the tanks onsite
Once you've purchased your Atlantis Flo tank modules, they will arrive in flat packed bundles. This makes them easy to transport to where your tank is being installed, saving the need for cranes and other heavy machinery. Using a rubber mallet and a bit of manual labour, anyone can assemble the tanks.
Each tank only takes a few minutes to put together, as the video below demonstrates.
The simple pin and hole system allows you to customise the number of internal plates to suit the loading requirements. Plus, you can stack the modules vertically just by leaving out one of the large plates off each cube.This means you can create any shape for your infiltration system and minimise the lateral area needed to meet the water storage requirements.
2. Excavate pit & lay geofabric
Excavation may be completed prior to the tanks arriving or being assembled, or the tanks might be ready to go in already. In either case the pit needs to be sufficient size to accommodate not only the modules themselves, but the minimum top, side and base backfill.
Rainwater and On Site Detention tanks would also require an impermeable liner along the base and up the sides to be installed at this stage.
If possible, lay a base (100mm) of smooth, clean washed river sand, free from lumps or debris that may damage the geofabric or make the tank uneven. Keep an eye out for the presence of soft or muddy soils, as your system should be at least 1 metre above the ground water table.
3. Place Flo Tank Modules inside pit
Thanks to their light weight and modularity, the Atlantis Flo Tanks are much easier to install than the concrete equivalent. Each module can be moved by hand and placed side-by-side with the others to create any shape. This means you could have an L-shape or U-shape, or any other orientation you need to fit your site. If loading tanks stacked Triple or greater, we recommend using a hand trolley or lifting with two people.
The modules do not need to be connected or glue horizontally. Assuming they have been place correctly on a flat surface, there should be no gaps in between. Using string lines as a guide, and starting in one corner, is a good way to make sure the system is lined up correctly.
4. Cut holes for inspection ports & filtration system intake (if required)
Depending on the application for your tank, you will have additional pipes going in and out of the system. This may be a filtration unit, an overflow pipe, an inspection port and so on. The recycled plastic of the matrix units can be cut into without worry of affecting the structure of the area around it. A jigsaw or equivalent tool can create the required holes easily. For larger units you may even want to do this step before some of the modules are placed into the pit.
If you are using plastic liner and geofabric, these will likely need to be cut as well. Refer to your manufacturer's instructions for this. Alternatively, a specialist company may provide a liner that has be pre-cut to fit your tank.
5. Wrap all tank modules in geofabric/geotextile
Assuming the geofabric has been laid correctly in Step 2, workers on site should now be able to simply fold those layers over the top of the tank. Aim to have a minimum overlap of 300mm at the joins and seams, with duct tape or equivalent used to cover where they meet. Try to use as few separate pieces as possible by opting for wider width rolls of geofabric.
The result should be a neatly wrapped tank covered on all sides with the fabric. Sealing the system in this way prevents backfill materials from entering the system.
If you are using a plastic liner, follow this same method for that as well, though welded seams may be required for certain retention applications.
6. Backfill area with desired substrate
Starting with the sides of the tank, refill the pit with soil, sand or equivalent backill material. Only leave your inspection ports and the top of the filtration unit uncovered. Never use infill materials containing clay. Compact the side fill as it is laid, in 150mm lots. Use a mechanical compactor if possible as the vibration will help eliminate any minor gaps between the modules
Minimum backfill (above the tank) for pedestrian loading is 300mm, preferably of washed river sand compacted to 95% proctor density. This increases to 600mm for vehicle loading applications. There should also be some side backfill, maximum 500mm, before the excavation line. Base fill as discussed in step 2. Be careful when placing the first layer on the top of the newly place tank so as not to move the tanks or break the geofabric lining.
Consult with an engineer and advise ESH if you are creating a concrete slab above the infiltration system. This will ensure the right number of internal plates has been used to cope with the weight.
Erect erosion control devises or otherwise direct any stormwater runoff, debris, silts or clay away from the tank until it has been commissioned by the plumber. And there you have your Atlantis system ready to meet all your infiltration needs!
*Please note this is a general guideline only, refer to the Flo Tank Assembly Guide linked below for full specifications.
ESH provides support only, and does not take responsibility for commercial estimating or specifying.
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Counting Trees: How to Make the Most of Recycled Timber
Wood is one of the oldest building materials, an architectural staple that never goes out of style and can last generations. It’s a way to bring instantaneous character even to brand new homes. Melbourne architect Anthony Chan said, in an interview for Domain.com: “So many projects are flat with render, steel or glass, but timber gives a building warmth, texture and contrast.” We see it favoured above other materials not just for it’s ability to harmonise with almost any room, but also because of it’s environmental benefits – as the process of growing trees for timber removes CO2 from the atmosphere it’s considered the only renewable building material.
But how do you know for sure that your wood has been responsibly grown? There’s a bevy of stamps, labels and symbols but if you’re looking to truly minimise wastage during your next project – recycled timber is a must. Some go as far as to say “… it is no longer palatable or responsible, to use materials that are unlikely to be locally recycled, reused, or that don’t address life cycle issues, resulting in waste in landfill, anywhere in the world.”
Using recycled timber can help prevent the CO2 it stores from being released back into the atmosphere if it were to be burned or discarded in landfill. It’s also the most financially sound investment, often costing a fraction of that of new timber. There are psychological benefits to having timber in your home, too – having wood in your interior has a positive effect on stress levels that even live plants can’t beat.
So where do you start when bringing recycled timber into your home or workplace? With the timber itself. You can find floorboards, cabinets, old doorframes, posts, beams and furniture someone has ripped out during their renovation on any online marketplace. The risk here is sometimes the wood can be damaged, rotted or termites may have gotten to it, so depending on what you would like to use it for you should inspect your fleamarket find carefully before you use it. Another option is to go to a recycled timber specialist to buy either a fully-constructed piece or the materials you need. Like buying a secondhand car from a car yard as opposed to off a stranger, the price may be higher, but the quality will be too. You’ll find unique furniture and remilled timber of a guaranteed standard without any nasty surprises.
You’ve purchased your timber, now what can you do with it? Better to ask, what can’t you do with it. New decks, pergolas, support beams, flooring, garden features, planter boxes and much more can all benefit from the rustic, characterful look of recycled timber.
Unless specially treated, timber should be kept away from extreme heat or open flame so bear this in mind when you’re deciding what to turn your recycled timber into. Be sure to look into new innovations with paints, stains and other coatings. Special clear epoxy resins can protect your outdoor furniture from UV discolouration and give it water resistance, all while still showing off the natural beauty the material is loved for. You’re giving this timber a new chance, so protect it correctly and you’ll have something that will last generations to come. It’s worth the investment!
Brownfield Sites, Meet Industrial Buildings: The Perfect Ecological Solution
Brownfield sites, land with known or suspected pollution, have always been a bit of an ecological conundrum. It’s not always possible to return them to the environment if they’ve been contaminated by waste, but they’re not an attractive (or safe) place to build a family home, either. So, what is there to do about these unused swathes of land? One ingenious solution is the conversion of industrial buildings to luxury apartments.
Industrial buildings don’t always come with brownfield sites, but the two go hand-in-hand; often, whatever industry was there before was the cause of the polluted land in the first place. However, these barren fields and vacant warehouses are seeing new life in the “warehouse conversion” movement throughout Australia. By returning these fields to the city through converting them into housing, it changes them from a waste of space to a brilliant piece of prime real estate.
The warehouse conversion concept has been popular for some time, but its trending rise has spurred a truly eco-friendly reuse of the brownfield sites that the warehouses sometimes sit on. Like we stated above, the sites can’t really be given back to the environment, so the only options are to rebuild or leave what’s already there.
Obviously, if the brownfield site is unsafe for habitation, efforts to remedy that need to be taken first. However, leaving the buildings that already exist on these properties instead of tearing them down both preserves their history and saves money. That’s why the warehouse conversion and the brownfield site go together so well; attractive apartments can be built within the existing infrastructure that’s both cheaper and arguably as in-demand as new construction.
Unfortunately, the idea isn’t perfect. Since the buildings are so large, they’re not particularly eco-friendly, and they often face challenges due to the level of technology they were built with, such as inefficient ducting, plumbing, or wiring, unless these are fixed artificially. The large buildings are also very expensive to heat in the wintertime. In comparison to alternative options, though, the warehouse conversion option is still tough to beat.
Once a brownfield suite is decontaminated, the question often remains what to do with it. However, with the luxury-apartment-warehouse-conversion option, we have a relatively cheap way to repurpose the real estate of the original building, all while preserving its history. While the buildings themselves may be less than perfect to begin with, the repurposing of the land is certainly an environmentally friendly message that many have heard.
If you’re considering a warehouse conversion, or just have an industrial site you want to be more eco-friendly, have a look at Eco Sustainable House’s full range here. With rainwater tanks, venting skylights, solar hot water, green walls and much more, you can really transform any building.
Alicia Rennoll (Environmental Research)