Greener BeeGreen LivingTrendy ‘living wall’ installed at Grand Rapids wastewater treatment plant

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Lush, green “living walls” made a big impression during ArtPrize 2014: a pattern of plants spelled out a giant word — “breathe” — in what was then the B.O.B. parking lot.

You can find living walls in the Downtown Market, and in upscale high-rise condos overlooking the Grand River. 

But the latest installation? Where Grand Rapids treats the city’s wastewater. 

A storage building in the back of the city’s property at 1300 Market Ave. SW has two sides covered in native greenery. 

The addition is part of the city’s effort to re-brand the facility from a familiar “wastewater treatment plant” to, as it is now known, the Water Resource Recovery Facility.

The facility does clean up wastewater, but the department’s work goes beyond that. They’re responsible for adding rain gardens to city streets and parks projects.

And they’re embarking on a new $21 million biodigester installation to better handle waste from large-scale industries like Founders Brewing Company. The biodigester will produce enough energy to power more than half of the facility.

The living walls were added as a part of an $80,000 project to restore the landscape after a bypass channel was added in between aeration tanks at the plant. In addition to the two large live walls, a retaining wall and native plants were also added.

The walls will become a highlight for facility tours, which the department likes to encourage and promote. Guides begin by showing off green initiatives like rain gardens, porous concrete and water quality islands, and then walk guests through the treatment facility.

Native plants in the new installation include: 

  • “Palace Purple” coral bells 
  • “Autumn Bride” coral bells 
  • “Dale’s Strain” coral bells 
  • “Summer Beauty” ornamental chive
  • “Blue Wonder” catmint 
  • “Gold Carpet” sedum 
  • “Takahira Dake” Kamtschatka sedum 
  • Narrow leaf bluestar 
  • “Solar Cascade” goldenrod 
  • Purple bergenia 
  • “Bevan’s” bigroot geranium 
  • “Ingwersen’s Variety” geranium 

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