The green façade wall project on the 85,000-square-foot Whole Foods flagship store along the Chicago River demonstrates how green façade walls can be a successful plug-in within sustainable design best management practices. By incorporating the component technologies of green façade walls, porous pavements, green roofs and native plants, designers have created an award-winning amenity that also maintains a commitment to clean water through on-site management. All of these elements would play a significant role individually but completed together is where the true regenerative potential of urban design can be explored.
The incorporation of green façade walls increases the hydrologic capacity of the landscape by vertically increasing the amount of rain-interceptive vegetation and helping to control runoff at the foundation of the structure. Water uptake is increased due to additional root mass as well as beneficial cooling from plant evapotranspiration. With the inclusion of a cost-effective green façade component on this project, the ecological benefits of the natural system are extended and the overall functioning of the natural system to meet water engineering requirements is achieved.
Additionally, the biological benefit of the holistic system is increased by the use of green façade technology. The emphasis on the plant palette was extended to the vertical plane to increase the benefits of shelter, food source, pollination and habitat reconstruction. The landscape architects at Wolf Landscape Architecture implemented the use of green façade walls as the long-term solution to providing a biological corridor that interfaces with architecture and the landscape.
The site design goal was to discover the relationships that are critical to the functioning of natural systems, both human and natural, in an urban environment and to express visually through nature the connectivity and importance of water management to the survival of both. The realized goal was that through a systems-approach design, adjacent and existing natural systems like the Chicago River can be embraced to provide the ultimate goals of protection and public access.
What once was an abandoned industrial site and surface parking has been transformed into an 85,000-square-foot LEED®-certified urban renewal driver that has established a new segment of the Chicago River trail. As a testament to the success of the project, the Whole Foods project received a 2014 Award of Excellence in the Exterior Green Wall category from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC), and the Friends of the Chicago River awarded the project a first-ever Silver Ribbon Award in recognition of those who strive for the ideal in sustainable design for humans (public access), water (hydrology) and wildlife (ecology).
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