September 30, 2020

BY BETH CROUSE

In an effort to combat drab white walls and toxins in the air, a proposed “green” wall was discussed at the Nov. 24 Conestoga Students Inc. board of directors meeting.

CSI board member Colin Gaudet suggested a vertical garden, or living wall, be constructed at Conestoga College’s Doon campus in an effort to turn one of the high school-like halls into something professional.

The green wall would feature hundreds of different species of plants. The benefits that come from having a living wall are numerous. Some of them include increased esthetics, improved indoor air quality, energy savings, health and wellness benefits, acoustic benefits and more.

With Algonquin College and the University of Guelph as examples, “living walls are beautiful works of art that will enhance Conestoga’s professional atmosphere,” Gaudet said.

“The sound you hear in the halls, echoes and stuff, that’s white noise and it bounces off hard surfaces, but the plant leaves absorb sound so this would cut down noise and make places like Door 6 tranquil,” he added.

Another benefit that Gaudet pointed out was the improvement of air quality if the college and CSI go ahead with the plan.

Gaudet addressed the fact that the average person spends over 90 per cent of his or her time indoors so formaldehyde, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and benzene are just some of the harsh fumes that they can be exposed to everyday.

“We build buildings to shelter us from outside but in reality, we release harmful chemicals with building materials,” Gaudet said.

“A green wall can contain over a thousand plants, all of which filter air and, in addition, create energy-rich oxygen, so a 20-square-metre wall can take out as much toxins from the air as a medium-sized tree,” he added.

Studies have shown that simply having a view of greenery increases productivity as well as eases stress and fatigue. Therefore, by adding thousands of plants at Conestoga there will be a major positive impact.

“We are CSI, we’re trying to promote good grades so this is how we do it; this is a large scale version of the oxygen bar,” Gaudet said.

The cost of constructing and maintaining a living wall was not known, but it would be approximately $70,000 to $140,000, depending on which company was contracted to build the structure.

It was proposed that CSI partner with the college to split the cost.

“The interest on the faculty side is there, but they (the college) don’t have the budget to do this alone,” CSI president Jeff Scherer said.

Although the operating and maintenance costs vary, it was speculated that the price would be around $2,400 to $4,800 a year.

Scherer said currently, to maintain four plants, CSI pays $1,400 a year.

In other business board members discussed a potential board game library. The games would be loaned out and would help students socialize, bond, relieve stress and have fun. The board game library would cost approximately $800 and would include 30 popular, classic and lesser known titles such as Settlers of Catan, Monopoly and Carcassonne.

A CSI Leadership Centre was also discussed at the meeting. Sheena Witzel, assistant general manager for CSI, and Lisa Steele, leadership development co-ordinator, gave an update to an earlier discussion held about the creation of a Leadership Centre building. The Leadership Centre would be a shared space with the School of Business and the funds would be drawn from the innovation fund.

More information about this project will be discussed at a future date.

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