Biowall is back in bloom, but horticulture program denied maintenance work due to ‘liability issues’

Melissa Marchand, an interior design student in her fourth year, was in the ACCE building last Friday sitting near the biowall. “I’m really happy they replanted the wall, this is my zen area,” said Marchand. After looking brown and dead during the pandemic, the biowall is again alive with plants. Marchand noted the abundance of […]
Photo: Leslie Bader
Rising over 20 metres high, the biowall is a prominent feature of the ACCE building.

Melissa Marchand, an interior design student in her fourth year, was in the ACCE building last Friday sitting near the biowall.

“I’m really happy they replanted the wall, this is my zen area,” said Marchand.

After looking brown and dead during the pandemic, the biowall is again alive with plants.

Marchand noted the abundance of natural light, and that when it was quiet she could hear the water running, a sound not heard for over a year.

Fourth-year interior design student Melissa Marchand takes a study break with a classmate.
Fourth-year interior design student Melissa Marchand takes a study break with a classmate. Photo credit: Leslie Bader

Horticulturalist and grounds maintenance manager Amanda Carmichael outlined the series of events leading to the demise of the previous plants.

“The pandemic affected all of us in so many aspects and, unfortunately, it wasn’t different with the biowall,” said Carmichael. “The lift used to access and maintain the wall requires annual recertification to operate and it can only be provided by two companies, which are both American.”

As the Canada/U.S. border was closed, technicians could not travel to the college, which meant the lift could not be used to service the irrigation system.

Last spring, the lift was back in action moving flamingo flowers and philodendrons up and down the wall, while a maintenance crew worked below, carefully washing soil from a shipment of corn plants.

The biowall uses a hydroponic system which allows water and fertilizer to bathe the roots tucked into fabric pouches.

Horticulture program coordinator Tommy Wingreen said the department was involved with the biowall in the past but is no longer involved in any way.

“We used to be able to have our students participate in the maintenance, but due to liability issues, we are no longer doing that,” said Wingreen,

When asked to comment on past student involvement, Carmichael said it may be true, but if so, it preceded her role with the college.

The biowall is 21 meters tall and requires Working at Heights and Fall Arrest Training to be in the basket, as well as Arial Lift Training for operating the lift.

Carmichael said she was confident that decisions regarding the biowall’s maintenance were done with students’ best interests in mind.

“Our students’ health and safety will always be our top priority,” said Carmichael.

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