Writing is on the green wall in Canadian city
Green walls are increasingly finding a place in urban architecture. Green over grey is the theme of the Semiahmoo Library in the community of White Rock in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. The new wall is the largest outdoor green wall of its kind in North America.

This unique design covers nearly 3000 square feet which represents one wall of the library. It comprises over 10,000 plants of 120 different species. This makes it not only the largest but also the most biologically diverse outdoor green wall in North America. The plants represented are large perennials, shrubs and even small trees.
The mayor of Surrey Watts refers to the wall as “our first large-scale green wall in Surrey. It will be a beautiful, living work of art that will cover the existing concrete wall and provide many environmental benefits, including saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating a new ecosystem in the heart of the city.”

A green wall is a living wall, which is a self-sustaining vertical garden that is attached to the exterior or interior of the building. It is different from a green facade or ivy wall.
In the case of the Semiahmoo library green wall, the large diversity of plant species will create a balanced eco-system that will prove to be an oasis in the urban desert for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. This in turn will be a delight for nature lovers in the population.

According to Patrick Poirand who is a design consultant with the company designing and constructing the wall, “The living wall will help purify the air we breathe, make life more sustainable and bring some green to the grey of the city.” 

The wall, which is already complete, will be in full bloom by the spring of this year. The residents can look forward to seeing the fully grown plants when they come to pick up their favourite reads in the library.

Mala Ashok

Underground hospital in Israeli city
Construction work on an underground emergency hospital in Haifa, an industrial centre and seaport in northern Israel, is now underway. The hospital, at the Rambam Health Centre Campus, is designed to withstand biological, chemical and conventional weaponry attacks. Designed by the Israeli design firm Sharon Arad Architects, the emergency hospital will spread over an area of five acres and cover about 90,000 sq. metres. It is expected to become the largest of its kind in the world when completed in 2012.

The project includes construction of three more facilities on the reinforced concrete surface of the underground hospital: a children’s hospital, an oncology hospital, and a new heart disease hospital. The entire project forms the central part of a new western Rambam campus. The Rambam underground hospital will be a 100 per cent sealed and self-sufficient structure. The floor plan is designed as an aircraft-carrier with a stern, prow and deck markings to represent subterranean parking bays. The hospital will be built at a depth of eight metres below the sea level. It will have the capacity to generate its own power.  In addition, it will be able to store medical supplies, oxygen and drinking water sufficient for up to three days before resurfacing.

The underground hospital project required demolition of obsolete hospital buildings and above-ground parking facilities in an area of 16,000 sq. metres, and the excavation of a five-acre pit at the site by removing dolomite bedrock and earth.

Geetha Balachandran     

 A house of straw  in England
An ecologically friendly home built of prefabricated straw-bale and hemp panels by academic researchers has been shown to have a fire resistance as good  as that of  houses built of conventional building materials.

At the University of Bath in Somerset, England, the team responsible for developing BaleHaus@Bath – as the project has been named – tested a prefabricated panel identical to those used in the construction of the house for fire safety by exposing it to temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius.

To reach the required standard, the panel had to withstand the heat for over 30 minutes. More than two hours later – four times as long as required – the panel had still not failed.
BaleHaus@Bath is part of a major new research project to study how these renewable building materials can be used for homes of the future.

The research work, involving eight industrial partners, has been funded by the Carbon Connections Development Fund and the U K Government’s Technology Strategy Board.  
Researchers from Bath University’s Building Research Establishment Centre for Innovative Construction Materials have been monitoring BaleHaus for many months for thermal performance and humidity levels  to assess the performance of straw and hemp as building  materials.  They have also tested the structure of the two-storey house for resisting winds up to 120mph.

After putting the dwelling through its paces, tests confirmed that it was “more than strong enough” to withstand hurricane force winds.

Achal Narayanan

Housing prices slide in US cities
A new slide in housing prices has begun in earnest, with averages in major U S cities falling to their lowest point in many years.  Prices in 20 major metropolitan areas slid one per cent in November from October, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday.

The index has fallen 1.6 percent from a year ago.Nine of the 20 cities in the index sank in November to new lows for this economic cycle: Chicago; Las Vegas; Detroit; Atlanta; Seattle; Charlotte, N.C.; Miami; Tampa; Fla.; and Portland, Ore. Only a handful of places – essentially, California and the District of Columbia – went counter to the trend and had rising prices over the past year.


Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox