Living wall at Student Counselling, Health & Well-being office promotes tranquility

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A new automated biofilter living wall – comprised of 260 plants of varying species – has been installed in the Student Counselling, Health & Well-being (SCHW) office to promote tranquility, wellness and better air for visiting students and office staff.

As part of SCHW’s pivotal role in offering essential mental health and wellness resources to students, it has been undertaking projects that reflect its commitment to well-being in its physical environment.

“Pursuing projects that reflect the commitment to well-being in the physical environment has been an important effort for SCHW because we believe that a positive and welcoming atmosphere enhances the overall experience for both students and staff,” says Lori Walls, executive director of student counselling, health and well-being. “Investing in these initiatives reaffirms our commitment to creating spaces that promote well-being.”

Living wall at the Student Counselling, Health & Well-being office
Living wall at the Student Counselling, Health & Well-being office.

The nearly seven- by 10-foot living wall – made up of a range of species, including dracaena and ficus – is the latest example. Supported by a hydroponic system, a technique for growing plants using water-based nutrient solutions rather than soil, the installation features a 67-gallon irrigation setup that eliminates the need for soil, conserves water and maximizes growth.

While the wall has aesthetic benefits – notably, creating a tranquil environment for students and staff – it has other notable perks, too. Hydroponic systems facilitate microclimates by maintaining optimal humidity levels, fostering the growth of beneficial microbes that play a crucial role in breaking down pollutants and purifying the air indoors. In the process, it helps increase the overall air quality, which is known to improve cognitive function and health.

At the same time, SCHW hopes the new wall will realize its incorporation of biophilic design principles, a building concept that looks to increase the connection between people and the natural environment – in this case, by bringing the natural into SCHW. It aims to create spaces that are not only physically healthier but more emotionally supportive and invigorating.

In many ways, those hopes are already being fulfilled. “The living wall has made immediate impacts for the students visiting our centre. Both students and staff have shared positive feedback, noting that the plants create a welcoming atmosphere,” says Walls. “We recently conducted a survey to gather feedback on our space and I’m pleased to say the overall response was that our space is calming and tranquil.”

The living wall serves as a visible sign of Student Counselling, Health & Well-being’s commitment to the well-being of York University’s students, underlining the importance of a holistic approach to health that encompasses academic, emotional and environmental factors.