Reflecting a commitment to plants through our installation at IFF

Urbanstrong’s most recent installation is a large living wall for International Flavors and Fragrances’ (IFF).  The system is 24 feet tall by 24 feet wide, roughly 575 square-feet in area.  The installation is located in the lobby of IFF’s R&D facility in Union Beach, New Jersey.

Two people walking near a large wall garden of plants in the lobby of IFF ( International Flavors and Fragrances ) in NJ designed by Urbanstrong

Our client, International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), conducts a significant amount of research with plants to develop their various products.  The company’s ethos is also steeped in environmental sustainability and they are a real leader in this space.  They wanted an installation in their new lobby renovation to reflect both these ideas, so they brought on the Urbanstrong team to design and install a lush, vertical garden in their lobby.

A close-up view of red, purple and green plants in a large living garden wall in the lobby of IFF ( International Flavors and Fragrances ) in NJ designed by Urbanstrong

As a result, Urbanstrong’s living wall installation features a wide variety of plant species (27 to be exact).

Further, 10% of the wall is dedicated to featuring plant species that IFF is currently working with. Three to four different plant species will periodically be selected from facility’s greenhouse and featured on the wall to showcase the company’s ever changing research efforts.

A close-up view of a purple plant in a large living garden wall in the lobby of IFF ( International Flavors and Fragrances ) in NJ designed by Urbanstrong

Environmental Sustainability Storytelling

IFF contracted William McDonough + Partners architects to create a compelling theme for the final fit and finishes for the new lobby.

The cover of the book 'Cradle to Cradle' by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

McDonough co-authored the bar-raising book “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” which led to the creation of a framework for quality assessment and innovation: the Cradle to Cradle(C2C) Certified™ Products Program. In addition to product selection telling stories about environmental sustainability, part of the goal for the lobby design involved using using materials that emphasize the plant origins of IFF products.


The Living Wall Tech

The living wall system we selected for this installation is made up of pre-planted panels constructed from materials that are 100% recycled and recyclable.  The system is hydroponic, meaning it does not use any soil thereby reducing the issues of pests or soil breakdown and settling.

Techical diagram showing the panels and support brackets of the modular living wall system Urbanstrong used for their project at IFF

Additionally, unlike many other living wall techs on the market, the plants are not confined to cubby holes. Instead, their roots are free to propagate without the risk of potting-out.  This root freedom results in a near-zero plant turnover rate.  All this, combined with the ultra low water usage (the pumps only run for four minutes twice a day) make this the most eco-sustainable living wall on the market.

The irrigation system is on automatic timers, which our team monitors remotely as part of the maintenance package.  During design, we divided the entire wall into four separate zones of soaker-drip-hoses.  These hoses run in the back of system where the roots are, rather than misting the plant leaves. This means the face of the system is dry and does not make a mess. Overall, the delivery of the water to the plants is highly efficient.

The maintenance on this system is easy.  The plant turnover is minimal and the bulk of the work is actually just pruning back the growth.

Our team installed some auxiliary lighting to supplement the lobby skylight.  Most northern climate living wall installations require extra lighting to keep the system lush and green year-round. This is due to the limited natural light in the winter months.  (Note we do have some technologies like our Self-contained Living Walls which have built in lighting!)

The Process

Installers using scissor lifts to hang panels of plants during the construction of Urbanstrong's Living Green Wall Garden in the lobby of IFF - International Flavors and Fragrances

The initial discussions around sales and concept design began months ago.  Then plant palette selection and pre-growing.  After a few weeks, we inserted the plants into the panels in a vertical orientation, as we would permanently arrange them.   A few weeks later the on-site installation began.  First our team installed the horizontal hanging brackets. Then came the drip trays, irrigation and frames.  On the third day, we hung the panels in place and connected the built-in drip lines between panels.  The next morning we made final adjustments and voila!   The entire installation went down without a hitch!  We were able to limit on-site installation to only 3.5 days by pre-planting the panels.  Check back here soon for a time-lapse video of the installation.

In Summary

The living wall turned out splendidly, and we had a happy client!  Funny anecdote:  two weeks after the installation was complete, IFF hosted their science advisory board at the R&D facility and several of the visiting members were surprised to find out the living wall was made up of real plants and not artificial ones.  So at first glance, even PLANT SCIENTISTS thought our wall was too good to be true.

Urbanstrong's founder Alan Burchell standing in front of the Green Wall Garden of living plants in the lobby of IFF - International Flavors and Fragrances

If you are interested in a similar living wall, check out the overview of Urbanstrong’s living wall technologies.

Close-up view of a large living wall garden of plants in the lobby of IFF ( International Flavors and Fragrances ) in NJ