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St. Ben's students designed this 'living wall' and it could become a bigger exhibit at Science North

Vertical structures containing live plants purify the air
St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School students designed this small living wall at Science North. (Heidi Ulrichsen/

Science North is now home to a small living wall designed by local high school students, but that's probably just the beginning of bigger things, according to one of its staff scientists.

“This may act as a catalyst for something bigger here at Science North,” said Dan Chaput.

“We will be undergoing some renovations in this area, and in my mind, I would like to see this done on a bigger scale. I'll be pushing for that. This is definitely going to act as encouragement for us to move forward on it.”

Living walls, also commonly referred to as vertical gardens, grow in supported vertical systems. The plants receive water and nutrients from within the vertical support instead of from the ground.

They can be grown indoors or outdoors, and provide many benefits to the environment.

Known for being aesthetically pleasing, living walls can purify the air by removing potentially harmful chemicals, produce oxygen, improve productivity in work environments, decrease stress, reduce noise levels by absorbing sound and reduce ambient temperature.

Science North's new living wall was created thanks to a joint project by the science centre and Clean Air Sudbury, with financial support from Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, a Glencore Company.

Local high schools were invited to assemble teams to design a living green wall. The design by St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School's STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Club won.

It features indoor plants in vertical felt pockets (that were originally a hanging shoe rack) and an integrated watering system. 

Grade 10 St. Benedict student Elizabeth Smythe said working on the project was a great experience.

“It was actually a really cool process, and it was fun to learn so much about how much plants can benefit us,” she said.

Clean Air Sudbury co-chair Marc Gascon said the group was formed in 1999 to provide the public with information about air quality.

Recently the group has been trying to come up with projects to promote clean air, which is how the living wall initiative came about.

He said he read an article about a large living wall in London, England that does the work of 275 trees to purify the air.

The committee jumped at the idea of doing a small-scale version at Science North, saying it was a perfect idea for Sudbury.

The St. Benedict students' design was “very impressive,” Gascon said. “At the high school level, it's still a challenge for them, and I thought it was well done,” he said.

If you want to check out the students' living wall project, it's on display at Science North's lobby throughout the summer. In the fall, it moves to St. Benedict.