The building and installation of your green wall, façade or roof might seem like the final stage after months of planning and design but in reality, this is when things really start to take off.

In fact, installation is just the beginning of your living infrastructure project – good maintenance will ensure your green façade, wall or roof remains as beautiful and healthy ten years from now, as the day it was first installed.

Not only will it look good but it will also deliver some real health, economic and societal benefits too. Jock discussed a few of these in his previous blogs, check out our News & Views section to learn more.

So let’s get into it – here are my top ten secrets to successful living infrastructure maintenance:

1.    Planning is key

As noted in the Growing Green Guide, the reason for undertaking a living infrastructure project needs to be identified up front, because ‘this will influence the design, construction and required level of maintenance for the system.[ref] State of Victoria, through the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (2014.) Growing Green Guide: A guide to green roofs, walls and facades in Melbourne and Victoria, Australia, p.41. [/ref]

Planning will not only save you time, it will also save you money and the hassle of tweaking designs mid-way through implementation. It means choosing a good quality system that suits your goals and selecting the correct plants for the environment and purpose.

2.    Know your limits

Once you’ve decided the primary goal for your living infrastructure project, you need to consider the structural capacity of your intended site. This is where a structural engineer comes in. They help make your goal a reality by flagging and fixing potential issues before they occur.

Structural capacity is one of the fundamental determinants when selecting your project type. If it’s a wall or roof site, can it bear the weight of a mounting system, waterproofing membrane, planting substrate and plants?

This is particularly important in a retrofit project where the load capacity is predetermined (unless additional structural support is added). In a new development the extra load of a green roof can be factored in during the early stages of the design process. [ref] Sydney City Council. (2009.) Green Roof Design Resource Manual, p.26 [/ref]

Knowing the potential issues means you can plan maintenance around them. [ref] Irwin, G. (2008.) ‘Successful Maintenance on Green Walls’, Accessed 13 June 2016. [/ref] It keeps things manageable and cost effective, and improves outcomes for your project.

3.    Location, location, location

Before you roll out your green wall, roof or façade project you need to know the site will be accessible for maintenance work.

Some smaller projects like the green walls at Westfield Chatswood, only require a ladder for access. Others like One Central Park, require BMU (Building Maintenance Units), a range of elevated work platforms, spider lifts and ropes access (abseiling).

The more complex the access requirements, the more expensive the maintenance will be. Of course, a large-scale project is supposed to turn heads so you want to make sure it’s in tip top condition.

4.    The right plants for the job

Each living infrastructure project is different so each one is designed individually. This means balancing the project goal, what the client would like the system to look like, and the environment or micro-climate the system is in.

The process of choosing plants for a green infrastructure project is similar to terrestrial landscaping. The plants chosen will depend on the environment the system is installed in, and the system itself.

While interior green walls have a more stable and predictable micro-climate, exterior projects really need to suit the climate zone they’re in and handle seasonal changes well in order to thrive.

5.    You need a maintenance plan

A good maintenance plan is essential and without it your project will degrade. The plan will outline project goals, performance standards, and the maintenance tasks to be undertaken, as well as the resources required to get the job done.

‘Once created, maintenance plans should be reviewed at least annually to ensure all maintenance needs are being met.’ [ref] State of Victoria, through the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (2014.) Growing Green Guide: A guide to green roofs, walls and facades in Melbourne and Victoria, Australia, p.92. [/ref] It’s important to review your maintenance plan at least this often because like any living thing, the needs of your project will change as it matures.

6.    Establishing the plants is crucial to success

The first few months are critical for the success of your living infrastructure project.

Once the plants and systems have been installed in their new home, it is essential proper maintenance is carried out to ensure irrigation, lighting and maintenance routines are working effectively. This is when your project is most fragile and needs the most care.

Establishment maintenance takes place during the first year or two after installation to ensure design goals and outcomes are met. Day to day, this might involve pruning and weeding, tweaking plant species, irrigation maintenance, and reviewing the frequency of the maintenance regime itself.

7.    Get the routine right

Routine maintenance includes regular works undertaken to ensure your project meets the agreed minimum standard of appearance, functionality and safety.

Both the type of system and scale of the project will influence your routine maintenance schedule. Like a regular check up at the doctor, it’s about managing the health of your system and making sure everything is running smoothly.

Every project is different, that’s why we adapt an individual maintenance regime for each one. This might include scheduled visits every fortnight or bi-monthly – it just depends on the scale of the project.

We often use performance-based maintenance contracts to deliver the agreed minimum standard of project appearance and functionality. This is where the client and Junglefy agree on a certain level of plant coverage (i.e. 90 – 95 per cent) and it is Junglefy’s responsibility to provide the labour and resources to ensure this agreed level is achieved. It means there are no extra costs for the client to replace plants if the minimum standard isn’t met.

Cyclic maintenance takes place less often than routine maintenance and focuses on the maintenance of the underlying building structure and project components. By scheduling a semi-regular review of the structural components of your project, we are able to repair normal wear and tear, and monitor the overall condition of the project. This means issues aren’t left unchecked to become costly problems in the future.

Remember, we are in it for the long run. At Junglefy, we care about the living infrastructure we create – that’s why we set maintenance contracts for three to five years, instead of just one – we want to see your project grow and flourish as much as you do. A three to five year contract ensures the quality of our system and protects your investment in it.

8.    Be proactive with a reactive flexibility

Sometimes Mother Nature throws us a curve ball like an extreme storm or flooding event that damages your living infrastructure project. This is when reactive maintenance comes in. It might mean replacing damaged plants, top soil and substrate layers.

Preventative maintenance is implemented to mitigate unusual dry spells or rain periods. All green infrastructure has an irrigation system incorporated into it. This mitigates the effects of the weather and also allows us to adjust for particular dry or wet spells. Some systems even have weather stations installed so that adjustments are made automatically.

9.    Get the right people for the job

Don’t risk your investment with amateur maintenance. It’s essential your living infrastructure project is maintained by well-trained professionals who understand plants and the maintenance procedures that need to be followed.

There are some core aspects of green infrastructure maintenance that are quite different to terrestrial landscaping and if you don’t get these right you run the risk of damaging or killing your plants.

I know it seems tempting, but it is undoubtedly cheaper to keep a regular scheduled maintenance program with Junglefy rather than let the project degrade and have to rectify it later.

When you consider the investment you’ve already made in the design and construction of your project, it makes sense to continue to invest in its maintenance. The result will be a better looking and more efficient final product that will last for years and years.

10. Know when to start over

When building or site ownership changes, or when a client wants to alter the project goal or rectify a design failure it is time to rethink and potentially start over. This is known as ‘renovation maintenance’ and includes works that change the design intent. [ref] State of Victoria, through the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (2014.) Growing Green Guide: A guide to green roofs, walls and facades in Melbourne and Victoria, Australia. [/ref] The work required depends on the scope of renovation undertaken.