Lots of times, designers create spaces for working and for living that cut us off from nature.
But an exciting initiative underway at Chaminade is aimed at challenging Environmental + Interior Design students to do the opposite by working to model and construct green roofs and living walls.
It’s all part of Chaminade’s Sustainability in Design course, which is aimed at helping students unpack principles of sustainable design by focusing on key environmental issues and then considering how they relate to other areas of society, including economic inequities and social disparities. The idea: Think through how relatively simple environmentally friendly design changes can have a positive impact.
That’s where green roofs and living walls come in.
For several years, students in the class have participated in a field project in partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture to install the design elements — along the way exploring the potential benefits of adding more greenery to urban landscapes.
In participating in the hands-on project, students learn first-hand how sustainable design can make a significant difference to city life. Green roofs and living walls can cool buildings, be sources of food, offer aesthetic appeal and can improve air and water quality. They can also provide a much-needed space for recreation or reflection — or even for gathering people together to try their hand at gardening.
Chaminade Environmental Science major Hiilani Fujihara-Nagamine ‘21 participated in the service learning project and said the class learned all about green roofs and living walls before actually working on them in person. “I can see a future in having these two concepts come to life here in Hawaii,” she said. “The islands seem to be the ideal place for green roofs and living walls due to the wonderful weather all year round. Native plants could be planted to increase the native plant population.”
She said her favorite part of the effort was learning about an actual solution — something tangible designers and environmentalists and even regular people could do to make a positive difference. “I want to make sure that the Earth is still around for the next generations to come,” she said.
“This experience will help me find more solutions that can help solve the problems in this world.”