Landscape architect Randy Sharp knew he was onto something big back in 2005 when, while planning the ultimate urban-style garden for the Vancouver Aquarium, he discovered there was a growing interest in vertical garden systems, also known as green or living walls.
The resulting three-metres-high by 15-metres-long freestanding wall pictured at left - designed by Mr. Sharp's Vancouver firm, Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture Inc., and housing 7,000 hardy individual B.C. plants - is a striking visual example of the Vancouver Aquarium's environmental stewardship.
The same can be said for Aquaquest - the Marilyn Blusson Learning Centre, the aquarium's newest building, which is earning accolades for sustainable design and technical innovation and recently became the world's first aquarium building to achieve both LEED Gold and ISO 14001 certifications.
The building earned LEED points for such features as a cooling system that draws seawater from the nearby Burrard Inlet, and a roof-top rainwater harvesting system.
The ISO 14001 certification was awarded by the International Organization for Standardization to recognize management's commitment to improving the entire site's environmental performance on an ongoing basis.
Max Richter, an associate with Stantec Architects, the Vancouver firm that designed the Aquaquest building, says it was wise of aquarium management to qualify for both the LEED and ISO certifications.
"The one thing about LEED is that it's really a snapshot of the building right after construction. But we have to be aware that a building's lifespan is 50, 60 or 100 years," Mr. Richter says. "That's why something like ISO complements LEED quite well because it is going to help maintain a level of performance and continually improve it, through the years."