One of the most rewarding projects that kokobo greenscapes took on was the installation of a vertical garden, or a greenwall, inside the commissary at 30 Rockefeller Plaza AKA 30 Rock in late 2012.
What made this installation even more exciting was the timing of it all, because NBC was running its Presidential Election coverage right after the completion of our project!
So many challenges that we could not have prepared for came up during our work at 30 Rock but the Kokobo team still managed to pull it off, in 3 days! Here’s how:
What are greenwalls?
Greenwalls or vertical gardens are essentially living walls of plants that are grown in vertical fashion. Because of this unique layout, they have grown in popularity in urban areas, where space is limited. From its origination in Europe to its introduction and its recent rise in popularity in America, greenwalls are an art form that continue to impress and delight visitors in anyone’s home, office, restaurants, hotels, and parks.
Installing the green wall
Day 1 – Our Time Gets Cut Short
The most challenging part of the project was the limited time that we had to get the wall installed onsite. We had been speaking with the client for about two months prior to installation and all along we were assured that there would be ample amount of time from when the space was complete to allow us enough time to install and prepare the space well in advance of the upcoming election night viewing party in the commissary. It’s always very important when installing landscape elements that they are installed LAST after all the other trades are complete so that the plants are not harmed by dust and debris and also to provide our team with the appropriate work space to get things done. As the opening date for the commissary was getting closer, we spoke to the client almost daily and they would indicate that the other trades were not finished yet and that it wasn’t quite time. But how would we be able to complete the 5 day install if there were other trades on site and if there wasn’t even 5 days available?
Working with the other Trades
The deadline for the project was quickly approaching so we came to the conclusion that we needed to start hanging the brackets for the wall immediately. When we arrived at the job site, the large work area that we had planned to use to stage materials and then ultimately plant all of the individual pots was completely cluttered with materials, equipment, and workmen. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, laborers, and audiovisual techs were everywhere so we made a decision that it was not going to be the best place to stage and plant everything…this would have to be done back at our facility in Long Island City, an extra step in an already very complicated install.
Hanging the Metal Brackets
What had to be done onsite was the hanging of the brackets which all of the greenwall pots would hang onto as well as the irrigation basins. We set up our scaffolding and began to block off an area so that we could work safely and expeditiously. Because the other trades were not complete yet, we had to move and restage all of our equipment and our scaffolding many times during the install. The first step was to start hanging all the metal brackets and this was handled by a three-man team during the middle of the day, as our plan was to work through the late afternoon into the evening as this would allow us more space as trades finish working around 4 o’clock. By the end of the first day we had installed approximately 80% of the metal brackets. What we found was, as we were getting closer to the end of the project, the space that we had to work was so limited that we were getting slower and slower as we got closer and closer to finishing!
While this is going on, we had another three-man team working to plant out the over 800 pots of plants that had to be hung on the wall. We didn’t want to box the plants up for the transport until the last possible moment so it was imperative that we kept all the plants separate to provide good airflow, appropriate temperature and adequate light until they were ready to be shipped to the city. I was monitoring both teams simultaneously trying to make sure that both were working at the same pace so that when the brackets in city were ready we didn’t waste any time by getting the plants installed!
Day 2: Irrigation system…the lifeblood of the wall gets installed
(after a slight detour through SNL)
By midmorning of the second day we had installed all the brackets and we began to install the irrigation basins. This process would take approximately seven hours with four men as the irrigation basins had to be attached ever so carefully so that they were completely level and that water would flow appropriately through every single basin so that they could be wicked up by the special planters and into the soil for the plants. About 60% of the way through the irrigation basins we began to connect all of the basins with the irrigation tubing and couplers. It was important to have the entire system connected and tested prior to the installation of any of the plants. Unfortunately, one of the trades that had not completed their work in time was the plumbing contractors who were to be installing a water supply line to the bottom of the greenwall.
Without the supply line it was going to be impossible to test the irrigation system and make sure that it was flowing properly. In response, what we did was run a very long hose from a secondary location from approximately 300 feet away through the halls of NBC and got the water from the Saturday Night Live set! Once we knew that the system was flowing properly we had to watch it drain and make sure that there were no leaks and that there were no spots where anything was clogged. This took approximately three hours and at the end of this stage we knew that the next day we were able to finally install all of the plants.
Day 3: The final push to hang the plants
Before the votes were tallied and the ice rink was painted red/blue!
This portion of the install would prove to be a large challenge as we were up against cold temperatures, an appearance by Rod Stewart at NBC’s TODAY show, and a very, very crowded loading dock with many trades finishing in the area that we were working.
All hands on deck on this day meant a seven-man team, with one driver, and three runners bringing items up from the loading dock, and three people on the wall itself installing plants one at a time. Once all the pots were in place we were been able to run an irrigation cycle with the brand new supply line that was installed by the plumbers earlier that day and it worked perfectly and water was running through the entire system.
The next phase was to adjust the lighting that would be shining down onto the wall highlighting the design as well as calibrating the irrigation system so that the water flowed for an adequate amount of time to provide all 800 plants with the proper amount of water without any of the basins overflowing. Three days later was election night and at this point trades were still working so it was important that we came back through and wipe every single plant to make it looked its absolute best, as well as removing dust and debris from the plants in the soil so that they would be healthy.
The entire time throughout the installation there were so many comments from all the trades, employees of NBC, and visitors in the space all wanting to know how the system worked, how the plants would grow, how long the process took, who designed it, etc! It was definitely the talk of the entire space! Above all, the greatest satisfaction I received was watching the election night coverage and looking up just to the left of Brian Williams, inside the windows of 30 Rock, and seeing the greenwall!