Globally, the leading architectural trend is to create natural environments wherever possible to give the building’s occupants access to nature, and all the healing benefits that brings.
However, building owners and managers will tell you that the installation of a green wall or roof garden is just the beginning – plants, like humans need to be fed, nurtured and protected.
And, in real terms, that means regular monitoring of soil conditions and plant health, and management of vital factors such as irrigation, sunlight and airflow.
So, how to do this without excessive cost, or complexity. That’s where Adroit comes in, with IoT soil monitoring and control systems especially for these types of installations.
Setting the Scene
Adroit began working with Natural Habitats, an Auckland based landscaping specialist, to manage a huge green wall in Auckland CBD. Green Walls are complicated projects at the best of times – there is the issue of height, the delicate plants, the material they’re planted in and issues relating to water and drainage.
The project was for Adroit to set up a network of sensors to monitor water and soil moisture in a large installation. The Dragino soil sensors constantly report data to the Adroit IoT platform, which displays that data on a dashboard as well as provide alerts on certain parameters, such as too hot, too dry, too wet etc, to enable the maintenance team to respond as appropriate.
During the initial investigation by the client, it was discovered that a critical problem was caused by a plumbing issue. There was a water leak. Someone was turning the water on to irrigate the wall, then someone else kept turning the water off because of the leak, as a result, the plants were drying out (a perfect example of what can go wrong when systems or processes fail and valuable plant installations are adversely impacted).
Planters and Roof Gardens:
Natural Habitats also works in roof gardens and large scale planters and Adroit partnered with them on two landmark projects in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter – 30 Madden and 32 Madden – both large award-winning residential projects.
Sometimes plants are expected to cope with all kinds of extremes. Planter boxes may be made of concrete and placed on concrete pavers in courtyards that soak up the heat during the day to unsustainable temperatures. Combine that with too little ventilation (or too much wind), or reflected heat from nearby mirrored buildings and you have a virtual desert that few plants could survive in.
So, for the planter-box installation, Natural Habitats was primarily wanting to measure temperature – because they were in the north-facing sun, they wanted to validate that the temperature of the planter boxes wasn’t going over a certain amount.
But, when we did the installation because our sensors also measure soil moisture, we were able to immediately demonstrate that the soil moisture was too low and it wasn’t just a case of temperature alone.
Armed with this information, Natural Habitats team was able to develop a strategy to manage the temperature and moisture to not just maintain, but to improve the health of the plants.
In the second installation, in a rooftop garden, Natural Habitats was primarily concerned with moisture and water utilisation.
Roof gardens suffer from many of the issues above, they also have the challenges of weight, runoff and leakage. Over-water a roof garden at your peril. Or you may end up with leaks or an overweight roof falling in.
Adroit installed sensors across the roof garden and was able to show how the garden was performing in a variety of climatic conditions – the amount of moisture in the soil at any time of the day, as well as the temperature.
Via the dashboard, the Natural Habitats team were able to see the best times of day to water the garden and other mitigations such as creating shade. The result was healthier plants and significant water savings.
We’re very much enjoying the collaboration with Natural Habitats and are looking ahead to an interesting series of projects in 2021. We’ve been able to demonstrate the potential of using IoT to manage plant environments and our client is excited about the opportunity to bring new projects and collaborations throughout this year.
Looking ahead there are many more ways we can assist the client – adding a weather monitoring station to take weather forecasts into account, or additional sensors to alert clients to waterproofing or plumbing failures. We’re also developing more advanced IoT applications that allow automated irrigation of planters and garden walls, either on a schedule or in response to alerts, or direct control from the Adroit platform dashboard. It’s an exciting technology and has the potential to save building owners thousands of dollars.
If you’d like to hear more about Adroit’s IoT garden solutions