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Biowall installation transforms McKeldin Library entry

Posted: Apr 10, 2018

Out-of-date Warning This news post is more than three months old and may contain out-of-date information.

Living plants now cover the surface of an interior wall in McKeldin Library as workers complete installation of a “biowall” as part of a series of renovations to the library’s busy first floor.

Visible from the building’s entryway and located in a popular study spot, this “living wall” will be the first of its kind on campus. Installation was completed Tuesday.

“A biowall in McKeldin may seem a bit surprising,” says Gary White, Associate Dean for Public Services of the University Libraries, who conceived and spearheaded the project. “But it aligns very clearly with our goal to provide spaces that inspire creativity and foster well-being. It also represents our commitment to sustainability.”

Plants situated on the wall will not require soil, but will require appropriate levels of water and light. Those factors contributed to the decision to locate the biowall in Footnotes Cafe, where plumbing for the wall’s infrastructure was largely already in place. The high traffic of the first floor also contributed to the location selection, says White. Nearby security gates logged more than 1.4 million visits in the past fiscal year.

The biowall installation is just one in a series of recent upgrades to McKeldin Library. In January, workers removed worn carpeting to expose a marble floor and replaced other carpeted areas with durable vinyl.  In the past few weeks painters have covered columns and walls with Maryland colors red and gold. New security gates, also installed in January, now make it feasible to open up the main staircase, long hidden behind alarmed doors. In the summer, those doors will be replaced with ones made of transparent glass and remaining portions of the first floor will be recarpeted.

“We’re chipping away at our master facilities plan,” says White, “and the progress is really quite exciting to see.” 

The biowall project received a grant from the university’s Sustainability Fund in the 2016 and early iterations were the focus of a design project by students in the Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture. Patricia Steele, former dean of University Libraries, and her husband Charles also contributed to the project. Furbish, a Baltimore-based company that develops green roofs and green walls, is installing the wall.


(Revised April 11, 2018)