The green wall that wasn't: South Brisbane tower developer under scrutiny

Another developer in South Brisbane has been criticised for failing to deliver on a promised green wall.

The feature wall on the Verde development so far failed to live up to renders that were and are being used to sell the property.

When the project was submitted to the Brisbane City Council for approval, it was claimed the building would have the "largest" green wall in Queensland, and a spokesperson for VCP Developments said "no one in Australia is doing it [building green walls] properly."

Council records show that after the plans were approved, VCP submitted an application to scale back the 480-square metre green wall, changing the vertical planter design to a wire and climbing plant based one.

The Cameron Street building is yet to be completed and the contracts are yet to settle, but sources say the wall has been completed for some time, and the plants have not yet taken to climbing.

If the initial plans were followed, the wall would already be covered with individually potted plants. However, the wall is currently bare.

The application to council to scale back the wall, which was approved, suggests that the proposed green wall was not viable.

VCP's submission included claims too many plants would be needed, too much water would be used, and questioned the plants' ability to resist summer heat.

This application was also used to reduce the amount of greenery on the communal rooftop area.

VCP did not respond to repeated requests for comment ahead of publication.

Design manager of the Aria Property group Simon White noticed the application to scale back the wall. "We were concerned that idea would be watered down to see if the reasons for that concept were valid," he said.

Fytogreen, the green wall consultant he used on two of his Brisbane developments, Botanica and the Melbourne residences then investigated VCP's claims.

Fytogreen managing director Geoff Heard submitted a rebuttal to VCP's claims, available on PDOnline.

Mr Heard labelled VCP's choice of potting system as poor, but said its other concerns (high cost, high water usage, and plant resilience) were easily mitigated or should have been known to the developers during the due diligence stage of planning.

Mr White said the green walls on Botanica and the Melbourne residences were similar in design to Verde's proposed wall.

"With certain efforts, their green wall could still be feasibly constructed," Mr White said.

Erin Evans' West End Community Association initially raised concerns about nearby development, Soda, in August. At the time, the association pointed out the green wall on Soda was dying and instead of a planter, climbing pot plants were placed under wires.

GDL Group built Soda; it also did not respond to any request for comment.

Dr Evans said developers were rarely held to account for falling short on promises.

"If we don't have good regulations and controls it does promote these boom-bust cycles and then we have people who exploit these issues," she said.

"I think that's a consequence of certain behaviours of people who are trying to gain financial advantage and when you're doing that you do what ever you can to minimise on what you deliver."

However, Dr Evans praised Aria's work on the thriving green walls on the Botanica and the Melbourne residences.

"I think a lot people [appreciate] some of the Aria developments in the South Brisbane area, they have done a good job. They do include ongoing maintenance with the landscaping," she said.

Dr Evans said more developers needed to hold other members of their industry to account, because of a lack of council leadership.

"I don't think everyone says it's all developers but the industry needs to think about how they hold themselves to account," she said. "The industry has a lot of power."

UPDATE: CBRE's Paul Barrett responded to Domain on behalf of VCP.

Mr Barrett said: "The approving authorities for the proposed green wall at Verde had major concerns given the scale of the wall, particularly the height, and the solution was to implement a very expensive deep root / trellis system."

"I think the important thing with Verde is that it is not an instant green wall but once established will be a far superior and robust outcome with a wall that will demonstrate live plantings as high as 30 metres from street level."

This story The green wall that wasn't: South Brisbane tower developer under scrutiny first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.