Design development of The Urban Living Wall

Imagine a urban spaces where nature is part of the fabric of the city, with more places for plants, insects, spiders, small creatures, biodiversity. and a greener urban environment. We hope you can also bring together technology and nature into a new form that fits into vertical urban spaces


Prototyping with 3D Printing

The fab lab xCHc has been prototyping living wall planter panels that are stylish and still mimic a rocky surface to match our choice of native rocky outcrop plants.

You can join in the fun by downloading these open source designs (see below). 


The back of the planter panel functions to clip onto a wire fence, and is fastened with zip ties. There is a hole for irrigation, and for collecting water over flow from planter panels above.


The filament used for our project here in New Zealand is made locally by Diamond Age. They have a range of filament colours that are from a biodegradable plastic, which is corn starch based.


wood panel.jpg

Wood PanelS

The curved 3D face of the wood was designed  on the computer and cut with a CNC machine. We chose a recycled NZ Oregon wood species. It will withstand moisture well naturally without any need for dipping in toxic chemicals.

These wood panels add texture and color to our otherwise white and green living wall. They make a space for plants to eventually climb over.   

You can download this open source design here. 



wool Felt (carpet underlay) planters

These felt planters are made with one pattern piece, folded and sewn together. 

The material is made from recycled wool carpets and is given a second life as carpet underlay, or in our case planter pockets for an urban living wall. 

Cavalier Bremworth is a New Zealand company that manufactures wool carpets and these recycled carpet underlays. The product is called 'flashbac felted underlay' and more information can be found on their website here:

Their products achieve Level 4 of the Environmental Certification Scheme. So we are glad to be using it. If you wish to use this material, be aware that you will have to buy a 10 meter roll by 1.7m high minimum, as this is the smallest amount. That will make you a large number of planter pockets. 

  This is a picture of the pattern piece during our design phase. The final pattern is slightly different. 

 This is a picture of the pattern piece during our design phase. The final pattern is slightly different. 

Anyone with a 3D model maker can download from this website  one of the panel piece designs and 3D print it. Download zip file here



There are four different face designs to choose from. 

We suggest the following settings when setting up to print on your 3D printer: 

infill = 0%

# shells = 4

layer height -= 0.4mm

temperature to 220

speed extr = 100 m/s

speed travelling = 180 mm/s

Save settings, 

It may say 5.09 hours. But on our makerbot 3D printer it is 3.40 hours.


Inspiration for the Urban Living Wall Design

Steve Reay's surfaces for nature to 'take hold'

Dr Steve Reay is currently a senior lecturer in the Industrial Design and Innovation Department at AUT University, Auckland. He has been part of the design team for this Urban Living Wall. Steve imagined urban environments where plain surfaces were transformed subtly into natural habitats. With stylishly shaped surfaces that would eventually become a living wall as plants grip to surfaces and small critters find homes in holes and crevices. This first design was implemented with ceramics and wood panels. 

Steve's research builds on his background in biology and ecology. A current research interest lies in exploring the potential benefits of collaboration between science and design, specifically how to move toward more sustainable futures.