When patients arrive at the Spectrum Health Medical Group Heart and Vascular Center on Bradford Street N.E. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they are welcomed by a living, thriving symbol of heart health. The Center’s green wall features a distinctive design of three heart shapes expressed in dark red foliage within a background of green plants.

For the Center’s clinical and support staff, as well as the patients, the green wall offers an unexpected extra. It was designed and installed as a freestanding, two-sided structure. The side facing the building is a vertical garden with a variety of vegetables and herbs.

“As a growing, changing emblem of healthy hearts, the heart planted wall invites patients, their families, and our staff into the Center. The vertical herb and vegetable wall invites them to think about healthy eating and the sources of our food.”

Sarah Chartier, sustainability program manager, Spectrum Health
A video featuring the heart-patterned LiveWall at Spectrum Health Heart and Vascular Center in Grand Rapids, MI.

Measuring 5’4” high by 20’ long, the green wall was constructed in June 2015 with the LiveWall® system from LiveWall, LLC, the green wall subsidiary of Hortech, Inc., Spring Lake, Michigan. The planted heart side faces out towards the parking area and features perennials, with Heucheras (Coral Bell) forming the three red hearts. The vertical edibles side grows a variety of vegetables (including tomatoes, green peppers, Swiss chard, kale, and leeks) and herbs (such as oregano, basil, rosemary, and mint.)

The decision to install the green wall came out of broader conversations about sustainability, local sourcing of food, and promoting healthy eating habits. Spectrum Health has two community gardens, one at its South Pavilion facility, and the other at the Spectrum Health Continuing Care Center.

“In the area at the entrance to the Center, there was limited space for additional landscaping. As a vertical landscape feature, a green wall was more practical than a garden.”

Bruce De Vrou, project manager, Spectrum Health
The rear side of the LiveWall at Spectrum Health's Heart and Vascular Center features an abundant herb garden.

Dave MacKenzie, president of Hortech and LiveWall, assisted Spectrum Health in planning the green wall installation for the Center. MacKenzie suggested a two-sided, freestanding wall. The idea for the heart design was the inspiration of Kathleen Nickerson, R.N., charge nurse, clinical team, cardiovascular medicine, Spectrum Health Medical Group.

“In 2013, I learned from the LiveWall ArtPrize installation, ‘Back to Eden,’ that a planted wall can be an art piece,” she said. “I wanted our green wall to have a heart — a design that would convey a living, healthy heart.”

“The three-heart design takes advantage of the length of the wall,” explained MacKenzie. “The hearts are visible all year from the parking lot and sidewalk leading up to the Center, even in winter when the plants are dormant.”

Clinical and administrative staff enjoy the green wall in summer. They sit outside during work breaks and at lunchtime at picnic tables and benches placed on the lawn near the wall. They also pick vegetables and herbs to take home.

“The response from everyone has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Chartier. “We have also experienced an unanticipated benefit. The area around the green wall provides a gathering place where staff from different departments meet, interact, and connect.”

“The LiveWall is bigger and better than what I thought we could achieve with an ordinary garden. I love to go out to our garden wall. I get outside, feel the breeze, see the plants. It is a brief respite in my busy day. And I can pick a tomato to put in my salad for lunch. There is nothing more beautiful than a sun-ripened tomato on the vine.”

Kathleen Nickerson, R.N., cardiovascular medicine, Spectrum Health
The Spectrum Heart and Vascular Center building, with the heart-patterned green wall in front of the entrance.

About Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system, based in West Michigan, offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of 12 hospitals, ambulatory and service sites, more than 3,100 physicians and advanced practice providers, including 1,200 members of the Spectrum Health Medical Group, and Priority Health, a health plan with about 654,000 members.

Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer, with 23,400 employees. The organization provided $283 million in community benefit during its 2015 fiscal year. Spectrum Health is the only health system in Michigan to be named one of the nation’s 15 Top Health Systems® by Truven Health Analytics for 2015.

Project Features

This project was selected as a Greenroofs.com Project of the Week.

This article also highlights the project: “Living wall inspires heart health,” Healthcare Facilities Today