Case Studies

GSky Plant Systems Inc.

Bringing green walls to a ready North American market

Based out of Vancouver, British Columbia, GSky Plant Systems Inc. (GSky) started out solely as a green roof company, a niche market on its own. GSky quickly set itself apart by finding room for growth in an already thriving green industry.

Chad Sichello founded GSky in 2004, after working in the green roof industry for several years. He returned home from Japan with an idea to bring the designs he’d seen to North America, and he was able to negotiate the rights to the technology that he used to build GSky into a fledgling green company. In 2007, Hal Thorne joined the company and turned its attention towards a new challenge.

Green innovation

Thorne came to GSky with a background in plant genetics. He knew green roofs were gaining popularly, but had noticed a developing trend in Europe and Asia: green walls. It was a novel concept to bring to North America, but he knew he had to try it. Modifying a pre-existing wall product GSky manufactured, Thorne began focusing on creating a line of green walls to market to the North American customer.

Today, GSky manufactures a product for any wall. With three different product lines, it doesn’t matter if it’s interior or exterior, screened or meticulously designed, GSky has you covered.

The products include a standard industry pre-planted panel, a vine screening system that allows vertical expansion of the plant product, and GSky’s most industry shaping wall, an internal tray and pot system that allows customers to switch out vegetation seasonally and is easy to maintain. GSky’s wall system is unique in that it’s self-contained, including a remote irrigation system and water recirculation tank.

Thorne believes GSky separated itself from the competition by patenting its internal tray system early on, as well as offering a turnkey approach to any wall it installs. GSky provides everything from the engineering and installation to long-term maintenance of walls. “Plants need haircuts, just like all of us,” laughs Thorne. “Very few companies do the whole turnkey. This sets us apart from the competition.”

All of its plants come with a 100 percent guarantee with a maintenance contract and GSky partners closely with other companies to install, maintain and sell its products.

Blooming response

GSky prides itself on having installed over 150 walls across four continents. The company has two locations in North America: headquarters in Vancouver that spearheads its international operations, and a second location in Delray Beach, Florida, that maintains its U.S. market. Along with several outside companies certified to install its products, the company now has a growing operation in the Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

With customers like Williams Sonoma, American Express, Twitter, L.L. Bean and even Google, Gsky isn’t short on new projects. Even with the retention of most of its customers through long-term plant care, Thorne is proud to see the pace of installation increasing, and notes that clients are coming back for multiple walls.

“We have proved that they work and can work. The next challenge is finding ways to make them more efficient and economical,” says Thorne.

More than just a pretty color

When looking at GSky’s installations, it’s hard not to focus on the creative aspect of its work. GSky employs a design team that works closely with its clients in designing the “look” and pattern of the wall, as well as selecting the right plants for the right location. Interior plants tend to be tropical, while exterior plants must be carefully chosen to meld with, and survive in, its locale’s environment.

Thorne notes that green walls give customer the ability to present its dedication to the green movement on a large visual-scale. “We are a visual company and it’s great for folks to see how they can outwardly express their green commitment,” he explains.

But Thorne wants his customers to see more than just creative décor. “The walls are working,” he continues. “Aside from purifying the air, the plants provide a calming environment.”

In the future, Thorne hopes to see GSky’s plant systems become even more refined. “I would like to see us be able to offer more choices, rather than have to shoehorn a system into fitting a project,” he says. “I hope to see us building into, rather than building onto, walls,” Thorne says thoughtfully, “so everything’s connected to the buildings ecosystem.”

Celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2014, there’s no doubt that GSky will only continue to thrive and improve in the coming years. As the green movement takes a more solid standpoint in the building industry, GSky Plant Systems Inc. will most certainly be at the forefront of innovation with its ever-growing selection of commercial and residential wall systems.

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