3/2015 – Unique Terraforce green wall design

Green wall innovation at a new children’s hospital in Dubai. Combining construction with the healing process:

The Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital, an initiative of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, is not only dedicated entirely to children but also designed by combining innovative aspects of design and construction with the healing process in mind.

A unique design: reversing, moving forward every 3rd row of blocks, providing plant supportive pockets
A unique design: reversing, moving forward every 3rd row of blocks, providing plant supportive pockets
Wall before planting of the block rows at the new Jalila Childrens Hospital, first of it’s kind in Dubai and the region

Says Al Maidoor, Director-General of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA): “The hospital will be the first-of-its-kind facility, offering super-specialty and multi-spectrum pediatric care under one roof for the children of the UAE and the region.”

Al Maidoor adds that of the total area, nearly half has been dedicated for gardens and for landscaping including a ‘healing garden’ with bright flowering shrubs, herbs and medicinal plants: “The use of natural light, greenery and healing landscape are aimed at offering a high level of indoor air quality, reducing noise and creating a pleasant environment.

Water-wise plants drape over the side of the blocks rows
Water-wise plants drape over the side of the blocks rows

The development will be highlighted by several energy saving initiatives including sustainable construction techniques to reduce energy use, including an active wall façade system to reduce ambient temperature inside the hospital, rooftop gardens that provide greater insulation and recycled water for irrigation purposes.”

When Italian architects and engineers Studio Altieri International where looking for green building materials to use for landscaping on hospital grounds, they came across Terraforce, a South African developed hollow core, plant friendly concrete retaining wall system.

Manufactured under license in the UAE and region by Consent LLC, the Terraforce system is akin to a living wall, the unique hollow-core design of the interlocking blocks allowing plants to become a part of the wall. By using water wise plants and a good irrigation system, a sustainable, yet durable green wall can be created.

On request by Studio Altieri, Consent proposed a design for a number of earth retaining and noise reduction issues on the expansive site.

This wall design is a unique variation, and was conceptualised by Bryan Newby, a Namibian based specialist Terraforce installer, Simon Knutton, a Johannesburg based consulting engineer with extensive experience in designing Terraforce walls, and the input from the Terraforce head office in Cape Town.

Once the proposal was accepted, Al Aamal Construction Co. LLC was appointed as the sub-contractor, who, under the guidance of Newby, started with the installation in 2013.

Construction of the walls started with the placement of 1800 x 1000 x 300 precast foundations, 600mm below the finished ground level, onto which Terraforce L16 blocks where installed – double skin and concrete filled – to the finished ground level.

Subsequently the blocks were placed double skin, soil filled and in the rock-face finish at an inclination of 80 degrees.

As the wall progressed, the innovative facade of this Terrforce wall design came into play, by reversing and moving forward slightly every third row of blocks, to provide a plant supportive pocket that could also accommodate an efficient, easy maintenance dripper irrigation system.

The walls reduce noise and create a pleasant environment
The walls reduce noise and create a pleasant environment
A pipe runs along each row, dripping water into each block
A pipe runs along each row, dripping water into each block

Out of these pockets, water-wise plants will eventually drape over the side of the block, softening the near vertical concrete surface with curtains of greenery.

Says Holger Rust, Cape Town based founder of Terraforce, after he visited the site February 2015:

“This must be the most efficient irrigation system ever. The exposed pipe is hidden by the plants (portulacaria afra) within 3 months.


Each plant has a dripper and water provision for each plant can be accurately controlled with a timer and wastage of the precious resource is reduced to a minimum. Further the system is extremely maintenance friendly and repairs are a breeze.”

As the wall increased in height, backfill was brought in, compacted to specification with reinforcing layers of high strength geo-grid every second course, to the final height of up to 8m. Near the top of and mid-way of the walls, a non-woven geo-textile cut-off filter layer was installed.

Bryan Newby stayed on in Dubai for a few months, working with the team mostly at night to avoid the intense summer heat. Later Sinan Awad took over the supervision of the contract, which is still on-going.

Project Team

Main contractor: Al Futtaim Carillion

Architect: Studio Altieri International

Consulting Engineers: Eng. Adnan Saffarini Office,

Sub-Contractor: Al Aamal Construction LLC,

Terraforce Design Engineer: Knutton Consulting Engineers

Terraforce consultant: Bryan Newby

Terraforce licensed UAE manufacturers: Consent LLC