unveiled its first product, SmartSlope
, an eco-friendly green wall. The wall has been in development for two years and is now commercially available. It is being used by the first Costco in Washington, D.C., and constructionl was completed last week.
Jimmy Dick, director of business development, says the "living" wall is intended to satisfy locally mandated storm water management regulations as well as for aesthetic considerations. The walls at Costco were installed as a vertical rain garden, with a circulating system that captures and recirculates storm water to water the plants that grow on the walls.
"The [DC] district told [Costco] it had to handle its storm water on site and this is how they are doing it," says Dick. Another green wall is scheduled to open next year at Phase 2 of The Shops at Dakota Crossing, in the DC area, as a component of its storm water management system.
Furbish was formed in 2003 to install and service green roofs. While it will continue that aspect of the business, Dick says it is developing products as well. SmartSlope, the living wall system, is its first product. Modern Foundations, in Woodbine, manufactures the system.
The living retaining wall system consists of individual concrete modules, each 20 inches wide by 15 inches deep by 8 inches tall. The modules link together.
After the modules are installed, SmartSlope provides native grasses, herbs and plants to grow over and cover the wall. The company’s system costs about $5 more per square foot than the typical concrete wall installation of $25 per square foot.
However, the majority of SmartSlope's business remains green roofs. This consists of installing a roof-top drainage system, layer of soil and plants that can withstand weather and wind.
Dick says that 99 percent of its green roof business is with commercial customers. “There’s no return on investment for residential customers,” he says. “Also, home roofs are not built for the weight” of a green roof.
Federal and municipal regulations and tax rebates for installation of storm water management systems have spurred growth of the green roof industry. Dicks says that SmartSlope already has $3 million worth of green roof contracts for 2013.
It has installed green roofs on behalf of Princeton, Rutgers and George Washington universities; a US Department of the Interior building; and the Baltimore Hilton, connected to the Convention Center.
In 2009, Furbish received an investment of $81,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, a partnership of the state Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland. The funding was used to develop SmartSlope. The Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute is a minority investor. In August, SmartSlope received about $200,000 from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships for development of alternative blends of green roof material.
Michael Furbish is the founder of the company. In 2008, it moved into an 18,000-square foot former warehouse in the Brooklyn area of the city that was renovated for office use and retrofitted with solar panels to provide radiant heating and hot water. The company has 15 employees.
Source: Jimmy Dick, SmartSlope
Writer: Barbara Pash