Succulent Plant Drive at American Steel Studios

The Heat Island Effect

What is a Heat Island? According to the EPA:

“The term “heat island” describes built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality.”

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Our living wall will add vegetation to the heavily paved, urban habitat that exists in West Oakland. Increasing vegetation is one way that we can reduce the heat island effect in our neighborhood.  Read more about heat islands at

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Civic Involvement

Our living wall project wouldn’t be possible or relevant without the community organizations that inform and inspire us. Our rainwater catchment system uses a Rain Barrel from the Oakland Rain Barrel program, an innovative program from The City of Oakland that provided residents with water collecting barrels to encourage home rainwater collection systems. The green wall will add bird butterfly and beneficial insect habitat to Mandala Parkway, contributing to the newly established greenway. We are inspired by our green activist community members, including Urban Releaf and West Oakland Greening Initiative, both of whom have planted trees around American Steel Studios, and we love City Slicker Farms, our neighbors who promote community gardening and local food security.

American Steel Studios from Mandala Parkway


Our Living Wall

Our first project as Groundation Foundation is building a stunning Green Wall in West Oakland – fed by a solar-powered, 2820 gallon rainwater harvesting system, showering the sidewalk with led rainfall and a wonderland of new plant habitat built with recycled materials.


We began constructing elements of the wall in January, 2013.

Our ultimate plan is to green the entire Mandala Parkway facing wall of American Steel Studios with living wall panels. We decided to begin by constructing one prototype panel in January 2013.

We began with the installation of a 2,820 gallon rain barrel, thanks to our partnership with the Oakland Rainbarrel Program.


543958_396574113762239_78967656_nWe installed a rainwater catchment system, to divert runoff rainwater from the roof of American Steel Studios into our barrel.

We have been collecting clippings of succulent plants from our friends and neighbors. Our Nursery Team is actively propagating and caring for our plants in anticipation of installing them in our living wall frame upon completion.


Karen Cusolito and Nick Gardner after a day of Frame Fabrication

The steel frame for our Living Wall is nearing completion!

We are enthusiastically anticipating the installation of our first living wall panel this spring.

This wall will connect to the biological corridor already begun by the City of Oakland along Mandela Parkway.


American Steel Studios

American Steel Studios provides affordable space in West Oakland in which artists and entrepreneurs can create and inspire. The American Steel Community includes painters, photographers, steel fabricators and sculptors, soap-makers, a compost worm farm, water re-use management, urban greening, vertical aerial and trapeze performers, graphic designers, jewelers, glass artists, furniture designers and more. Groundation Foundation is based at American Steel Studios; the Living Wall is installed on the wall adjacent to Mandala Parkway.

Nick Gardner

Nick Gardner, a natural designer is happiest when lupine, poppies and irises all bloom in the same rocky meadow. This is the inspiration for all of his work from mystic woods to urban food forests. He has a decade of professional experience with habitat restoration, California natives and green roofs. With a quest to continue learning Nick applies sustainable practices and advocates for permaculture as well as organics; Nick is a Foundational member of the Groundation Foundation team.

Wholly H2O

Wholly H2O is a catalyst for sustainable, localized water management within the design/build community in California. Their innovative education and outreach advances locally-appropriate solutions for water conservation, including the pragmatic reuse of rain, storm, gray, and black water.

Oakland Rain Barrel Program

The Oakland Rain Barrel Program (ORBP) uses federal grant dollars to sell discounted rain barrels to Oakland residents in areas that are at risk of erosion. This program also aims to educate Oakland residents on watershed protection and foster the growth of green jobs. The Groundation Foundation Living Wall uses a water efficient irrigation system that utilizes water collected from the roof of American Steel Studios and stored in a 2820 barrel donated by the Oakland Rain Barrel Program.

Indra Designs

Indra Designs, Inc. specializes in storm water management, rainwater collection, greywater systems, native and drought tolerant landscapes. Tony Poeck, Owner/Designer, is an EPA certified landscape water auditor. Tony is an instrumental member of Groundation Foundation, contributing his design expertise in water efficient irrigation systems in the design of the rainwater catchment and irrigation system that waters our Living Wall.