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HolidayBuyer's Guide

San Francisco sprouts a 'Chia' nightclub

A hanging garden on a dance club's facade is the seed of plans to give people a place to get down without the green guilt.

Native ferns mark the first step toward greening the exterior walls.
Native ferns mark the first step toward greening the exterior walls. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

A San Francisco nightclub installed on Monday what it's promoting as the city's first vertical garden. Several plant-filled boxes turned on their sides and bolted outside near the entrance are the first step in the Zen Compound's plans to cover the facade of the building in greenery.

"The hope is to have a living building," said Mike Zuckerman, director of sustainability at the 40,000 square foot complex. He spotted a butterfly hovering near native licorice ferns on Tuesday.

Green rooftops are in vogue in cities around the country. Hanging, wall-mounted gardens, on the other hand, are few and far between--except, naturally, where ivy climbs.

Zuckerman envisions eventually shaping plants into the form of the club logo, or sculpting Styrofoam embedded with sprouts to make the facade green all over. And spray-on seeds could cover the building with plant graffiti, making it the architectural equivalent of a Chia Pet.

The existing plants, a test run, may not be ecologically perfect. They're inside of nonrecycled plastic boxes, for instance, but those last at least five times longer than bioplastic. And they will be hooked up to plumbing from the roof to be watered, though the long-term goal is to harvest rainwater.

Don't dis the plants, a sign suggests.
Don't dis the plants, a sign suggests. Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks

Zuckerman aims to turn the compound's nightclub and restaurant, which attracts 1,000 people on a decent night, into a showcase of sustainability.

Planned for next year is a dance floor coated in piezoelectric crystals that turn the pressure from dancing feet into electrical power. He already knows someone who can handle the job for only $10,000.

"We have a mystical physicist in residence here," Zuckerman said.

Eco-chic event planning is expanding as more people seek to celebrate without expanding their carbon footprint.

A club in Rotterdam has already harnessed piezoelectrics (more at Inhabitat) to power its lights and sound system. Several other nightclubs are pushing green efforts, including the Butterfly Social Club in Chicago and even some sex clubs in Tokyo.

For now, the Zen Compound serves organic spirits with corn-based cups and straws that get composted rather than trashed. Club marketing is moving away from using paper fliers, even if recycled, to online-only promotions with Flash animation.

Zuckerman is updating the lighting with efficient fluorescent and LED bulbs, which will reap a refund from Pacific Gas & Electric. Future plans include adding an energy monitor to display the building's vital signs, such as water collected from the roof and power generated from planned solar panels. Wind power is on the wish list.

Full disclosure: CNET's holiday staff party is being held here tonight. Sorry, you won't get past our bouncers.

Plans are in the works to cover the club in a living, green skin that can be seen from the freeway nearby.
Plans are in the works to cover the club in a living, green skin that can be seen from the freeway nearby. Zen Compound