Living Canopies, Ltd., was founded in 2015 by a dedicated and passionate team of ecological engineers and designers.
The idea was born on a warm Vegas pool deck. Dave Tilley and his family were enjoying a relaxing, lazy day under the sun when Dave started to feel uncomfortably hot. He scanned the area for a spot of shade but found only a few shrubs stuffed in planter boxes. Upon closer inspection, people were actually huddled by the shrubs in an effort to stay cool. Why was it so much hotter than normal, Dave wondered, and where was the shade?
In part, it turns out, Dave was experiencing the urban heat island effect. This is when an urban area experiences significantly warmer temperatures than rural areas due to an influx of human activity. It occurs most often in places with tall buildings and little natural air circulation. The Vegas pool deck was no different; it was a concrete block designed for human use, not for housing plants.
As a researcher focused on how humans interact with nature, Dave realized that he could use the natural cooling power of plants to make urban spaces, like the pool, more comfortable and beautiful. He brainstormed a shady structure made of plants—a “living umbrella.”
After his trip, he returned to the University of Maryland, College Park, and recruited two former students, Nick Cloyd and Tim Williamson, to prototype a design. They scrapped together spare parts, including a wok donated from the University of Maryland’s Dining Services, to create the first model. Nicknamed “Mandy” after the Mandevilla vines used in the canopy, this prototype quickly launched Living Canopies.
Soon after, the University convinced Dave, Nick, and Tim to participate in the “customer discovery” process. In their first seven weeks, the team interviewed over 100 people in the restaurant, hotel, and green building industry. They used their feedback to redesign a product that better met the public’s needs. A standalone SmartSolar watering system reduced plant maintenance in a busy urban environment. A steel base ensured a sturdy and safe structure so that high winds could not topple the umbrella. While green roofs and green walls protect buildings, the Living Umbrella® protects people.
Today, Living Canopies, Ltd., aims to connect people to nature. We are currently working to develop a line of Living Furniture to continue to brighten up restaurants, homes, and urban spaces.