living wall

Image by: Laura Manning

A guest article by Gavin Harvey

As urban spaces are growing, the desire to have a little bit of nature return to the living and working space is greater than ever. Living green walls help to escape the wasteland of concrete we find ourselves in, and counteract pollution to restore a natural balance to the local atmosphere.

Invented by Stanley Hart White in 1938, living green walls (also called vertical gardens or eco-walls) are more than just climbing plants. It is sustainable architecture at its finest!

 Benefits of Living Green Walls

With the expansion of cities everywhere, air pollution has increased; unknown to many people, toxins are not only outdoors on the streets filled with car fumes, but can build up indoors too thanks to air fresheners, cooking fumes and myriad other things. Plants filter these pollutants and improve air quality, whether that’s indoors or outdoors.

Living green walls on the outside of buildings also help to reduce energy costs by cooling the building in summer and insulating it in winter. Damages to walls are minimised by regulating the temperature fluctuations and diverting rainwater from the wall. Plants have long been used to block high frequency sounds on roadsides, and living green walls are a new way of diminishing noise pollution in busy urban areas.

Green walls also increase the property’s value by gaining LEED credits! This is an internationally recognised green building certification system, which rewards commercial buildings and home owners alike for developing certain green criteria.

 How Does it Work?

According to the climate of the location, carefully selected plants are put on structures that are either free-standing or attached to walls. These are irrigated by a drip-irrigation method, using recirculation systems to reduce water wastage.

Each wall is individually designed for the specific project. Plants for the exterior differ from those you would use indoors. They are chosen according to climate zones, usually for a higher zone than the location’s climate to ensure survival. Plants that have a wide range of tolerances and are able to adapt to a new environment quickly are perfect for the green walls.

If required, the wall can even feature a custom design, such as a logo crafted from carefully planted blooms in different colours.

 Cost and Maintenance

Plants grown on the wall are the cheaper option, but they will need a year before they are fully grown so if you want a stunning display immediately this isn’t your best option. Plants grown off-site and later inserted into the wall have their cost, as the nursery has to be paid plus fertilisers and day-to-day care.

Maintenance is crucial for a long-lasting living green wall. As the technology is still relatively young, it is hard to tell how long the plants will survive. The hardware can last up to 25 years whereas the plants will only grow until their roots run out of space within the panels, so it’s wise to choose species that don’t grow very rapidly! Plants in a tray system have to be replaced every year.

For more information about living green walls, check out The Ultimate Guide to Living Green Walls.

 Thanks to Gavin Harvey and Johann Heb for supplying this article.

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Old School Gardener

 

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