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Living Walls For Healthy Cities


Biotecture-green wall at New Street Square Holborn

Biotecture-green wall at New Street Square Holborn

THE idea for living green walls was first patented by Stanley Hart White in 1938, though the Frenchman Patrick Blanc’s name that made the idea of ‘vegetal wall’ famous with his design of the green walls at the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, sparking the ‘bio-architechture revolution.’

As we run out of green space in cities, living green walls will restore urban spaces back into something natural and beautiful. They can also improve air quality and provide health benefits such as improved the environment. The so-called modern advancements have created expanding concrete jungles and increased air pollution from the industrial revolution. In built-up areas, polluting gases and particulate matter are turning our air toxic, but we can utilize nature to reverse the damage we’re causing. Living green walls can reverse this trend.

A recent study into the effectiveness of green infrastructure for improving air quality in urban street canons (the gaps between large buildings) found living green walls have a big impact. These gaps are hotspots for harmful pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, but living green walls have been shown to reduce levels by 40 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

Green Fence as screen provides privacy and security

Green Fence as screen provides privacy and security

Sick building syndrome is an issue of modern times. It’s not just pollutants outside that are a cause for concern as there are plenty of toxins indoor that adversely affect our health too. Homes and offices are filled with invisible toxic fumes that are silently choking us. Countless toxins are leeching from our indoor environment, such as formaldehyde, VOCs, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide and benzene as examples. It’s long been known that adding office plants can improve the indoor air quality and interior green walls do just that but on a bigger scale that benefits building inhabitants. Incorporating carefully chosen selection of plants into cutting edge design, living green walls have been devised to bring back not just the natural balance but something beautiful and inspiring.

Modern society is all about image and nothing beats nature for beauty. A well-designed, flourishing green wall can drastically improve a building’s appearance, adding color and texture that won’t go out of fashion. Each wall is specifically designed, using different varieties of plant which can vary in color, growth and flower to create living art, rather than a lawn on the side of your building.

Buildings are adversely affected by changing weather and temperatures that cause materials to expand and contract, which over time leads to deterioration, cracks and fissures. Exterior living walls give buildings protection, not just from temperature fluctuations, but also by diverting water away from walls during heavy rain and providing protection from UV radiation.

Urban Heat Island Effect

The build-up of urban environments has caused a worrying side effect. Termed the ‘urban heat island effect,’ research has found that metropolitan areas are considerably warmer than rural areas. This temperature increase has negative impact on the environment from increasing energy demands to air pollution and emissions.

Living green walls help to offset this problem by providing shade from the effects of direct sunlight. Also unlike brick or concrete, plant surfaces don’t store up solar energy, but reflect it. Both interior and exterior walls help to actively cool the air in the hot season by a process called evapotranspiration, reducing the need to cool the building.

Reduced Noise Level

Plants have long been used to reduce noise levels and other noisy roadways across North America and Europe. Living green walls expand on this idea. Vegetation naturally blocks high frequency sounds while supporting structure can help to diminish low-frequency noise. As the use of green walls increase, this could significantly change in urban environments, eradicating the din of the hustle and bustle we’ve had to put up with.

Increase Property Value

Interior green wall vertical garden

Interior green wall vertical garden

The U.S. Green Building Council developed the LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) as an internationally recognized green building certification system to help transform the design, construction and operation of buildings. Both commercial building and home-owners can gain LEED credits, by satisfying certain green criteria. The installation of living green walls, either inside or outside, secures LEED points for low water usage and efficient irrigation, which can help companies show their dedication to sustainable and eco-friendly solutions. This in turn helps to increase a property’s value by giving a positive perception of a modern building with an improved carbon footprint.

Just being close to plants can have a positive impact on an individual’s wellbeing. Indeed, studies have shown that even seeing nature in the work environment can increase job satisfaction. The installation of cutting-edge structure like a green wall also sends a message to employees that they are employed at a company that is concerned with providing them with an enjoyable work environment, boosting staff morale and productivity.

Where Can Living Green Walls Be Used?

Living walls can be fitted to bath new buildings and refurbishments, from adventurous garden projects to large commercial developments. Completely versatile, they can be installed inside offices or attached to exteriors of buildings.

The flexibility of green walls makes them perfect for all environments. Just like with office buildings, living green walls can be installed in residential buildings both inside and outside.

Public sectors will certainly benefit from the environmental gains of the systems contributing to their CO2 reduction targets, but any industry can reap the rewards. It is worthwhile for those in the building and property industry to consider as the way to go.

The ultimate goal and benefits is to bring nature back into the urban environment and create beautiful healthy cities.

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