We’ve all heard about the benefits of green roofs but some are taking this concept to the next level (or surface) to create ‘green’ or living walls. These are walls that are entirely covered by living plants. From plants growing up a trellis, to vines growing down the side of a building, or to plants being grown in trays on a vertical surface, these living walls are becoming increasingly popular inside homes and offices as well as on the sides of buildings and along roadways.
The successful use of living walls around the world has influenced a new research program by the University of Sheffield in the UK into the long term effects of living wall systems in the UK climate over all four seasons of the year.
“Studies have shown that covering the surfaces of buildings in urban environments with green plants results in an improvement in air quality, aesthetics and wellbeing,” explained Dr Hasim Altan from the University of Sheffield’s School of Architecture in a media release issued by the university. “However, most of these studies have taken place in climates significantly warmer than the UK. Our study will find out how living walls fare in the UK’s weather and how they can be of most benefit in this country.”
Dr Altan explained the need for living walls in our cities, “Our working and living spaces in inner cities is forcing us to climb vertically as a lack of available land increasingly becomes more of an issue. Vertical greenery has great potential to increase necessary green mass in cities by utilising surfaces that have conventionally not been considered as platforms for vegetation.”
Together with the environmental and social benefits living walls can increase commercial property values by between seven and 15%. These lush walls can help to create a positive perception for prospective purchasers of property and soften newly built houses, giving immediate character and warmth.
With the rebuild of the Kinglake Primary School (the school was destroyed in the ‘Black Saturday’ fires in 2009) a green wall was constructed to create warmth for the newly built school and also providing it with a stunning centre piece. OSA Architects led the design of the reconstruction effort and according to the firm’s director Geoff Stanistreet, the living wall was not only about aesthetics but also about provide better air quality.
While Brisbane has a series of green roofs across the city, it has also installed one of the world’s longest green walls, at 500 metres. Green plants cover a concrete mass lining the motorway linking Brisbane’s CBD to the northern suburbs and the Brisbane Airport.
Landscape architect Arno King of Deicke Richards is the horticultural consultant collaborating with the project’s team. Deicke told Design Build Source that, “Because the requirement was for a lifespan of forty years, we eventually had panels and baskets made from fibre reinforced plastic (FRP), a resin fibreglass used for flooring. FRP is UV stabilised, and developed to withstand heavy loads, moisture, chemicals and acids secreted by plants.” The low-maintenance living wall only needs to be tended to once a year and includes local plants that are known to thrive in Brisbane’s environment.