SOMETIMES called living walls, green facades, bio walls, eco walls or vertical gardens, green walls are a dynamic way to green a vertical built surface. Green walls refer to vegetation that grows directly onto a building’s façade or to vegetation that is grown on a separate structural system that can be free standing and adjacent or attached to the wall.
Living green walls or green walls are self-sufficient vertical gardens that are attached to the exterior or interior of a building. They differ from green facades (e.g. ivy walls) in that the plants root in a
structural support, which is fastened to the wall itself. The plants receive water and nutrients from within the vertical support instead of from the ground. Living green walls are commonly hydroponic systems irrigated by a drip-irrigation method.
Living Walls (a.k.a bio walls, ‘mur’ vegetal, vertical gardens, or modular green walls) systems are composed of pre-vegetated panels, modules, planted blankets or bags that are affixed to a structural wall or free-standing frame. These modules can be made of plastic, expanded polystyrene, synthetic fabric, clay, and concrete and support a greater diversity and density of plant species (e.g. lush mixture of ground covers, ferns, low shrubs, perennial flowers, and edible plants) than green facades. To date many living wall installations can be found in both tropical and temperate regions. Living walls can perform well in full sun, shade and interior applications.
When visiting botanical gardens, taking a stroll in a park or hiking through a forest it is easy to see that nature has come up with a variety of colors, textures pattern and sizes. By utilizing this diversity and incorporating hundreds of species of plants it is possible to create a living art!
Taking an artistic approach, designing a green wall which is diverse, eye-catching, intriguing and simply a pleasure to look at, should be an artistic project aiming to create strikingly beautiful, unique and original work of art designed to best its surroundings. Green walls are low maintenance because of the automatic irrigation system. They are water efficient, especially when compared to the irrigation that is used for garden and urban parks. Being hydroponic (i.e. soil-less makes them very clean and eliminates the possibility of soil-borne pathogens. A lightweight porous material takes the place of soil and, therefore, the walls are very light. A material is used which evenly distributes moisture and nutrients to the plants. This also doubles as a structural support for the roots and allows them to grow everywhere, resulting in no space limitations.
Green walls have a recent surge in popularity. The idea for living green walls was first patented by Stanley Hart White, a professor of Landscape Architecture in 1938, however, it is Patrick Blanc’s name that resounds through the industry. After creating one of the most famous green walls at the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, he was designated the godfather of ‘vegetal wall,’ sparking a revolution in sustainable architecture. The vision was to reclaim the built environment, by clothing the facades of buildings with epiphytic and lithophytic plantings to create a living, breathing architectural function to every building ‘ –greening the grey’ concrete jungle.
These miraculous structures bring nature back into urban environments. As the concrete jungle expands and pollution rises, the application of living green walls stand to reverse this trend. Incorporating carefully chosen selections of plants into cutting edge design, living green walls have been devised to help restore the natural balance.
As we run out of green space in cities, living green walls can turn urban spaces back into something natural and beautiful. They can also improve air quality and provide health benefits.