Living walls — or green walls — are a growing trend, inspired by the creations of “vertical garden” designer Patrick Blanc on building facades and store interiors worldwide.
Growing plants on a vertical surface became possible after studies were undertaken of natural vertical locations without soil which were supporting an abundance of plants. Living wall techniques imitate these locations, so that the walls also function without soil making the surface very light and easy to tailor to any geometry.
Living Wall Design
The Landscape Gardener prepares a unique design and planting plan for every living wall or green wall. The planting plan takes into consideration the specific environment where it will be built, such as the surrounding garden environment and sun exposure. The aim is to create a vertical garden which remains beautiful throughout the whole year.
A well executed design is also a way to minimise the future maintenance demand of the living wall. A plant’s growth, size and behaviour on a vertical surface is important knowledge when making the right combination of plants, in order to keep the competition between plants at a healthy level. Choosing the right plant for the right place makes sense for any garden, but maybe even more so in a vertical garden.
A vertical garden can be installed in almost any location and as a living material, the potential of integrating living walls or green walls in an urban environment is interesting. Places never thought of as possible could be inhabited by plants, like subway stations or other intensely frequented places where horizontal space is difficult to spare.
Benefits of Living Walls
Living Walls help to reduce local wind speeds, traffic noise, and localised temperature extremes (The Urban Heat Island) by shading and converting liquid water to water vapour (evapotranspiration) which cools the air. They help to improve air quality by reducing dust and particulates and help to reduce the amount of heat lost from a home. Another significant benefit is the increase in biodiversity, along with aid for food and shelter for wildlife. Green walls can also significantly increase infiltration and storage of rainwater through their root systems.
Living walls may have a positive impact on both physical & mental health and wellbeing. Green views and access to green spaces in cities helps and relieve the everyday pressures of crowding and noise. They may have a positive impact on crime reduction since residents living in ‘greener’ surroundings actually report lower levels of fear, fewer incivilities, and less violent behavior. Living walls can benefit communities socially by instilling higher public esteem and pride for an area.
Living walls are unlikely to be graffiti’d, they improve the quality and perception of the urban environment, and can provide security as a dense and natural barrier for unwanted guests.
Living walls can have seasonal variations in colour, growth, flowers, and perfume which provide all year round interest.
Living walls can provide local fruit and vegetation for the community.
Living walls have the potential to increase residential and commercial property values by between 7% and 15%. They help to create a positive perception for prospective purchasers of property. They soften newly built houses and give immediate character and warmth. Further, they can improve the environmental performance of buildings and therefore the economic performance through reducing heating and cooling costs.
Living walls can provide screening and barriers where fencing regulations may limit alternatives. They may even enhance the prospects of securing planning permission.