What is a Green Wall or Living Wall?
Green Walls are also known as Vertical Gardens, Living Walls, Plant Walls and Vegetative Walls. They are typically a modular system and can be customized and installed on an exterior or interior wall of a building which holds plants in 4″ or 6″ containers. Most potted-plant style systems are pre-manufactured with water tight panels and can easily be rotated or replaced. Other types of living walls can grow on a fibrous material which allows the roots to form a strong matrix within the fabric and they are watered by an automated drip irrigation system from within.
Benefits of a green wall
Improve air quality
Plants improve air quality by naturally extracting carbon dioxide and exchanging for fresh oxygen during photosynthesis. Based on modest estimates of existing and emerging data, it has been calculated that a minimum of 300g (10 oz) of carbon dioxide can be eliminated from the enclosed environment for every square meter of leaf surface in the area per year.
Reduce stress and increase productivity
A number of studies with both students and workers reveals that studying or working in the presence of plants can have a dramatic effect. As with simply being in nature, being around plants improves concentration, memory and productivity. Being “under the influence of plants” can increase memory retention up to 20 percent, according to a University of Michigan study. Two Norwegian studies found that worker productivity is greatly enhanced by the presence of plants in the office. “Keeping ornamental plants in the home and in the workplace increases memory retention and concentration,” notes Texas A&M. “Work performed under the natural influence of ornamental plants is normally of higher quality and completed with a much higher accuracy rate than work done in environments devoid of nature.”
A study at The Royal College of Agriculture in Circencester, England, found that students demonstrate 70 percent greater attentiveness when they’re taught in rooms containing plants. In the same study, attendance was also higher for lectures given in classrooms with plants. (Treehugger: Media outlet for green news, solutions and product information)
Reduce sickness and absenteeism
The Dutch Product Board for Horticulture commissioned a workplace study that discovered that adding plants to office settings decreases fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flu-like symptoms. In another study by the Agricultural University of Norway, sickness rates fell by more than 60 percent in offices with plants.
Reduce indoor noise and acoustics
Studies from Oxford University have also shown that plants absorb noise in busy office environments. By cutting down on the audible elements of a busy work place, plants can reduce employee distractions and increase productivity.
Potential increase in profit for retailers
Retailers have long understood the importance of store environments in enhancing the shopping experience. Marketers have studied the situational influences of product packaging and store layout on the behavior of shoppers (Engel et al. 1990). While business people are keenly interested in the presentation of their product and store they often overlook “macro” level settings – the district that surrounds their shop or office. Mattila and Wirtz (2002) extend the notion of Gestalt to consumers’ perceptions of retail environments and demonstrated that consumers perceive the service-landscape holistically. Interior plants and landscapes create situations more favorable for retail activity. When we shop in retail areas with “tree” versus “non-tree” environments we visit more frequently, stay longer, rate the quality of the products 30% higher and are willing to pay about 12% more for goods. (Green Plants for Green Buildings: A not-for-profit organization dedicated to communicating the aesthetic, environmental, productivity and health benefits of plants in the built environment)
(Leadership in Energy and Environment)LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
There are a number of LEED® rating systems available to meet the needs of different building and project types. Each LEED rating system consists of prerequisites and credits. Prerequisites are required elements, or green building strategies that must be included in any LEED certified project. Credits are optional elements, or strategies that projects can elect to pursue to gain points toward LEED certification.
With four possible levels of certification (certified, silver, gold and platinum), LEED is flexible enough to accommodate a wide range of green building strategies that best fit the constraints and goals of particular projects. (Canada Green Building Council: A not-for-profit, national organization working since 2002 to advance green building and sustainable community development practices in Canada)
interior modular systems typically have two styles of root growth systems. Plants that are rooted directly into the structure (felt or fabric layers) and grow as a matrix along a watertight backing, or plants that are rooted in 4″-6″ pots in a growth medium. This media is actually “soil-less” and made up of a mixture consisting of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and mycorrhizae. Together the benefits of these components help to retain water, improve fertilizer uptake, provide a significant drainage capacity by increasing air porosity, reduce fungal growth and increase the plants resistance to stress.
Currently Off the Wall Greenscapes offers several brands of modular systems grown in pots and work on either a tray and hydroponic wick system using the process of capillary action or an automated, timed drip.
- Versa Wall™
- ASI, NextGen Walls
- GrowUp Green Walls
The modular systems distribute water throughout the wall in a closed system so no water escapes forward or behind the wall. With a wicking system module the water is pumped to the top and flows from tray to tray to the bottom. Trays are designed to hold a measured amount of water for each individual plant so plants do not compete for water. This means no soil spills out of the wall and no water spills forward, assuring that the Green Wall will be neat and spotless. Typical watering times are every 7-14 days. The water can be recycled or drained off at the bottom but it is usually managed to reduce waste.
With the modular systems they can be watered manually with a water caddy, a hose connection, or a tank watering with a manual refill. They can also have an automated system installed providing direct water/direct drain irrigation or tank watering with an automated valve refill.
Some systems are irrigated through an automated, timed drip system and are monitored for efficiency and function.
An assessment is required with consideration to the location of the wall and what sources are available in that area of the building to determine the most efficient option.
Interior plants need an even flood of 150 fc / 1500 lux of light provided across the entire surface of the wall for a min. of 10-12 hours per day with a color temp. of 4000 to 4500° K. It is recommended that either Metal Halide or LED’s be used.
Light sources and units can be determined during consultation and initial estimates for installation.
Modular walls require the plants to be on a rotation or replacement schedule usually included in a maintenance agreement with a professional interiorscaping company. Depending on the location and the size of the wall this is often the most cost-effective technique to installing and maintaining a live green wall.
Regular and periodic maintenance checks include the following:
- Pruning and cleaning plants to keep the plants free of decaying material as well as maintaining the design intent.
- Checking on soil moisture levels and managing and adjusting the watering schedule accordingly.
- Inspecting for pests and diseases and treating accordingly.
- Checking for plant fertilization requirements to maintain the proper level of color and nutrition.
- Inspecting, cleaning and maintaining the wall components such as tank, filters, trays and fasteners.
- Inspecting irrigation water flow as well as the re-circulation and drainage systems.
- Manual watering when applicable.
- Adjusting timers and fixtures on lighting so the plants receive the best light levels as much as possible.
- Replacing any plants or rotating display as per individual contract agreement and requests.
Frequency of maintenance visits will depend on the size of the wall as well as the type of plants selected for the wall and the location of the wall itself within the building. Many factors can effect the humidity levels, temperature and lighting in a building and those would be assessed on an individual basis with your living wall specialist and plant care provider.
Off the Wall Greenscapes offers FREE consultations and estimates. Get your green wall project started and we’ll help you select the best product to bring nature indoors.