Green Wall

green wall

A green wall is a wall, either free-standing or part of a building, that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and, in some cases, soil or an inorganic growing medium. The concept of the green wall dates back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (600 BCE).

The modern green wall with integrated hydroponics was invented by Professor of Landscape Architecture Stanley Hart White at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 1931-38. White holds the first known patent for a green wall, or vertical garden, conceptualizing this new garden type as a solution to the problem of modern garden design.

There are two main categories of green walls: green façades and living walls. Green façades are made up of climbing plants either growing directly on a wall or, more recently, specially designed supporting structures. The plant shoot system grows up the side of the building while being rooted in the ground. With a living wall the modular panels are often made of stainless steel containers, geotextiles, irrigation systems, a growing medium and vegetation.

There is some discussion also around ‘active’ living walls, which pull or force air through the plants leaves, roots and growth medium of the wall and then into the buildings HVAC system to be recirculated throughout the building. A problem with these systems is that building code still requires that all the standard air filtration equipment that would have to be installed anyway, despite the living wall’s installation.

This means that active living walls do not improve air quality to the point that the installation of other air quality filtration systems can be removed to provide a cost-savings. Therefore, the added cost of design, planning and implementation of an active living wall is still in question. With further research and UL standards to support the air quality data from the living wall, building code may one day allow for our buildings to have their air filtered by plants.

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