Living Walls & Green Walls

What is a living wall?

A living wall is a vertical structure built up from live plants. They come in a range of shapes and sizes, can accommodate a range of plants and are suitable for both indoor and outdoor spaces.

The concept of a living wall was invented in the 1930s by Stanley Hart White – Professor of Landscape Architecture at The University of Illinois but it’s really come into popularity over the past 10 years. Landmark projects such as the CaixaForum Museum in Madrid have been critical to their rise to prominence in the architectural space.

 

What is the difference between a living wall and a green wall?

Although you may presume that there isn’t a difference between a living wall and a green wall, there is. A living wall is a term that only covers walls crafted from live plants. 

Meanwhile. A green wall is an all-encompassing term that covers not only living walls but also walls crafted from artificial & preserved plants. It also covers both live and preserved moss walls which are two of the varieties of green walls that are growing most in popularity. 

 

An example of an artificial green wall

What are the planting options that I can introduce to my living wall?

Indoor living walls can host almost any typical indoor plant including all of the plants NASA has identified as ‘Air-Purifying’ Combining NASA Air Purifying Plants into a living wall is a great way to help improve the air quality as well as the interior design of your space 

Besides typical external plants, outdoor living walls can also host Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs. It’s important to note however that in the UK, only certain varieties of Fruit and Veg will be able to grow and thrive sufficiently outdoors.  Fruit, Vegetables and Herbs can be grown on an interior living wall, however, they do require specialist grow lights so that they can thrive sufficiently indoors. 

 

What are the benefits of an indoor living wall?

Indoor living walls help to bring the same array of benefits into indoor spaces as indoor plants. Improved wellbeing, reduced stress/anxiety and improved air quality are just a few of the changes you can expect to benefit from when introducing a living wall.

Besides the general benefits that introducing indoor planting brings, modular living walls more specifically can also have a significant impact on noise pollution. In 2015, a European Commission funded study was undertaken to decipher whether a living wall could effectively absorb noise pollution.

What they found was that when am modular living wall was introduced into a space, noise pollution in the neighbouring room was reduced by up to 15dB. They also estimated that if the sealing was applied between the modules noise pollution could be reduced by a further 3dB.

To put this into perspective, the World Health Organisation has outlined 55dB as noise pollution that can be considered dangerous. Therefore introducing an external or internal living wall could sufficiently provide enough of a reduction in noise pollution to bring many city-centre offices and residential spaces back within safe levels. 

 

An example of a living wall at H&M

What are the benefits of an outdoor living wall?

Whilst still positively impacting wellbeing, outdoor living walls also come with a whole host of additional benefits.  Firstly, they encourage biodiversity. A range of animals including birds, bees and insects will all be able to use your external living wall as both a habitat and for nutrition which will greatly boost your local eco-system.

Secondly, they can reduce your energy bill. A study by the University of Plymouth found that living walls can reduce heat loss from buildings by up to 30%.

Finally, they can also come with an economic advantage. Not only can they help increase your property value and that of your neighbours but they can even increase retail spending. Studies have shown that shoppers will pay 25% more for items and 20% more for food in greener retail settings.

 

How do you water a living wall?

Although watering thousands of live plants crafted together into a vertical structure may seem like an impossible challenge – it’s actually probably easier than just looking after a single house plant. Almost all commercial living walls are fitted with an irrigation system that is capable of distributing the correct amount of water to each plant.

Smaller living walls often feature a water tank alongside an irrigation system which will need to be topped up with a watering can. How often they need to be topped up will depend on both the size of the wall and the plants used in the wall – however smart walls like NAAVA will alert the user when the tank is nearing empty.

Meanwhile, larger living walls are usually connected to an external water source due to the large amount of water they need. To maximise sustainability, larger living walls can also be combined with a rainwater harvesting system which in turn helps to reduce overall water consumption.

 

An example of a living wall at Exubia HQ

What other maintenance does a living wall require?

Besides watering, living walls will also require pruning to ensure the foliage doesn’t become too dense and overcrowd your space. It’s also vital to regularly inspect the plants in your living wall for disease and pests. Due to the fact the plants are packed in tightly next to each other, infestations of all kinds can spread quickly if left untreated.

 

How long do living walls last?

As Living Walls have only recently risen to popularity, there aren’t a vast amount of case studies showcasing how long they’ll last. With proper maintenance, it’s perfectly reasonable for you to expect your living wall to last for 5-10 years+

 

An example of a NAAVA Wall

 

How do I create and install a living wall for my home?

If you want a large, indoor living wall feature we’d suggest getting a professional company to help. However, if you’re only looking to introduce a small, outdoor living wall then it can be fairly easy.

Step 1 – The first step is to purchase and assemble a set of living wall modules so that they are in the correct size and shape for your wall. Alternatively, pre-set living wall panels are widely available.

These vertical pockets can be picked up from Amazon for a fairly minimal cost. It’s best to purchase modules with drainage holes as this will save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to watering.

Step 2 – The next step is to fill the trays with compost. It can also be wise at this stage to introduce slow-release fertilising pellets to your potting mix at this point to provide your plants with ongoing nutrition.

Step 3 – Next it’s time to introduce your plants into the compost. Make sure to pack them in tightly but not so tightly that they are overcrowded. 

Step 4 – When your plants are set up, it’s time to install your living wall panel. Most modular living systems can simply be hooked over a fence or railing but some may require the panels to be drilled in with screws.

Step 5 – To water your plants, it’s best to perform the finger dip test. If you dip your finger in the soil and it’s dry then you should add more water.  However, if your finger comes out moist then it’s probably to save to leave them a little bit longer.