Vertical gardens, recognized alternatively as living walls or green walls, epitomize pioneering horticultural endeavors wherein plants are cultivated upon vertical surfaces, most commonly affixed to walls or structural frameworks. This particular botanical innovation serves as an exclusive and aesthetically pleasing method to infuse greenery into urban landscapes, interior domains, and locales contending with spatial constraints.
The crafting of vertical gardens entails the utilization of diverse systems, encompassing modular panels, hydroponics, or soil-based configurations, designed to provide sustenance and structural support for plant life oriented in a vertical manner. The scale and intricacy of these gardens exhibit considerable variance, spanning from modest installations adorning residential edifices to expansive, elaborate designs adorning the exteriors of commercial buildings.
The advantages of vertical gardens
Their advantages are, of course, not just aesthetic. They provide a natural shield against noise pollution and smog while delivering exceptional insulation, resulting in energy savings for the heating and cooling of structures, coupled with commendable fire resistance.
And that’s not all. The advantages offered by these unique natural “coverings” extend to the realm of well-being. Instead of confronting an unyielding concrete wall in the urban jungle, the sight of green walls soothes the eyes, relaxes the mind, and even enhances the property’s value.
The different types of green walls
These adaptable and modular solutions cater to various architectural surfaces and specific needs:
- Partial or complete cladding of external facades
- Self-supporting walls
- Retaining walls
Green walls can be fashioned on expansive panels or assembleable modules, seamlessly integrating with wall characteristics while ensuring the functionality of doors and windows.
In contemporary systems dedicated to green wall creation, two predominant types find significant application: the ventilated facade, ideal for enveloping the exteriors of large buildings, and sound-absorbing walls, meticulously designed to provide acoustic insulation and enhance the aesthetic appeal of urban areas near airports, roadways, and railway junctions.
Let’s examine them in more detail, starting with the ventilated facade.
The Ventilated Facade
One of the most prevalent systems in vertical greenery, it employs a construction technique involving the assembly of pre-planted panels. A notable advantage is the replaceability of individual panels. The plant settlement period, starting from system installation, spans approximately 12 months. Specially selected plants and growing substrates ensure uniform water distribution and a verdant surface throughout the year.
Typically, these panels consist of oxidized aluminum sheets with a cell structure accommodating the plants and grooves facilitating water flow. The backside of the panels is solid, mitigating any risk of humidity affecting the building walls. Modules are affixed to the wall through an aluminum grid, providing support and resistance against humidity and atmospheric elements. An air chamber is maintained between the system and the wall, ensuring ventilation and thermo-acoustic insulation. Plants rest on an irrigating sub-layer of polypropylene felt housing a core of peat and expanded perlite, replicating the natural habitat for plant growth—a technique widely employed in hydroponic cultivation.
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These autonomous barriers, available in single or double-sided configurations, are particularly adept at mitigating noise and enhancing urban aesthetics, especially in the vicinity of railway stations and motorways. In this context, the framework is upheld by steel uprights, upon which panels, pre-welded to a metal mesh, are affixed.
For filling, lightweight substrates are employed, possessing optimal water retention capabilities and furnishing essential nutrients for all incorporated plants.
The dimensions of these structures are remarkably compact, measuring a mere 13.3 cm in thickness for single-sided variants and 22 cm for double-sided counterparts. This adaptability renders them easily applicable to diverse surfaces and contexts.
Vertical Gardens: Optimal Plant Selection
Having discussed the merits of green walls and delved into assembly techniques and system types, the focus now shifts to identifying the most suitable plant species for natural building coverings and acoustic barriers. This involves understanding the maintenance requirements and construction costs associated with such installations.
Plant selection predominantly gravitates towards low-maintenance varieties that demand minimal care and infrequent interventions throughout the year. An essential criterion is their ground-covering nature, accommodating climbers, bushes, shrubs, and hanging plants.
Regarding grass varieties, they can be broadly categorized into two types:
- Microthermal varieties (grasses), exhibiting resilience to cold climates but less tolerance to heat.
- Macrothermal varieties (such as tares and couch grass), thriving in warmer climates and entering vegetative rest in colder temperatures, rejuvenating in spring.
Essential considerations in choosing plant species include the geographical location of the building, exposure to elements, water and flowering needs, as well as the type of implant and substrate employed.
Installation should occur under favorable environmental and climatic conditions, and meticulous monitoring of development and adaptation, particularly in the initial 8-12 months post-installation, is crucial.
Irrigation and fertilization stand as fundamental care practices for all plant varieties within these walls. Automatic systems, often integrated into the structures, utilize collectors horizontally arranged at different levels, connected to vertical riser tubes distributing nutrients. In systems employing closed-cycle irrigation, rainwater, stored in collection tanks at the base, is utilized.
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Cost Considerations for Vertical Gardens
The cost of a green wall is contingent upon various factors, including the materials used for the structure, the irrigation system, substrate, and plant varieties. As an illustrative example, a 2-meter-high green facade, equipped with irrigation tanks and aluminum support structures, typically incurs costs in the range of 420-450 euros per square meter.
For indoor installations, the cost varies depending on the project’s size, ranging from 250 to 2,100 Dollars per square meter, inclusive of supply and installation expenses. For optimal well-being of the plants and aesthetic precision, consulting a professional is recommended.
Examples of Vertical Gardens
To finish with, here are some examples of famous vertical gardens around the world:
- CaixaForum Madrid, Spain: Designed by Patrick Blanc, the vertical garden on the CaixaForum Madrid museum’s exterior is a vibrant tapestry of plant life, showcasing a diverse range of species.
- One Central Park, Sydney, Australia: Created by Patrick Blanc and architect Jean Nouvel, the green walls of One Central Park are an integral part of the building’s design, featuring a variety of plants that thrive in the Australian climate.
- The One Central Park, New York, USA: Located in the heart of New York City, One Central Park is renowned for its impressive vertical garden, which graces the exterior of the building. The lush greenery provides a refreshing contrast to the urban landscape, showcasing the integration of nature into the architectural fabric of the city.
- The Rubens at the Palace, London, United Kingdom: This famous London hotel boasts a stunning living wall, providing an oasis of greenery in the heart of the city.
- Milan’s Bosco Verticale, Italy: Bosco Verticale, or the Vertical Forest, is a pair of residential towers in Milan designed by Stefano Boeri. The buildings are covered with a multitude of trees and plants, promoting biodiversity in an urban setting.
- Oasia Hotel Downtown, Singapore: The Oasia Hotel Downtown features a distinctive red facade adorned with lush greenery, creating a striking contrast in the Singaporean skyline.
- Santalaia Building, Bogotá, Colombia: The Santalaia Building is home to the largest vertical garden in the world, covering over 3,100 square meters with a variety of plants, turning the building into a living work of art.
- Editt Tower, Singapore: It is also known as the “Garden Tower” and incorporates greenery into its architecture, contributing to Singapore’s commitment to sustainable urban development.
- Atlantis Aventura, Dubai, UAE: The Atlantis Aventura hotel in Dubai features a stunning vertical garden in its lobby, offering a lush and visually captivating welcome to guests.
- The Athenaeum Hotel, London, United Kingdom: The Athenaeum Hotel in London showcases a living wall with a mix of plant species, providing a refreshing and eco-friendly touch to the urban environment.
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