9 Earth-Friendly Living Wall Considerations

Since Earth Day is this week, it’s a perfect time to highlight the ways to make living wall projects even greener.

Living walls are already inherently ‘green’ and appeal to our biophilic desires.  However, projects can easily become resource-intensive to install and maintain.  Luckily, there are some Earth-friendly options for living wall design, installation, and maintenance.  Some of these options may also be budget-friendly for you and your client.

 

If your client specifies a living wall and is adamant about sustainability, here are nine earth-friendly living wall considerations:

  1. Green Plants, Clean Air. Use plants from the NASA list that clean and purify the air naturally.  Many common indoor plants are excellent at filtering out toxins, VOCs, formaldehyde, benzene, etc.  Cleaner indoor air improves the quality of life for inhabitants.
  2. Share that Clean Air. Going a step further, consider an ‘active’ living wall system.  Active living walls integrate with the HVAC system to better circulate the cleaner air.  This can complicate the project, but considering that since we spend 90% of our time indoors, indoor environmental quality should be paramount.
  3. Thorough Design Process. Go the extra mile in the site assessment and pre-design.  Know the system, know the project site, note the indoor climate and microclimate(s), and anticipate challenges and site changes.  Your client will be rewarded with a solid design and you will be blessed with fewer plant replacements.
  4. Design for Easy Access. Tall living walls are certainly breathtaking, but shorter, wider living walls might be easier to access and maintain.  Consider living walls that can easily be accessed with a standard ladder.  I also like the idea of designing a living wall with a rolling library ladder.  These methods use no electricity and reduce storage/coordination/access headaches that often come with using a scissor lift or a genie boom.
  5. Appropriate Plant Design. Use plants that are reliable for each specific system and tolerant of site microclimates and the specified maintenance intensity. Create plant designs that are simple enough to keep carefully pruned or morph naturally over time.
  6. Efficient Lighting. Instead of using energy hogs like Metal Halide lighting, consider specifying LED lighting and/or utilizing natural lighting from windows, skylights, and solar tubes.
  7. Water Supply. Instead of tying into the building water supply (Consider precious water resources), source rainwater or filtered grey water for irrigation and then recirculate it with a pump.
  8. Irrigation Efficiency. Make sure the irrigation schedule is set to proper duration and frequency to minimize water waste.  Note that over-watering can contribute to plant mortality and, again, consider water resources and the energy it takes to create drinking water supplies.  Use multiple watering zones to easily customize watering quantity and adjust according to microclimates and specific plant needs.  Adjust seasonally as HVAC use changes.
  9. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Choose living wall components that are composed of reusable, recyclable, and recycled materials.  Fortunately, many systems are already good about this.

 

What else can be done to make interior living wall projects more Earth-friendly?

 

Featured image “Longwood Gardens” by GSky.

Mark is an accredited LEED Green Associate with a background in green wall research and product management and expertise in sustainability, ecology, green infrastructure, and green building. He currently works at Bela Flor Nurseries, a large wholesale supplier of annuals and perennials.

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