L et’s talk about green walls. Well, living walls. Most of which are green.
Living walls are starting to pop up in cities all over the globe, which is great news with recent findings proving the detrimental effects pollution in cities has on our bodies. According to Public Health England, the body in charge of statistics of this nature, there are between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths in the UK each year attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution. So what are living walls doing to help this crisis in cities all around the globe?
A s we are growing up, we learn that plants naturally remove carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, well 1 m2 of a living wall extracts 2.3 kg of CO2 per year from the air, and in return produces 1.7 kg of oxygen. For those, like, who don’t know whether that is good or bad, it’s very good.
However, it’s less well-known that they also filter the air around them by absorbing and cleaning pollutants. Living walls multiply this effect in urban environments because of the sheer number of plants on the wall. Simply, the more plants, the better.
It’s not just pollutants outside that are a cause for concern as there are plenty of toxins inside that can adversely affect our health too. Mental health issues from indoor workplace environments is an issue of current modern times. Buildings and offices are filled with invisible toxic fumes, from the furniture to the paint on the walls.
Countless toxins are leeching from our indoor environment, such as formaldehyde, VOCs, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide and benzene to name just a few. It’s long been known that adding office plants can improve the indoor air quality as well as mental well being, and interior green walls do just that but on a much bigger scale that benefits building inhabitants.
H owever the benefits go beyond improvements to air quality. The benefits of being in connection to nature are referred to as the “biophilic” effect. “Biophilia” is the innate human attraction to nature. Studies have shown that regular contact with nature has benefits to our state of mind, making us more relaxed and focused. Studies have shown that a green workplace can result in a 15% increase in productivity.
The plants that are included in a living wall also promote the habitat of birds, butterflies and insects, which in a city environment is important for employee satisfaction as well as passers-by. The effects on social aspects of cities are also numerous with green spaces having a positive effect on social cohesion in cities. Statistics have shown that areas with more greenery suffer less from aggressive behaviour, violence and vandalism.
U nfortunately, some cities or neighbourhoods have been designed without nature in mind, which can be harmful in many more ways than just our physical health in the long term. Luckily there is one city leading the way. Singapore has a nation-wide passion for greenery which is strange for one of the most urbanized places on earth, with a density approaching 8000 per km2.
Adding a park, living wall or any green public spaces to the city landscapes influences peoples wellness positively and creates a sensation of relaxation. One of the biggest challenges of this country-city is the extreme density of people, which comes with a number of stressful situations. Given these conditions, small improvements in the way people live, travel, interact with each other and with the city is an extremely important task.
With a constantly expanding population and with limited space they have had to come up with inspiring solutions. Singaporean law actually makes it compulsory to replace any greenery removed from a new construction.
The whole city’s designed like a garden, the airport terminal hosts its own indoor forest and the highway is sided by palm trees all the way. There is a sensation of being in a tropical city, all the time, everywhere you go.
Which is perfect because plants absorb sunlight, another issue facing any tropical southern hemisphere country. Plants both absorb and reflect light, 50% is absorbed and 30% reflected. Outside this helps to create a cooler and more pleasant climate by reducing the heat-island effect, overall reducing the cities temperature by 3 degrees. While inside, it reduces energy usage of air conditioning, creating its own pollution benefits.
Outside again, living walls act as sound barriers to the buildings they’re on. They block 41% more sound than just a wall, and this benefits the environment both inside and outside your building.
Living walls are by no means the answer to the world’s climate change problems, but they do offer a solution to problems that we are facing here and now. Aesthetically improving our lives, and physically offering us a reprieve from the toxic cities that we live in.
A nd so, to finish up with an interesting point not made by me was this; type into google ‘utopian city’ and almost every image has greenery in it. This is a brilliant comment. Completely independent of each other, all of these artists, visionaries, authors, architects and whomever else, decided Utopian cities would be green. Greenery in public spaces, on walls, on roofs. No matter where, greenery. I think we should take note.
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