More people than ever now live in urban areas, with 4.4 billion people living in cities across the globe. This is only set to increase; with the figure expected to rise to an astounding 6.7 billion by 2050. With such a strong shift from rural to urban populations, both the amount of green space available and public access to it will pay the price.
With the threat of rapid urbanisation such a challenge for the industry, this growth also offers potential for positive transformation. With innovation and development, architects have a platform to make a valuable difference. By implementing more sustainable, healthier and greener design choices, architecture can lead the way in creating resilient cities, which fulfil largescale demand while benefitting both people and planet.
An opportunity to spearhead forward-thinking projects, many architects are already turning to features such as living walls. Not only to ‘do their bit’ from an ecological perspective, they can also take their work to the next-level, providing their portfolio with an advantageous point of difference.
Here, Steve McIntyre, Urban Environment Consultant at ANS Global reveals the sought after benefits of going green.
Building upwards has created dense cities, and while this style of urban architecture is efficient in making more of the available space, it comes with some negative side effects. With such high volumes of inhabitants and vehicles contained within confined areas, levels of air pollution have become alarmingly high and unsafe.
With over 90% of the world’s population living in areas where air quality exceeds recommended guidelines, it is in healthier architectural choices that improvements can be made. With plants able to reduce concentrations of harmful NO2 by 40% and particulate matter by an impressive 60%, green design installations such as living walls can help tackle the threats presented by densely populated cities.
Not only able to restore cleaner air, living walls also help to reintroduce nature and wildlife back into urban areas. Growing both food and habit resources for birds, pollinators and insects, living walls effectively promote valuable biodiversity, transforming grey towers into a biophilic lifeline that benefits all residents.
Reintroducing thriving green space back into communities can also have a positive effect on mental health and well-being. Creating places where people want to live, work and socialise, research has shown that exposure to nature – even just looking at vegetation for 30 minutes a week – promotes positive mental health, reducing the likelihood of depression and high blood pressure.
Relieving the pressures of city life, living walls also offer benefits for the build itself, including protecting the exterior of a structure from external environmental conditions, preventing it from becoming damaged or weathered. These ‘vertical forests’ have even been proven to regulate temperatures to reduce energy costs, as well as help with rainwater run-off, and reduce noise pollution.
From lush green foliage and textured swaying grasses, to clever planting schemes that welcome new flourishes of life with every season, the design possibilities of living walls are endless only limited by the imagination. With so much diversity provided by nature, living walls can even incorporate scented blooms and perfumed herbs, as well as edible elements such as strawberries; creating architecture that’s a treat for the senses, from sight and touch, to smell and taste.
Whether it’s a completely new build or a structure that already exists, the best advice is to utilise the skills of a living installation specialist, in order to create an installation that is best suited to the needs of the design and that thrives in the setting. Helping to transform wasted vertical space into a lush visual statement, expert knowledge can identify the most suitable type of plant palette for the intended environment and conditions.
Using their expertise and first-hand experience, a living installation specialist will be able to fulfil the overall design brief, while integrating the installation with the surrounding climate and space. These are all important elements in creating the final planting selection, where the foliage and concept must suit the environment to deliver results long-term.
Making the whole process as efficient as possible, plants are often pre-grown offsite, to ensure that they have the best chance of thriving in their new environment. The well-established plants are then delivered to site as individual modules, in sizes that make installation as effective as possible, while fulfilling the desired look for even the most intricate designs.
Helping to keep maintenance to a minimum, the modules are installed alongside a bespoke irrigation system designed to deliver the right levels of water and organic feed, effectively keeping the array of different plant species healthy whatever the weather or season. An important feature in ensuring that an architectural statement doesn’t fall short, maintaining the visual prowess of the build past its initial completion.
Boasting an array of benefits that far exceed the aesthetics, living installations offer long term value, helping to drive sustainability, wellness and a new era of innovative architecture. With just a little horticultural help, architects can support the growth of urban centres, pioneering cities that thrive for the better. More than just creating standout visual statements, these flashes of green within a concrete jungle play a vital role in creating a healthier, greener future for our cities.
To find out more about the installation process of living walls, as well as a range of relevant case studies, go to www.ansgroupglobal.com