The cost of buying and installing a living wall can of course be measured in pounds and pence. And while its benefits are traditionally regarded as being less easily capable of being reduced to digits in a sum, there is growing evidence that they can be.
Take M&S’s eye-catchingly eco-friendly Cheshire Oaks store in Ellesmere Port, a store which is clad with the chain’s largest and most varied green wall. The wall provides natural insulation and is helping the company to cut energy bills. Since it was opened in August last year, Cheshire Oaks has recorded 42 per cent lower energy consumption than a benchmark M&S store.
The green cladding helps ensure that the building loses less than 1 C of heat overnight in the winter – a considerable factor in keeping the energy bill down.
Moreover, the wall is irrigated by harvested rainwater, with the wall automatically watered with 1,300 litres of rainwater per day during the summer, again saving on costs.
With energy bills an increasingly significant overhead for businesses, Cheshire Oaks shows that green walls offer a striking way of lowering them.
Businesses are realising that living walls not only make sites more attractive and environmentally friendly; they are also an investment. As the years pass, M&S expects to recover through energy savings the cost of the green wall installation.
The store has received fulsome praise from both the Energy and Climate Change Minister Gregory Barker and the government’s Technology Strategy Board, with Barker saying: “It’s great to hear that innovative design features put in place since the store’s launch in August last year have cut carbon and saved money on energy bills.”
Green walls potentially deliver savings in another way, too. With the UK having been under siege from extreme rainfall, flood-prevention measures are rising up the agenda. And living walls help combat the threat of surface flooding through the combination of rainwater harvesting tanks and attenuation. The Treebox Vertical Rain Garden, is one instance of a development that has embraced this principle, and something I will cover further in my next post.
Then there are other forms of payback – ones which are less reducible to pounds and pence.
A living wall serves to soothe. It can also act as a prompt to tranquil contemplation. Rather like gazing across an ocean or watching the play of flames in an open fire, living walls can serve to put our concerns on hold, and succeed in transporting us to a space of our own.
And if the payback for our mental health following the installation of a living wall can be swift, it can also have immediate benefits for our physical health. With a vertical allotment in the garden, there is no more bending over to tend to those hard-to-reach plants, so reduce the gardener’s all-too-familiar complaint: back ache.
As well as being visually appealing planted walls may now be seen as an attractive investment.