With research showing that 50% of the world’s population live in cities, urban living is now the norm. By 2050, the UN predicts this trend to increase by 40% which means 6.65bn of the projected 9.5bn people on Earth will be living away from nature. This will be a triumph for industry but a fatal blow to rural living. The trick is marrying the two and this is where vertical greening comes in.
When Vancover-based green architects, Mike Weinmaster, wrote “this major shift away from rural and naturally vegetated areas to polluted, noisy and crowded concrete jungle of modern cities” will continue to be “profound”, he was quick to recognise the value of green roofs and parks while acknowledging vertical space was vastly under used.
“Green walls not only bring nature back into city life, they do so in a way that is accessible to everyone” he said.
In cities sprawled with high –rise tower blocks and disused brick walls, the opportunity from the surface areas of those buildings for Living wall designers is staggering. Living Walls are at the cuttings edge of interior and architectural design. Not just for the design innovation but also for the host of environmental benefits that would boost the health and wellbeing of residents.
Here are some of the most surprising benefits for urban dwellers.
More pleasant city summer living
It’s no myth that summers spent in cities are increasingly unpleasant – a scientific fact known as the Urban Heat Island effect. Due to increased human activity and more compact spaces, urbanised areas have a higher average temperature than the surrounding countryside. This means the need for more air conditioning as we attempt to cool buildings and therefore more energy consumption. Vegetation in city hotspots can cool the air by up to 17oc and curb reflected heat – creating a more comfortable and economical environment to live in. Vertical greening is the most direct solution as it provides a mask for the concrete and brick which locks debilitating heat in our streets.
Fights potentially fatal pollution
With all the roads, cars and factories, city air is polluted, dusty and dangerous. Pollution particles, often referred to as PM10s, are known to contribute towards severe respiratory illness in city residents. Introducing large walls of greenery would suppress dust particles and clean the air which is particularly useful around construction sites and busy roads. This, on top of their ability to absorb unhealthy CO2 from the air during photosynthesis would help ensure the public’s health and keep a city alive and kicking.
Reduces noise pollution
Vegetated surfaces are far more effective absorbers of noise than hard ones. Thus, ambient noise would be cut dramatically for occupants and pedestrians, making the harsh sound of everyday living more tolerable. During countryside trips, city dwellers are often struck by the simple peace and quietness. Vertical greening has the potential to introduce this serenity to areas defined by the opposite.
The immediate environmental benefits of green walls have the potential to transform lives across cities and pave a brighter future for urbanised living. As excellent as these benefits are, it’s easy to forget the visual advantages of vertical greening. The injection of colour reanimates the vistas of concrete grey and make residents and visitors feel happier about their surroundings.
To the untrained eye, urban vertical greening may seem like no more than an environmental fad. But, in reality they are an antidote to the growing gap between city living and rural living. Essential for our health, essential for our air and excitingly, essential for our eyes.
Rubens Hotel wall Victoria London
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