Biophilic Design with Green Walls

Biophilic Design with Green Walls

When we think of the New Year, we think of a fresh start. And what could be fresher than nature and the outdoors? When applied to architecture, we think biophilic design, bringing the outdoors into design to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment.

Bee Downtown (this month’s ATS newsletter inspiration) is an example of this, allowing companies like SAS and Chick-fil-A to increase employee engagement and satisfaction by hosting rooftop beehives. Imagine the benefit of watching the beekeepers manage a hive at your workplace. A win for both the environment, employees, and the bees.

We find another biophilic win-win with green walls. Not only do these vertical gardens benefit the buildings’ occupants, they too benefit the environment.

For example, green walls reduce air pollution in street canyons (corridors between tall buildings) by absorbing pollutants. Thomas Pugh, a biogeochemist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, determined that green walls absorb large amounts of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.

San Fran Musueum of Art Green WallPugh says that green walls also cool city blocks in street canyons. He says, “If you have a surface covered in plants, when the sun’s heat hits them, instead of just warming up, they send a lot of energy back into the atmosphere as water vapor. Whereas a concrete wall would heat up and send the heat back into the canyon.”

Paul Erlichman with Green Roofs for Healthy Cities explains the three types of green walls:

  1. Green facades: Vines and climbing plants.
  2. Living walls: Pre-vegetated panels (plant blankets) which are affixed to the structure or a free-standing frame.
  3. Retaining living walls: Engineered living structures that support a slope.

According to Terrapin Bright Green, “Implementing biophilic design into our workplaces, healthcare facilities, schools, and neighborhoods has profound health and economic benefits. Building managers can retain higher rents; companies are more likely to see improved productivity of employee salaries and benefits; healthcare providers and patients can see financial benefits from faster recovery rates; and schools can experience gains in student performance and reduced absenteeism.”

Check out these resources to learn more about green walls and biophilic-design solutions.

Green Infrastructure Foundation

Living Architecture Monitor 

Green Roofs for Healthy Cities

Green Roofs Hosts the Grey to Green Conference, May 28-29 Toronto

Cities Alive

The CitiesAlive Conference, November 15-18, Philadelphia

Terrapin Bright Green 

Image source: San Francisco Museum of Art