The Walls Are Alive

– written for ecomii blogs: http://www.ecomii.com

Many of us have heard of the architectural virtues of green roofs, but what about applying the same concept to our walls? Green-, eco-, bio-, vegetated -, or living walls bring vertical gardening and drip irrigation techniques together into a panel system of plants built against existing indoor or outdoor walls.

While a wall of climbing vines could be considered a living wall, several building design companies have come up with a more technological system of a wood or steel frame with a number of cells ranging from forty-five to hundreds, depending on the size of the project. Plants grow in soil, or between layers of fibrous material (felt or plastic mesh) and are irrigated through a drip system with a line every few rows distributing water to all the cells.

Aside from the obvious aesthetic value of a wall of greenery, living walls also improve indoor air quality – plants like dracaena and peace lilies have been proven to remove toxins and purify air. In locales with dry winters or little humidity, living walls can add much-needed moisture to the air. Added insulation to the building envelope and the associated summer cooling and winter heating of the indoor environment is another definite benefit of the systems. Outdoor walls, like green roofs, absorb and filter rainwater, diverting it from municipal storm water infrastructure that can often be overtaxed.

ELT Living Walls, a company that started with modular, pre-grown green roofs, has developed a system that ships internationally and is literally greening everything from universities to individual houses. This is a window herb box taken to a whole new level. For the individual practicing sustainable living, the idea of growing a vertical vegetable or herb garden right on one’s kitchen wall could be the ultimate in eating local, year-round.

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