Benefits of businesses going green are seen in many more ways than those that initially meet the eye. When organizations can play a role in the ecological preservation of a community, there are cost savings, positive press, tax incentives, and enhanced consumer demand. While general contractors and construction managers make choices in urban project planning, often these options are presented for the helpful environmental potential.
Construction project approvals/permits usually are centered around the well-being of the community, as they should be. In areas of dense population, these close quarters can lead to a more apparent disturbance from air, water, noise, or air pollution. The undesirable by-products of a construction project are being offset by a new solution developed by a design, engineering, and consulting team in the UK: a wall of plants and flowers that cultivate a healthier environment by a job site. This “living wall” concept according to Construction Junkie, “has the potential to transform scaffolding and hoardings into much more than just a cover up. By introducing plants and flowers, we can create a more attractive and healthier environment for local residents, businesses and workers on site,” said Alistair Law, Façade Engineer and the Living Wall Lite’s developer, Arup, in a press release.”
Tests are beginning on this solution to understand the true impact, but despite high hopes, there are uncertain expectations from both a safety and community well-being standard. Since scaffolding issues are among the top cited OSHA incidents, this covering will make it more difficult to assess issues where plants are blocking the site. Although community well-being/pollution reduction is a main driver of living walls, it isn’t yet completely proven that property values will be enhanced, and noise and air pollution will be reduced in any way. In initial testing conducted in the UK, a reduction of sound up to 10 decibels has been recorded. This is a great start to proving efficacy in the system. Sensors are even being integrated to gain additional visibility into the full impact on several types of pollution.
Another article I came across highlighted that these solutions are not just for architectural or construction organizations seeking a pat on the back. Derivatives of living green walls have been around since the 1930’s and many have grown to preach the air quality and visual benefits of the option in construction.
With increased pressure from government agencies to reduce pollution incidents, living walls seem to be a somewhat easy solution to prevent ecological damage. While the concept is fairly newer to the US, Europe and Asia view this as an essential element in urban construction to replenish vegetation into overdeveloped city spaces. Building Design + Construction establishes the difference between the two categories of green walls: green facades and living walls. Living walls require a bit more maintenance and upkeep due to the diverse plant life, while green facades are more like climbing plants designed for cover.
Building Design + Construction points out that these structures can offer considerable cost savings from introducing plant life back into cities, reducing the urban heat island effect and lessening energy consumption in these areas. Through evapotranspiration, air surrounding the green wall is cooled down naturally. Also, in winter, living walls can aid in insulation—significantly reducing heating costs. Regardless of your desired results, living walls and green facades are offering up benefits that are hard to ignore. With the growth of consumers supporting businesses that target their environmental impact, there is a strong chance of a boost in popularity as well.