Since the dawn of civilization, humankind has maintained an unspoken attachment to nature as it is from nature that our ancestors derived their essentials to survive- food, water and shelter. It was only during recent centuries that rapid population growth and urbanization forced a chasm between us and natural elements such as the forests and rivers.
Despite all our progress in technology, there remains an innate biological connection which we cannot ignore- this proven concept is called Biophilia (Something we will expand on in future posts). To maintain this closeness to nature, many have adopted building elements and designs that incorporates some form of biophilia or connection to nature- from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the lawn/gardens we have these days in front/behind landed houses. Such is the importance of this connection between nature and humans that when buildings started going skyward and concrete jungles outgrow and bulldoze through actual jungles, the demand for more green in our urbanscape increased manyfold.
One of the many ways to merge the hard concrete & steel with softer greenery while utilizing the limited space in our cities is to incorporate green facades. This is where green walls come into the picture. While green walls are now appearing left, right and center, the idea of having this vertical green element has been around since the early 20th century. As pointed out by this article we are referencing from the Landscape Architects Network website,
The simplest way is to picture it as a cliff: the synthetic medium is the interface to which the cliff growing plant species can hang onto.
And this is the exact philosophy behind the creation of the GaiaWall– a breakthrough soil-free vertical green system that mimics nature in providing a cliff on which epiphytes and selected plant species can grow onto the synthetic growing medium. After the initial growing phase, these plants will be able to merge with the media itself (about 50mm thick) to form a more organic and robust ecosystem.
Basically, what scientists are saying is that biophilic design, including green walls, can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity, improve our well-being and expedite healing. Besides that, studies by the Tokyo Institute of Technology showed that green walls are good thermal insulators and they have been proven to lower energy loss in buildings (from mechanical cooling). They also act as a sponge in absorbing dust & heavy metal particulates from the air. In many cases, noise abatement properties of green walls allow inhabitants to cut out most of the noise from traffic. However, the foremost role living walls play in the modern urban landscape is the creation of new green spaces in our land-scarce cities.
With the rapid development of a diverse range of living green systems for building facades, it is important to weight the pros and cons of each before adopting them as none of them are designed as a “one-size-fits-all”. For those who live in Malaysia, we at Belalang Inovasi are ever-ready to assist you in that regard. In the process of making our cities greener and taking us back to nature, it is also key to bear in mind that green walls are only part of a wider strategy and we should always keep our minds open to innovation and ideas that will continue to improve our daily lives.