Industry Insights: Green walls
Government Product News (GPN): What are green walls?
Amber Ponce (AP): Green walls, also known as living walls, are structural and horticultural systems that attach to existing walls to support vertical gardens. There are indoor and outdoor systems.
GPN: What are the benefits of green walls?
AP: A growing body of evidence supports that communities are healthier when there is greenery and connection to nature. Especially in urban environments, green space can be so limited. Vertical gardens provide greenery even in urban environments where ground-level space is scarce.
GPN: How has your industry’s involvement with the public sector evolved over the past few years?
A: Our industry is involved with the public sector in two ways. First, local governments more and more support green walls as an element of green design and infrastructure in approving development projects. Second, there is an increase in green wall installations in public.
For example, the new Monroe County parking garage in Bloomington, Ind., incorporates green walls to fill five of the structure’s 8-foot by 6-foot window openings with a variety of plants. The idea was to break up the otherwise stark exterior of the garage with visually appealing greenery.
In Grand Rapids, Mich., offices on one side of the Rapid Operations Center, the localauthority’s administration building, looked straight out onto a blank concrete wall. A living wall was added to introduce a view of nature, and the benefits include reduced stress, reduced absenteeism and increased productivity and job satisfaction.
GPN: What resources can elected officials use to educate themselves more on your industry and its importance to government operations?
AP: Green Roofs for Healthy Cities is a non-profit organization that has information and conferences on green roofs and living walls. Greenroofs.com is an online resource for the industry. Searches for living wall systems online will yield a great number of suppliers, some of which have in-depth guides for the design, installation and care of living walls.
GPN: What future developments can governments expect to see from this industry?
AP: First, living walls incorporated intomanagement. For example, Chicago approved the green wall on Whole Foods’ flagship store because it is integrated with an underground system that captures and stores stormwater from the rooftop. Water flows from the roof drains down into filters, and the clean is then gravity fed into a cistern and used to irrigate the green wall. We will see this approach used on public buildings, especially to add green infrastructure on older buildings where roof load limitations make a green roof impractical for stormwater retention.
Second, local governments will look at green walls as an option for community groups to grow their own fresh, healthy produce in inner-city neighborhoods where space restrictions can be a significant challenge. Through its “Homegrown” initiative, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh has installed raised-bed vegetable gardens in underserved neighborhoods and provides mentorship and assistance to the families who take on responsibility for them. Phipps now has a 290-square-foot green wall installation to demonstrate how community groups can use living walls for larger scale vertical gardens.