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Can green walls be our cities’ vacuum cleaners?


Living walls have been around since ancient times, with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – one of the wonders of the ancient world – built by King Nebuchadnezzar in 600 BC.

According to a United Nations forecast, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050 which means we must find innovative ways to integrate nature into our cities. Green roofs and parks are one way to do this but there are substantial amounts of vertical space that are underutilised.

Green walls are at the cutting edge of interior and architectural design trends, and are being used in sustainable building design due to their many environmental benefits.

More pro’s…comic-city-scape

Green space: By increasing any green space in the urban environment it helps to reduce the urban heat island effect which occurs when buildings and hard surfaces absorb the sun’s heat and then emit it to their surroundings. Urban areas often are 5 to 10 degrees Celsius warmer than the surrounding countryside.

Acoustic benefits: Green walls help to absorb sound waves so they are perfect to use as a screen between properties.

Environment: Not only do green walls give off oxygen, they also clean up the pollutants in the surrounding air.

Insulation: The small cavity between the green wall and wall surface remains at a relatively constant temperature. This has a knock-on effect when it comes to cooling or heating your green wall-clad building as it adds a thermal barrier.

Aesthetic appeal: Green walls are very trendy and add a wow factor to any space.

Here’s how to build your own vertical garden

…than cons

Cost: Green walls are a luxury item costing between $900 to $1,500 per square metre. However, the new systems take a lot of the hard work out of the construction of green walls thus decreasing installation costs.

Maintenance: Green walls are very labour intensive to maintain as there is usually an average of 50 plants per square metre. Keeping soil intact on a vertical living system looks easy, but in reality cleaning up the soil that falls out daily because your plants are growing is a labour of love.  You will also need to regularly replace plants that have died or are root bound.

Who is Claire Cardwell?

Claire Cardwell of Blue Designs is an architectural designer with over 15 years experience in the Johannesburg area. She has worked on small projects – double garages, swimming pools – and new houses from a 1,300m² house in Featherbrooke Estate, to houses of only 110m² in size. In 2015/2016 she worked on a small complex, a warehouse, a nursery school and new houses in the Waterfall Country Estate, Copperleaf Estate, and in Limpopo on an old-age home and frail care facility in North Riding.


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