Green facades, green walls, vertical gardens
Green facades (or green walls, vertical gardens) are the use of vegetation to cover and wrap the walls of buildings, by transforming building surfaces and giving them a lively, vibrant appearance. It is an innovative solution to help improve the environment and microclimate, and can be used both indoors and outdoors.Green walls provide a habitat for a variety of life. Providing refuge for insects and birds, they become ecological corridors that allow animals to travel through the city, provide links between parks and other green areas, consequently contribute to maintaining ecological balance in the built environment and promote sustainability and biodiversity in large cities.
The history of green facades can be traced back to antiquity, when ancient civilisations such as Babylon and Egypt began using vegetation to cover the walls of buildings. In the Middle Ages vertical gardens and green walls were more common in monasteries and castles, serving practical and ornamental purposes. They provided fresh food, medicinal plants and flowers, while also bringing beauty to buildings.
The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought a rapid increase in urbanisation and the development of cities. This period was marked by intense industrialisation and the growth of urban construction, with a highlight on building materials such as metal and glass. During this period, the interests of green facades were replaced by industrial architecture and modernist aesthetics. However, in the 20th century, with the rise of environmental and sustainability concerns, the concept of green facades came back to the perspective. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s, architects and designers began exploring new technologies and materials to create modern green facades. This movement was influenced by the concepts of sustainable urban development and green architecture.
In recent decades, technology and knowledge in horticulture and engineering have enabled green facades to be developed and implemented more extensively and efficiently. Innovative drainage, irrigation and plant support systems have been developed to enable the creation of vertical gardens on buildings of different sizes and shapes. Today, green facades are seen as an effective and aesthetic solution for improving the quality of life in the urban environment.
There are two main types of green facades, depending on how they are connected to the ground:
Ground-based green walls
This category involves the use of plants that are connected at ground level by planting them in existing soil or in a special substrate directly next to the walls. This system allows plants to develop roots and benefit from the water and nutrients available in the soil. This type of green façade offers a wide range of options for the plants that can be used, usually different types of climbing plants are used, which add a natural and vibrant look to the buildings. Green facades connected to the ground level can be divided into two different types depending on the characteristics of the climbing plants.
Green walls with climbing trellis
Involve the use of climbing plants that require a special support to cling to the wall and climb upwards. These plants have long, flexible rods that can be attached to structures such as nets, wire or railings. Once the plants have caught the support, they can grow and gradually wrap themselves around the entire facade, creating a spectacular and natural look.
Green walls with self-climbing plants
This means using climbing plants that can grow and attach to the wall without the need for special support or manual direction. These plants have their own hanging and gripping system. This approach offers a simpler and more natural solution without the need for additional structures. These green facades add a natural look to buildings.
Wall-bound system (living wall)
This category of green facades involves the use of a modular system of pre-built tiles or panels, which are installed directly on the building wall. These panels are provided with compartments or pockets in which plants can be placed and grown. Each panel has its own drainage and irrigation system, ensuring that the plants receive the right amount of water and nutrients. This type of green facade is easy to install and can be adapted to different sizes and architectural requirements. Plants grow directly on the wall-mounted panels, adding a contemporary and innovative look to buildings. These green facades, with no ground connection, are particularly suitable for spaces where natural soil is not available or suitable, such as dense urban areas or buildings with limited surface areas.
Green walls bring an aesthetically pleasing and innovative look to the urban landscape. Vegetation-covered walls add colour, texture and beauty to the built environment, transforming grey and monotonous surfaces into a vibrant green island. This contributes to improving the quality of life in cities and creating a more pleasant environment.
In addition to aesthetics, green facades also bring significant environmental benefits. They help to improve air quality by capturing pollutants and dust particles from the atmosphere, helping to reduce pollution. Plants on walls absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis, int his way they are helping to reduce CO2 concentration and ameliorate climate change.
Another advantage of vegetated walls is their thermal insulation capacity. Plants form an extra layer of insulation on walls, reducing heat loss in the cold season and keeping cool in the hot season. This reduces the need to heat and cool buildings, resulting in significant energy savings.
In addition to these benefits, green facades also offer protection against noise and noise pollution. The vegetation layer helps to absorb and attenuate sound, thus contributing to a quieter and more comfortable environment in buildings and crowded urban areas.