Once a public-place symbol of eco-innovation, living walls—vertical gardens made of leafy and flowering plants—are increasingly decorating private homes and condominiums.
“This is as much for their health benefits as environmental credentials,” says Randy Sharp of Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture in Vancouver, whose firm created the 500-square-foot living wall at the Vancouver Aquarium.
Scientists have long known that plants can improve indoor air quality. NASA research in the 1980s showed that peace lilies, spider plants and other common species absorb volatile organic compounds. According to research at the University of Guelph, living walls are also effective biofilters, helping to trap dust, control temperature and humidity, and eliminate airborne pollutants such as carbon monoxide. (Research shows they don’t increase a home’s spore or bacteria levels, but people with severe allergies may want to avoid them.)
Living walls are composed of modules containing vegetation, soil (or a lightweight substitute such as felt or coco fibre) and a watering system. The technology has been refined since the early 1990s, when the first living walls were created, and they’re now more affordable and easier to install.
For more information on living walls, check out:
- Elevated Landscape Technologies’ Easy Green Living Wall System. This do-it-yourself kit can be ordered online or purchased from select retailers. See eltlivingwalls.com.
- GreenScreen, a California-based company that manufactures 3-D trellis systems. See greenscreen.com.
- Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a Toronto-based not-for-profit industry organization. Greenroofs.org has a list of landscapers and contractors that install these walls.
- The newly published book The Vertical Garden, by Patrick Blanc, a French artist credited with inventing living walls.