Also referred to as green walls, living walls can liven up any environment without taking up precious floor space. The beauty of living walls is that the plants within are constantly changing in subtle ways; almost like a live art feature. If you look closely you’ll see one plant flowering while another is putting on new growth and climbing towards the sky.
Living walls are highly romanticized, and for good reason, they’re gorgeous and they can transform the design and feel of a space. However, it’s not as simple as installing the structure, setting the plants in and walking away. Living walls require a frequent maintenance schedule to ensure that the design is maintained and that the plants are healthy and thriving. Many living wall systems tout a “low maintenance” or “zero maintenance” incentive. We’ve worked with a lot of different systems, and although some of the systems with automated irrigation and lighting are lower maintenance than more basic systems, none of them are truly maintenance-free.
What does a living wall maintenance schedule look like?
It comes down to the square footage of the living wall, even walls with automated systems require trimming, removing of dead material, replacements, spraying, cleaning, and pest observation to maintain the integrity of the design. Let’s say a technician needs 1-2 minutes per square foot of a living wall, however, when you factor in the need for a ladder or fall arrest, as well as moving equipment up and down the ladder, the time required per square foot looks more like 3-4 minutes. So if you’re wanting to install a 6-foot by an 8-foot living wall, the recommended amount of time for maintenance may be anywhere from 2.5 – 3 hours per week, however, if you’re investing in a system with automated watering and lighting this could potentially be changed to bi-weekly. The budget for ongoing maintenance is just as important, if not more than the budget for upfront costs. Living walls are an investment, and it pays to look after your investment.
What are some key factors in determining whether your work environment is well suited for a living wall?
Okay, so you’ve become enamored with living walls and you want one in your work/school space, where should you put it? Will it work there?
Placement of a living wall is essential, and we’re here to help you understand where a living wall would be appropriate in your space, and why. First, let’s talk about space, if you want plants but you can’t take up any additional floor space then a living wall may be your solution. Another thing to consider is lighting, do you have natural light in your space, or is predominantly lit with artificial light? We can help you determine whether you have enough light in your space for a living wall without the need for supplemental lighting. Supplemental lighting is an additional cost that’s not always budgeted for, however, it’s one of the most important factors in determining the health of the plants in a living wall. Another factor that you may want to consider is public access, are you in a space that people could potentially damage your investment when unsupervised? If so, vandalism will also need to be budgeted for when it comes to fixing and replacing plants and other materials. Placing a living wall too out of the way may make it impossible to access for regular maintenance. Finally, is the area where you’ve envisioned the living wall close to an entrance that may expose the plants to gusts of cold air and dust? If so, we may have to look at either placing it in a different area further away, or budgeting for the loss of some plants due to cold air. In regards to exposure to dust, leaves will need more frequent cleaning to ensure that the plants can photosynthesize – A.K.A, manufacture sugars to grow and stay healthy.
Now that we’ve considered whether a living wall could work in your space or not, let’s talk about the additional benefits of having a living wall, other than aesthetic.
What benefits do living walls provide?
- Air scrubbing/purifying – the efficiency of this depends on the system, growing media, and plant selection. However, a number of the tropical plants that we use in living walls are extremely efficient at removing Volatile Organic Compounds from the air, and recirculating carbon-dioxide into oxygen.
- Biophilic/ecophsychological properties – studies have found that people are happier when they interact with other living beings on a regular basis. This enjoyment of live plants in a work space can improve mood, work ethic, task performance, and can reduce the amount of days that employees take off work (read more about this here: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/aug/31/plants-offices-workers-productive-minimalist-employees)
- Increase property value
- Reduction in ambient noise
- Larger living walls can help with heat retention, cutting down on heating costs
- Improving humidity levels – plants transpire (sweat) as they photosynthesize, which can increase indoor air humidity.
- Creates a fire resistant layer
- LEED Certification points (depending on a number of factors)
- No worrying about maintenance – with a maintenance contract with Greenery!
Please reach out to us if you have any additional questions about living walls, or if you’d like to book a free on-site consultation with our sales staff. We look forward to hearing from you, and bringing your office to life!
Prepared By: Kelsie Anderson (Sales & Design Consultant)