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Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Green Walls

By Matt Personne

Green roofs – the practice of covering roofs of buildings with organic material and plants to help reduce the urban heat island effect.  Hundreds of years ago in Europe, green roofs were commonly used to help insulate homes.  Today, the practice is becoming very popular in the wet climates of the Pacific Northwest to help absorb the water running off rooftops.  The practice is even more popular in densely populated cities like Manhattan, where green spaces are a premium.  While green roofs are slow to adopt in Arizona, the green wall movement is building momentum.

Green walls are the same as green roofs, just on the vertical instead of horizontal.  The living walls can be erected in any size or shape, making them ideal for indoor or outdoor use.  For the outdoors, build your wall with trellises and climbing vines.  By erecting wooden trellises or metal panels next to your home, plants can be used to shade and keep your exterior walls cooler.  Green walls are aesthetically pleasing and can add an old-world charm to your home.  They can also be used to screen outdoor areas like AC units and storage areas.

A University of Maryland study showed that a surface covered with vegetation was 11 degrees cooler, which translates to an 18 percent decrease in energy consumption for a 2,000-square-foot home.  Climbing plants like trailing lantana or Lady Banks roses can add some color to your living façade.  You can also install modular systems that have different tiers of growing areas and allow you to irrigate plants at different growing heights, instead of relying on plants to climb up the wall.  Plants and trees are often used as barriers against traffic and other noise pollution.  Walls of oleander have been planted all over the Valley for this very purpose.  Green walls built on the exteriors of buildings help insulate against outside noise.

For over a decade the EPA deemed indoor air pollution one of the top environmental risks to public health.  We are constantly being exposed to toxins, such as dust, chemical fumes like formaldehyde, VOCs, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, and countless others.  Since the average person can spend up to 90 percent of their day indoors, green walls are an effective way to filter the air and improve air quality.  Some commercial designers are incorporating “active living walls” to filter air before it enters a building’s HVAC system.

Small window or picture frame-sized pieces can be hung and will require little or no maintenance, purify the air, and be a unique conversation piece.  At eltlivingwalls.com, you can purchase a small wall unit that can either be watered by hand or have a water line installed.  It is an easy choice for individuals looking to incorporate a green wall into their everyday lives.

Matt Personne is the owner and founder of Mission Landscaping, LLC, which focuses on landscape and hardscape design and installation on commercial and residential properties.  Have a landscaping question?  Send it to greenpanel@greenlivingaz.com



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