With the high population density of cities and voracious appetite of the market for every square meter, it is not uncommon for urban vegetation to be forgotten. For this reason, forests, vegetable gardens, and vertical gardens have aroused much interest and figured into a variety of different innovative proposals. Using the vertical plane to maintain plants in an urban setting is a coherent and common-sense solution, especially when there is little possibility of bringing green to the level of the people on the streets.
Vertical vegetation works as more than just an aesthetic adornment. Plants block a part of the solar radiation that hits a building’s surfaces, making indoor spaces cooler and reducing the need for air conditioners. This measure can save electrical energy by 30% due to evaporative cooling and shading. In front of a blind gable, plants can lower the temperature of the masonry, reducing heat gains, while over an opening, it can filter sunlight that would enter the space. Deciduous vegetation options are an interesting possibility as well, allowing solar radiation to enter in the winter bur stopping it in the summer. In addition to making the air quality better, the leaves also absorb sound (research shows a decrease of up to 5 dB) and reduce discomfort due to unwanted external noise. Finally, it allows the facade to change its colors periodically, with blossoms attracting bees and other insects that are important for the environment and food production.
Some vertical garden systems use felt pockets, where the substrate is inserted and the roots of the plants develop. In others urban garden typologies, masonry blocks or other façade elements simply leave space for the development of foliage.
But a very simple way to grow an urban garden is to use climbing plants with metal grids and cables where the plants cling to and grow, creating a vertical vegetation cover. The design is quite simple. There are usually small stalls, where substrates are inserted for plant roots to develop. A light structure of galvanized metal or stainless steel, resistant to weather and corrosion, is usually spaced between 5 and 20 cm from the facade, allowing the plant to grow with an ample amount of free space.
It is important to note that each species of vine requires different kinds of support, allowing it to develop in the most effective way. There are species that cling to the surface without any support, while others curl up through the stem, leaves, or even through the thorns. Therefore, it is essential to research the desired plant species, learn whether it adapts well to the local climate and chosen facade, and as a result develop the solution that best suits it.
In the gallery below, see a collection of projects that use this method to create green facades through grids and steel cables: