A carbon neutral building is achieved when the amount of CO2 emissions is balanced by climate-positive initiatives so that the net carbon footprint over time is zero. Considering their unmatched ability to absorb CO2, planting trees is often viewed as the best carbon offsetting solution. But as cities become denser and the amount of available horizontal space for green areas drastically reduces, architects have been forced to explore other approaches. Therefore, to address these climatic challenges and connect people to nature, exterior green walls have become a rising trend in increasingly vertical cities. Even if there is research to claim that these can positively impact the environment, many question if they can actually contribute to a carbon neutral architecture. Although the answer may be quite complex, there seems to be a consensus: green walls can be effective, but only through good design.
Green Wall: The Latest Architecture and News
African nations are fighting climate change with an 8,000 kilometer long Great Green Wall meant to combat the desertification of the Sahel region, home to over 100 million people. Spanning the entire width of the African continent, the movement aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million jobs in rural Africa by 2030. Stretching from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East, the project is the joint effort of 21 African nations that strive to restore the once lush region and protect the livelihoods of local communities.
The Rastegar Property Company has announced plans to develop the tallest living wall in North America as part of a 26-story tower in Dallas. The building aims to improve local air quality with over 40,000 plants estimated to capture over 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide and produce 1,200 pounds of oxygen annually. The development will be located across the street from the Union mixed-use complex.
Indoor gardens can contribute important benefits to home living, ranging from aesthetic beauty to improved health and productivity. Research has shown that indoor plants help eliminate indoor air pollutants called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that emanate from adhesives, furnishings, clothing, and solvents, and are known to cause illnesses. They also increase subjective perceptions of concentration and satisfaction, as well as objective measures of productivity. Indoor gardens may even reduce energy use and costs because of the reduced need for air circulation. These benefits complement the obvious aesthetic advantages of a well-designed garden, making the indoor garden an attractive residential feature on several fronts.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. Spending that much time inside makes us feel disconnected from the outside world, affecting everything from our productivity to mental health. Not to mention physical health concerns ranging from poor circulation to airborne contaminants.
One method of rebuilding our connection to nature is by using living elements. Live moss wellness walls utilize one of our oldest plant species to improve the visual appearance of any interior environment and boost your overall well-being.
MAD Architects’ first project in the U.S., an 18-unit residential complex, has topped out in Beverly Hills. The project named ‘Gardenhouse’, is founded upon the idea of coalescing nature and the built environment in a dense urban center, providing residents an experience similar to that of living in a “hilltop village”. Once fully completed, Gardenhouse will feature a terraced arrangement of urban villas atop a plant-covered podium.
Alongside designer Paul Tinker and developer Esteban Almiron, UK-based illustrator Sam Chivers has created a series of animations visualizing the sustainable development of airports for a recent Guardian piece. The animations, which describe the topics of transport, alternative energy, noise reduction, airport terminal design, biodiversity, and fuel efficiency, capture the passage of time from morning to evening in Heathrow Airport in London.
IaaC Student Elena Mitrofanova, working alongside biochemist Paolo Bombelli has created a proposal for a facade system that utilizes the natural electricity-generating power of plants. Consisting of a series of hollow, modular clay "bricks" containing moss, the system takes advantage of new scientific advances in the emerging field of biophotovoltaics (BPV) which Mitrofanova says "would be cheaper to produce, self-repairing, self-replicating, biodegradable and much more sustainable" than standard photovoltaics.
The Rubens at the Palace Hotel in Victoria, London, has unveiled the city's largest "living wall" - a vertical landscape, composed of 16 tons of soil and 10,000 plants, designed to reduce urban flooding. Taking two months to construct and covering a 350 square foot area, the 21 meter high wall will beautify the cityscape year round with seasonal flowers such as strawberries, butter cups and winter geraniums.
Because of the lack of absorbent surfaces in the Victoria area of London, the Victoria Business Improvement District (BID) decided to step in with the design of this incredible wall that combats urban flooding with special water storage tanks. Designed by Gary Grant of Green Roof Consultancy, these tanks can store up to 10,000 liters of water that are then channeled back through the wall to nourish the plants. Not only will the wall do a great job of keeping the surrounding streets flood-free, it boosts the area's green appeal and attracts wildlife into the dense urban environment.