Living walls, simply put, are walls made of plants. Living walls can improve indoor air quality by filtering the air – thus alleviating HVAC loads. In fact, studies have shown that some plants reduce volatile organic compound (VOCs) loads by 75%.
Also, living walls are known to improve occupant well-being because of the improved air quality and aesthetics.
The following three living walls are currently available on the market, and can contribute to a green building’s indoor air quality and energy efficiency.
1. DIRTT Breathe
DIRTT, a company perhaps best known for its Breathe Living Wall products, specializes in modern and sustainable movable walls.
Breathe Living Walls (pictured) mount plants to the tile layer of the wall – either existing DIRTT tiles, new DIRTT tiles, or other vertical surfaces made of gypsum, concrete, stone, etc.
Breathe Walls are scalable, so the wall can either have one panel of plants or a “monolithic” wall of plants. The wall is made using a box system with a soil-less potting medium. This allows the plants to be watered from the top of the wall, and the boxes can be easily removed for servicing or replacing.
The living walls can use a variety of plants. Breathe pots come in 6×6″, which fits 6 inch plants, or 3×3″. Plants can last for up to five years before they need to be replaced.
2. GroVert Bright Green
GroVert, a U.S. owned and operated company based in Southeast Michigan, manufactures “Bright Green” planters that can be used to build living walls. The company markets to both architects homeowners, who can use the easy-to-install planters to build a DIY green wall.
The planters are single, recyclable polymer units that come in two sizes: 8’x 18’x 4′ and 20′ x 20′ x 2.5′. They can be hung on any structurally sound, vertical surface, either individually or in groups.
The planters have a top watering chamber, which distributes the water evenly throughout the planting mat. GroVert sells an Irrigator, which is allows for easy watering.
3. PlantsOnWalls Florafelt
PlantsOnWalls, a company based in Norcross, Georgia, offers the Florafelt Vertical planter. The planter is made from 100% recycled water bottles, and comes in three sizes: 32″W x 24″H x 2″D (12 plants), 12″W x 24″H x 2″D (4 plants), and 12″W x 62″H x 6″D (8 plants).
These planters are easy to change and rearrange because they are lightweight and versatile. They have a pleated design that keeps the front dry, and can be watered from the top.
PlantsOnWalls also offers Floraframe recirculating systems, which are full-height, framed systems that come in wall-mountable, free-standing, and floor models. These can grow between 24-33 plants and they automatically water themselves daily.
LEED Credit Overview
According to DIRTT, Breathe Living Wall has helped LEED projects to earn Innovation in Design (ID) Credit 1.2 in the past.
ID Credit 1.2 is awarded for exemplary performance, which means achieving double a credit’s requirements or achieving the next percentage threshold for a credit.
While DIRTT does not state how the living wall accomplished this credit, the Breathe system can help to alleviate HVAC loads (as mentioned above), which may help contribute to Energy and Atmosphere (EA) Prerequisite 2, Minimum Energy Performance or EA Credit 1, Optimize Energy Performance.
If DIRTT’s living wall can contribute to Innovation in Design, it’s possible that living walls from GroVert and PlantsOnWalls could also be used to contribute to LEED ID.
A recent graduate of Cornell University, where she studied Environmental Science and concentrated in Sustainable Development. Her interest in green building and LEED stems from her project-based coursework at Cornell, where she proposed design strategies for sustainable developments in Helena, MT and Ithaca, NY. Claire also exercised her passion for sustainability and energy conservation through extracurricular activities at Cornell, such as Solar Decathlon, Lights Off Cornell and Sustainability Hub. For the last three summers, she worked on energy projects at a town government, including an on-site hydrogen station and EECBG-funded activities.