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A History of Living Walls

Living walls have become extremely popular within homes, workplaces, and public spaces in recent years, due to the significant benefits they offer. However, their history can be dated as far back to our cave-dwelling ancestors, where foliage covered walls provided them with the perfect residence.

We take a closer look at the fascinating history of living walls, while reflecting on just how far they’ve come since their inception.

From the Jungle to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon: the Earliest Examples of Vertical Foliage

Our need to be surrounded by nature stems from our oldest direct ancestors who resided on Earth around 4.2 million years ago. They called vine covered caves home and benefited from the cooling properties this foliage provided during the hotter seasons.

Fast-forward to the Ancient Near East in 605-562 BCE, and vertical foliage had once again made an appearance—this time on the walls and courtyards of the Babylonian residence of King Nebuchadnezzar II. Although historians and archaeologists are still undecided as to whether the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon truly existed, the story is one we can all emphasize with.

The famous green oasis was built to support the queen of Babylon's mental health. She apparently felt depressed surrounded by the flat deserts of the Babylonian city because she had come from a homeland that was lush and mountainous. Although it was thousands of years ago, the Babylonian queen was certainly onto something. Research overwhelmingly supports the fact that greenery is beneficial for human health and wellbeing.

The 20th Century and Beyond: The Beginnings of Living Walls as We Know Them Today

In the European Art and Crafts and Modern design movements, green facades were prominent. For example, the Jugendstil movement at the turn of the 20th century placed climbing plants on the walls of buildings to create a smoother transition between the interior home and exterior garden.

The Garden City Movement, which began before World War II, emphasized what we now refer to as "green facades" with trellises for climbing foliage. In comparison, "living walls" offer a growth medium for the plants, rather than merely a framework for climbing plants to span over.

Although the use of vertical foliage on building facades declined during the 1930s, it was during this decade that Illinois professor Stanley Hart White took out a patent for his “Botanical Bricks.” While this invention saw Stanley Hart White credited as the creator of the living wall as we know of it today, the post-war era's extensive industrialization was not the ideal environment for his green idealism to flourish.

Frenchman Patrick Blanc obtained a patent for his "Mur Vegetal" (translating to “green wall”) in 1988 and is still regarded as one of the top innovators of green walls today. He had started his own invention before White's work had gained widespread acclaim.

Modern Living Walls: How Far Have They Come?

While earlier innovations in living walls focused on just providing a structure and medium for plants to grow in a vertical fashion, today’s living walls are a far cry from their predecessors. Modern living walls are embracing the latest developments in technology to provide foliage that doesn’t just look great, but is beneficial to the environment and human wellbeing too.

Sustainable Design

Take Zauben’s Model Z, for example, whose award-winning design utilizes eco-friendly and sustainable materials. Each Model Z living wall uses 1,200 recycled plastic bottles to free up landfill and turn it into a celebration of nature. The product is also designed with hydroponic technology that uses 75% less water than plants grown in soil. This allows homes and workplaces to enjoy the benefits of bringing nature indoors, without using up more of this valuable, yet limited, resource.

Energy Efficient Plant Lighting

The Model Z’s sustainability also extends to another modern innovation: its energy efficient plant lighting. Lighting was an element not considered in earlier designs, however Zauben’s living wall takes this concept to new—and more eco-friendly—heights. The Model Z’s lighting is set to the Earth’s natural light cycle to not only create the most realistic environment for the plants, but also to significantly reduce energy consumption and boost indoor wellness.

Freestanding Structures

While living walls of the 20th century were primarily constructed on the facades of buildings, modern living walls are now freestanding structures that can be placed within the home or workplace—whether against an existing wall or for use as a partition within open spaces. This also means our living wall can fit anywhere within your space and can be taken with you if you move to another location.

Cutting-Edge Technology

Perhaps what it most significant about modern living walls, however, is their integration with the latest technology. The Model Z is equipped with IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to continuously monitor plant performance. Zauben developed these sensors to measure moisture content, light levels, humidity, and an estimated level of air quality all in real-time. No matter where the Model Z is located in the nation, Zauben's team can remotely manage the irrigation of a living wall using these real-time measurements to keep everything in balance.

Ongoing Plant Care

In addition to 24/7 technical assistance and plant care monitoring, Zauben provides a twice-monthly service that includes water tank refills, cleaning, fertilizing, deadheading, and trimming plant growth. Additionally, our staff perform inspections and tests on emitters, filters, timers, sensors, and the control system as part of the irrigation maintenance service.

Through our Plant Care service, we also offer a 100% plant replacement guarantee for each living wall. It’s this dedication to ongoing support and peace of mind that allows Zauben to lead the way in our modern era of living walls.

The Future of Living Walls is Now

Although the concept of vertical foliage began thousands of years ago, the living walls of the past are no match for their modern counterparts. With innovative solutions such as the Model Z, you can now enjoy the boost of plant life that a living wall offers, as well as the significant benefits that come with it.

If you want to embrace the future of living walls, visit one of our showrooms or schedule a demo of our incredible Model Z today.


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