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Can a Living Wall Lower Your Heating Costs?



Living walls are a great way to incorporate nature into a building’s exterior, but did you know that they can also reduce energy consumption and lower heating costs for a building? Therefore, if you're looking for ways to reduce your office’s energy consumption, a green wall may be just what you need.


In this guide, we take a closer look at how living walls help to reduce a building’s heating costs, as well as the myriad of other benefits of exterior living walls. Plus, we reveal our top design tips for adding a living wall to the exterior of your own building to help you get started.


How Exterior Living Walls Can Reduce Your Business’s Heating Costs


According to new research, living walls can cut your business's energy cost by more than 30 percent by minimizing the amount of heat lost through your building's structure. The University of Plymouth conducted the study, which utilized the campus's Sustainability Hub, to determine how well two parts of its walls retained heat.


One of the walls had a living wall façade retrofitted to it, which consisted of a fabric sheet system with pockets for soil and vegetation. Both walls have the same elevation and face west. Over a period of five weeks, it was revealed that the wall with the plant façade lost 31.4 percent less heat than the one without an exterior living wall. It was also able to maintain a more consistent temperature throughout the day, therefore requiring less energy to heat the space.


The study is one of the first to determine the thermal effect of living wall systems on existing structures. While the idea is relatively new, researchers say it has already been proven to provide a wide range of benefits, including increased biodiversity.


Buildings account for 17 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while space heating is responsible for more than 60 percent of all energy consumed in buildings. The study's authors believe their results will be extremely powerful in achieving greener and more sustainable office building designs.


Other Benefits of Exterior Living Walls


Along with reducing heating costs, exterior living walls also provide plenty of other benefits to businesses when fitted to their buildings. We take a closer look at each of these below.


Improved Air Quality


According to a major World Health Organization study, poor air quality is linked to more than 4.2 million premature deaths per year. These pollutants can become trapped in urban street canyons in heavily populated high-rise regions.


Green Infrastructure, including exterior living walls, has the potential to mitigate these pollutants. This is because plants trap toxins, gases, and particle matter through a variety of natural procedures. In doing so, they successfully help to clean the air we breathe.

Therefore, when fitted to the exterior of office buildings, living walls can create a healthier environment for not just you and your employees, but your city as a whole.


Effective Urban Stormwater Drainage System


Without the natural process of evaporation and filtering through the earth, bodies of water become more polluted, flood risks increase, flood damage costs increase, and more energy is consumed to manually manage surplus stormwater.


Living walls have been shown to be an effective urban stormwater drainage system. This is because a living wall's plants, soil, and organisms imitate the processes of a natural ecosystem, especially by boosting rainwater evaporation and filtering.


Extending the Lifespan of Building Materials


According to studies, by the time a typical office building is completed, it will have already released 35 percent of its total carbon footprint.


Retrofitting, rather than tearing down and rebuilding, has the potential to significantly reduce these environmental consequences. Living walls allow old buildings that would otherwise be demolished to be given new life, all while saving the energy necessary to continually manufacture new construction materials.


Increased Biodiversity


Living walls not only boost the biodiversity of an urban area by including plants, but they also provide essential nesting space, shelter, and food for both birds and insects. Research has also examined how living walls, when combined with green roofs, serve as vertical corridors and make it easier for less mobile species to move from habitat to habitat.


Achieves Sustainability Targets


Green infrastructure is frequently encouraged or expected to be incorporated into construction projects by planning authorities. As a result, including exterior living walls on a building can assist in meeting this planning criterion, while matching sustainability targets and maintaining or improving CSR obligations.


Exterior Living Wall Design Tips for Businesses


Now that you know how an exterior living wall can reduce your business’s heating costs, along with several other benefits, you might be considering installing one on the exterior of your own building. Before you do, however, there are some main tips you’ll want to keep in mind.


Choose the Right Plants


You need to choose plants that are appropriate for your climate zone and will thrive in the conditions where your building is based. You should also consider how much sunlight each type of plant needs so that you can get the most out of your investment in this type of design.


Consider Maintenance After Installation


Living walls—even when installed outside—still require ongoing maintenance. This is particularly true for living walls that reside on the exterior of an office building, as the majority of the structure remains inaccessible.


Therefore, look for a living wall that comes with ongoing plant care and maintenance. Zauben’s Model Z, for example, features monthly plant care and maintenance from Zauben’s team of specialists. Additionally, the living wall is fitted with smart technology, which enables Zauben to monitor its health 24/7. Our team remotely controls irrigation based on humidity, temperature, and moisture levels, so you don’t have to.


Don't Be Afraid to Experiment with Color, Shape, or Pattern


Exterior plant walls don't have to be a single shade of green, nor must they only be rectangular in shape. Many office buildings are experimenting with various colors, shapes, or even patterns within their living walls to add an even greater artistic flair. Look to famous examples such as the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City or PNC's Headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh.


Thinking About Fitting a Living Wall to the Exterior of Your Business?


Studies have proven that living walls can reduce your business's energy cost by more than 30 percent by minimizing the amount of heat lost through your building's structure. Additionally, they offer plenty of other benefits, including improved air quality, more effective urban stormwater drainage, increased biodiversity, and so much more.


If you want to learn more about adding an exterior living wall to your business, contact Zauben. Our living wall experts can help you get started today.

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