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Why Cities Are Going Green With Living Architecture


Eco-future cities reimagined by Zauben to move towards decarbonizing urban cities and replenishing ecosystems.


Reducing Urban Heat Islands


Multiple studies have shown green walls to help reduce the urban heat island (UHI) effect within a city. Reducing city temperatures is essential as urban areas worldwide reach record highs. A green wall can reduce the temperature in the air around it by up to 25°F, making the entire area around the building much cooler. This effect can quickly add up to enormous changes throughout the cityscape.


Green cities rendering by Zauben of CO2 being captured through photosynthesis.


Carbon Sequestration and Green House Gas Emissions


There are also projects going on around the world to study the effects of certain building materials on carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings. One is through the Low Carbon Devon project at the University of Plymouth. They have been explicitly studying the optimized performance of external living walls in sustainable building design. Their research has found that not only do living walls make a definite difference in the footprint of a building, but they have also discovered more specifics concerned with the thermal properties of the walls and the capacities for carbon sequestration based on different plant combinations the soil types used in specific structures.


Controlling Flooding


Another effect a living wall can have on the building, and its surrounding urban context is its ability to process stormwater. Runoff and the flooding it causes within a city have long been an issue as we started to build out our concrete jungles. However, instead of using permeable materials or keeping some green catchment areas scattered strategically throughout the city, we've primarily blocked off the areas where water once flowed. As a result, flooding has become a significant issue within cities. But greenery and permeable surfaces give places for that water to absorb.


Green residential buildings help reduce energy usage and improve building materials.


Reducing Energy Usage


Green walls also reduce the amount of energy the overall building might require. Greenery and the soil it is in act as natural insulators, helping to keep your building warmer or cooler. On a city-wide scale, less energy usage means less stress on the grid. In places like California and Texas, where rolling blackouts are increasingly becoming a reality, less energy usage is a trend we needed yesterday.


Other City-Scale Impacts


In addition to the larger scale impacts green walls can have on a city, some smaller effects can have a big impact when multiplied across many different buildings, each with its living wall.


When a window is opened onto a green facade, it can help filter better air quality within that building. This allows employees to breathe easier. Green walls also protect the building materials underneath them from the weathering they might typically experience. This means longer-lasting structures and less maintenance.


Lastly, this facade has also been shown to help with healing and mental health for those who live in or look out onto these buildings, as our mental well-being is intrinsically tied to nature. We should live connected with a city focused on bringing the natural world in and coexisting rather than limiting our contact with it.