Discussion: Green Facade or Living Wall?

Adding vegetation to a wall for vertical orientation has become increasingly popular in the U.S, and there are two main categories to consider when evaluating the options: green facades and living walls. A green facade most often uses a trellis system to provide a growing medium and support structure for plant vines rooted in soil at the base of the trellis, whereas a living wall uses modules with the plants rooted in them. There are drawbacks and advantages inherent to each system, as well as distinct differences.

 

Trellis Works welded wire trellis panels lend to the creation of a green facade, where the panels use brackets to fix the trellis to the wall with an adjustable projection. Vines are planted in soil at the base of the trellis or a planter and allowed to intertwine among the matrix of wires as they grow out. They have also been used with elevated planters with properly selected vegetation cascades down the wall or structure. Once installed, there is virtually no maintenance for a green façade system other than normal plant care and pruning.

Trellis Works green facade wall-mounted trellis

Green facades can also be created with the use of a cable trellis system. Generally, these are tensioned stainless steel cables run through spacers and connectors fixed to the wall. The connectors are installed in a pattern to create the desired layout of the cables. As with a trellis panel system, the vines are planted at the base of the wall and are guided by the cables as they grow out. Some vines with aerial roots have the capability to climb a naked wall, as we discussed in our previous blog post.

 

Living walls, on the other hand, incorporate a completely different approach to vertical vegetation. These use prefabricated modules made from a variety of materials to contain the plants and their nutrients, and require their own integrated irrigation system. This approach is considerably more expensive than a green facade system, but does not require time to fill out the wall area like a green facade. Also, since the plants are not required to be “climbers”, there are more options on the species of vegetation which can be effectively incorporated. This system requires routine care and maintenance to ensure proper irrigation and drainage control as well as general plant care and replacement.

BHG Living Wall

Photo Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens (www.bhg.com)

 

All of these systems are scalable to the wall planting area under consideration, and some are better suited for an application over another. If the lowest acquisition cost is a main factor, then living walls may not be the system of choice. On the other hand, if an immediate full grown wall is desirable over the time it takes for a green façade to grow and fill in, then a living wall is your answer. Evaluate all of your project goals and constraints with each system to ensure you select the proper method.

One thing is for sure, there are ample opportunities to transform a mundane wall into a stunning display and visual effect. Adding natural vegetation to a wall has universal appeal, and there are almost endless choices to create your own unique vertical beautification project. If our team at Trellis Works can help you with any additional information for developing your plan to incorporate a green facade, please let us know.

 

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