Steve McIntyre, Urban Environment Consultant at ANS Global, outlines why plants should be an intrinsic element of building and interior design.
From lush roof gardens to blooming green walls, the urban green revolution is emerging as a firm fixture in home design, working to transform wasted space into a green oasis. With space also now in short supply, along with rising pressures to utilise more sustainable means of development and design, many homeowners are now looking to bring the outside in, turning walls into thriving vertical gardens.
Once seen as functional home elements that perform the simple task of separating spaces, walls now offer the perfect base for nature within homes, with almost any vertical wall being the ideal environment for a living wall. Often featuring a variety of wall-mounted plants, from vibrant flowers and lush foliage, living walls provide an opportunity to reinvent what would otherwise be wasted space.
However, living walls bring more benefits than just the aesthetic, having the potential to change the internal environment of a home for the better by improving air quality. Plants are a powerful weapon against air pollution; they absorb dust particles and carbon dioxide, and filter out pollutants in exchange for clean and fresh air, with just one square metre of vegetation generating enough oxygen for a person for a year.
While creating a healthier internal environment, living walls are also a proven asset in improving the performance and efficiency of a home. Acting as natural defenses against noise, living walls can improve the acoustics of a building with its soil acting as a softening barrier. Plants also work to moderate temperatures, acting as natural insulation barriers, ensuring the air is not only clean but comfortable, giving the homeowners the added benefit of reduced carbon emissions, along with lower heating and air conditioning costs.
Alongside living walls, city skylines are also being turned into living, breathing spaces, with green roofs emerging as a visible symbol of ‘greenness’, creating sprawling rooftop gardens. Often planted with vibrant wildflower and lush sedum, green roofs are a standout design feature, which also have practical bonuses.
Working to protect the exterior of a building, green roofs can reduce the impact of stormwater by acting as natural drainage systems. Not only that, but green roofing systems also have the potential to filter and improve the quality of the water as it is drained, while also acting as a natural sunscreen, protecting roofs against UV rays.
When considering a living wall, it’s advised to work with expert specialists who can design urban gardens around the needs and aims of the owner, with the correct choice and mixture of plants being vital in ensuring they continue to thrive for the long term. For example, Geranium varieties are known to be effective in combatting air pollution, while perennials, provide an effective means of sound insulation.
From kitchen herb gardens to luscious vertical gardens, plants are helping to turn homes and urban spaces into mini green paradises, bringing with them benefits that span so much more than just the aesthetic. Often arriving as modular systems, living walls can be relatively simple to install, and with many specialists now offering automated irrigation systems, it has never been easier to spread the plant love by bringing a bit of nature into a home.
 Green over Grey
 Darlington, 2001