Green Walls: Taking Indoor Plantscaping Vertical

green walls for plantscapingYou may know that Inside Out Services provides interior plant installation and maintenance services in the Washington, DC area. The benefits of indoor plants are becoming increasingly known: ranging from improving indoor air quality, noise reduction, to even improving morale and productivity. An area of interior plantscaping in which we’ve been quietly making inroads is green walls, sometimes referred to as “living walls” or “vertical gardens.”

All the same benefits of interior plantscaping installations are also provided by green walls. In fact, some configurations can also replace traditional indoor air filtration systems. More on this in a moment, but let’s first look at the basics of green walls for some background. And it may come as a surprise that green walls are a recent innovation with 80% of them having been constructed since 2009!

Green walls come in several different types with respect to both media and structural supports. They also can be installed on the exterior of buildings with some being quite large and elaborate. The largest outdoor green wall is 29,063 square feet (more than half an acre) located at the Los Cabos International Convention Center in Mexico.

It's all about the media with green walls

Greens walls of both the indoor and exterior variety require a medium to support the root systems of the plants they contain. For traditional plantings the medium is plain old potting soil. In addition to anchoring the plant the medium also serves to deliver water and nutrients to the plant’s cells.

Loose medium walls utilize soil packed into either a shelf or bag which is then installed into the supporting wall. This medium works better for interior installations since erosion due to wind and rain is an issue outside unprotected from the elements. Loose media requires replacement about every two years when used for indoor systems.

Mat media consists of layers of thin sheets of coir fiber or felt mats, and like loose media, is best suited for interior green walls. Small plants with less vibrant root systems are the best candidates for this medium. Larger plants present the risk of tearing away from the mats due to their weight as they grow. Mat systems are also inefficient in their water usage and require a system to provide constant irrigation.

An effective media for both indoor and exterior vertical walls is sheet media. This medium is not biodegradable and as such can last for 20 years or more before needing replacement. Sheet media utilizes polyurethane sheets molded into an eggshell pattern. The sheets are then sandwiched together with a water-proof membrane attached to the back. Irrigation lines are sandwiched in between. The water holding capacity of sheet media far exceeds other media. Soil is typically removed from plants prior to installation effectively resulting in a hydroponic system.

Green walls also live outside

Large exterior living walls are often constructed using what is known as structural media. Structural media consists of blocks of growth medium incorporating the best features of loose and mat media. The modular nature of the blocks allows for many creative options in terms of shapes, sizes, and thicknesses of the living wall. A unique feature of structural media is the creation of active living walls that can pull air through the plants effectively acting as an air filtration system when installed indoors.

Green walls require irrigation and maintenance too

The Inside Out Interior Plantscaping team took over the maintenance of an indoor green wall at the Westin Arlington, VA hotel a while back. You can clearly see from the photo above that the Westin green wall is an eye-catching addition to the hotel’s lobby. This reinforces the importance and power of making a great first impression with guests and visitors to a commercial property. Also note the elaborate irrigation behind the wall that keeps the “green” in green wall! The control system is very similar to the ones used in our exterior commercial irrigation systems.

living wall irrigation system

Inside Out Services has built a reputation for not sitting still and resting on our laurels despite our many accomplishments and extremely pleased clients. We’re just getting started with incorporating green and living walls into our Interior Services portfolio, so stay tuned for more exciting things to come on this front!

For all your interior plantscaping installation and maintenance needs please use the quick and easy quote form on our Interior Plantscaping Services page to request a free, no-obligation quote.

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