Green walls – why bother?

Green walls – why bother?

Our ‘Green Building‘ page has a summary of the benefits of green roofs. But what of green walls? Why kinds are there, and what do they do?

These days there’s a fashion for green walls that involve technical, modular systems which support pocket planting of a huge array of vegetation. Your local supermarket may have one, or you might spot an internal ‘living wall’ in a boutique in town. There’s no doubt these living wall systems can be stunning – with great examples at Westfields in Shepherd’s Bush, and on The Rubens at The Palace in Victoria, London.

However, simple is good too, and simple green walls using trailing or climbing plants have been around for millenia. Taken in the round, and considering the energy it takes to create and eventually dispose of a green wall, and the benefits during its life, these simple green walls perform best.

Benefits include:

  • Prolonging building fabric
  • Trapping pollutants which accelerate decay
  • Biodiversity
  • Visual amenity
  • Property value
  • Cooling

If you’ve got some spare time, take a look at this talk on Green Walls by James Farrell of Brighton & Hove Building Green and Lee Evans of Organic Roofs Ltd. at Green Architecture Day 2017.

Lee goes on to talk about living roofs, so it’s a twofer.

We have a historic example right here in Brighton & Hove. The green wall at Madeira Drive is the oldest and longest in the country, and was planted in 1872. It now supports over 100 species of wild plant and a range of other wildlife.

Building Green image of green wall
Madeira Drive green wall, Brighton

Here is a short film about Madeira Drive Green Wall.

What about your house, block of flats, or workplace? Yes, they can have a green wall too. The book ‘Building Green’ contains tips on how to do it, and a handy planting guide to help you select the right plants for your local environment and the benefits you are seeking.

Building Green - a guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements

Get planting!

Classic urban greening book exceeds 3500 downloads

Classic urban greening book exceeds 3500 downloads

Building Green is a classic book about urban green infrastructure by Jacklyn Johnston and John Newton at The London Ecology Unit. Now out of print, it was turned into an e-book by James Farrell, Founder of Brighton & Hove Building Green when at the Greater London Authority. It has been available to download for free ever since.

More than 3500 people have downloaded the book from Brighton & Hove Building Green, and you can too – just click on the image below or visit our links and resources page.

The book inspired the name of our community group, a CIRIA publication on green architecture called ‘Building Greener’ and was influential in the modern green roof revolution here in the UK.

Building Green - a guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements

The planting guides at the back are particularly useful – with advice on choosing plants for everything from window boxes and balconies, to green walls and green roofs.

An open letter from Building Green

Dear friends
Building Green has come a long way since 2006.
Originally, we were constituted formally as a voluntary association. This gave us credibility, enabled us to apply successfully for funds, and establish our position in the network of community groups in the city. The formal constitution has lapsed, and I would like to invite you to discuss the value of re-awakening it. There is still work to do – green infrastructure is climbing up the political agenda, our climate threats are more apparent than ever, and there is compelling science demonstrating the link between local green space, health and quality of life.
We need help to:
– refresh the purpose of Building Green with new input
– involve more people in the leadership and delivery of our work
– enable the ability to access funds including the Council’s Community Development Fund
This is an opportunity to get involved in shaping the future of Building Green. Together we can achieve even more.
Contact us or email hello@building-green.org.uk if you would like to be involved.
Thank you!

Building Green – the Bible

Tucked away on the resources section of the Building Green website is a broken link that tells the story of how this group came about.

London Ecology Unit published a highly influential book in 1993 called ‘Building Green – A guide to using plants on roofs, walls and pavements’. It was a prescient tome – heralding techniques and approaches from across Europe and the world that came established only years later in the UK, Building Green was a systemic, ecological approach to urban nature. It became the name of our community group.

When at the Greater London Authority, I created an electronic version of the out of print manuscript – the broken link referred to. Well, here it is in all its free, downloadable glory. Go crazy.

Johnstone and Newton – Building Green

In particular note the appendices which list plants for different locations – walls of different aspects, balconies, roofs etc. Check it out, it’s great – all credit to the originators Jacklyn Johnston and John Newton.

10 years ago today

10 years ago today, Brighton & Hove Building Green had its very first meeting.

The first meeting agreed to establish a forum, and set out some success criteria. Here’s how we think we’ve got on.

“The forum would look to achieve the following:
* the mainstream establishment of green buildings in Brighton and Hove as a contribution to a healthier City

Green roofs and green walls are certainly more mainstream, with links in planning policy. Some of the ambitions – for London-style planning requirements – have not been achieved and there is work to do to encourage better quality installations that last and perform.

* greater public awareness about the role of green buildings, through practical demonstrations, guidance and media attention

Building Green has been central to promoting green buildings in Brighton & Hove – we’ve run many events, and contributed many stories to the media.

* generate pride in Brighton and Hove’s existing green buildings through open days etc

We have run tours of green buildings in the city, and were a partner in Eco Open Houses – many of the houses featuring green roofs and/or walls.

* the growth of small (household) projects – especially sheds, garages, dormers – through the provision of practical advice and demonstrations

Building Green established the UK’s first training course in how to ‘do it yourself’, and has gone on to run events

* demonstrate new, locally appropriate techniques such as vegetated shingle roofs”

The UK’s first vegetated shingle roofs are currently being constructed at Brighton Marina. Building Green is planning a tour to see how they’re getting on.

Green roof course taking bookings for October

The DIY Green Roofs course is open for bookings, and takes place October 29-30.

It’s a highly successful weekend course that gets great feedback, and draws participants from across the UK and beyond.

More information, and bookings, here.

Building Green – we have global reach!

On 20 October we received over 100 unique visitors to our website. Great news!

This isn’t the record – in May 2014 we had over 250 unique visitors in a day – but numbers have been steadily increasing recently.

Whilst the majority of visitors are from the UK, we get large numbers of American friends, then Brazilian, Canadian, Spanish and Australian. in 2015 so far, we’ve had visitors from 119 countries.

Top topics are green roofs, bat and birds – followed by green walls.

Building Green visitors 2015

Building Green visitors 2015

Big Nature was a Big success!

A really good day at Big Nature in the Brighton Centre yesterday. Worth doing again next year we reckon.

The kids went mad for the Building Green drawing and colouring competition – inspired by the green roofed bird box sponsored by Organic Roofs!

There is a winner – but you’ll have to wait to see the picture!

Here are some snaps from the day.

Building Green drawing competition entrants in full colouring frenzy!

Building Green drawing competition entrants in full colouring frenzy!

IMG_20151003_144019_hdr

James Farrell speaking about DIY green roofs

IMG_20151003_140133_hdr

Building Green colouring competition in full swing @Big Nature, Brighton