Gardening

Vertical Gardens: Prices, Types and Benefits they provide

Vertical gardens were invented thousands of years ago. Vertical gardens or hanging gardens already existed in ancient Babylon. It has also been very common, throughout the history of gardening, to use climbing plants such as ivy, jasmine or the virgin vine to cover the facades. However, in recent years the development of new construction systems has revolutionized and multiplied the possibilities of vertical gardening. At reasonable prices you can create magnificent outdoor vertical gardens or indoor vertical gardens.

Vertical garden of the Quai Branly Museum by Jean Nouvel, Paris 2005. Image: Patrick Blanc Today we are at a decisive moment where the consequences of climate change are becoming more and more noticeable. The cities in which we live, thanks to our daily activities, are responsible for the emissions that threaten the quality of the environment. If these emissions are not progressively resolved, cities will become vulnerable to the negative impact of climate change.

It is necessary that new buildings, and existing ones, try by all means to reduce their emissions and consumption.

Vertical gardens and their environmental and technological benefits

Today we present to you a new climate change mitigation strategy in cities: green facades, also known as vertical gardens. A series of important environmental and energy benefits are attributed to this type of urban garden. Benefits that, as we will see, are a great opportunity to improve the quality of life in cities and the well-being of urbanites.

Caixaforum vertical garden

Before talking about the technical aspects of vertical gardens, we will take a look at a series of benefits of vertical gardens or green facades, some tangible and others intangible, but all important in the environmental conditions of cities.

  • Improvement of air quality: air pollution today is one of the most important environmental problems in cities, which end up directly reflecting on human health. The decontamination of cities through the use of vegetation is increasingly being taken into account in urban planning, with the design of natural envelopes for buildings or the application of the concept of urban agriculture on the ground and in height.
  • Creation of natural environments: the barrier between the countryside and the city dissolves more and more thanks to the emergence of action focuses of agriculture and urban naturation. The creation of new natural spaces in the city, coupled with its social benefits, makes this type of strategy a potential tool against climate change.
  • Aesthetic quality: vegetation as a construction element not only provides environmental value, in addition to its biological aspects, the added value related to aesthetic quality is relevant. Vertical gardens have been used throughout history to accentuate architecture and create meaningful ornamental spaces. If you are interested in aesthetics, I recommend that you read the article on « Decorative gardens «.
  • Well-being: nature can be interpreted as a source of inspiration, mental regeneration and stress reduction, which translates into psychological and perceptive well-being for humans.
  • Mitigation of the heat island effect: the phenomenon of the heat island in urban environments is largely due to the use of materials that transmit stored energy to the environment, so that vegetation can be used as an absorption and buffering strategy, the composition and nature of the soil allows to obtain insulating effects against high temperatures.
  • Improving acoustic conditioning: noise pollution is another problem that worries our cities; the use of greenery in vertical gardens reduces sound propagation levels.
  • Reuse of rainwater: the cities of the world today are concerned with anticipating floods during periods of high levels of rainfall. The vegetation in this case contributes positively through its behavior as a natural regulator, from the use of this resource for irrigation and maintenance, thus increasing the time between the climatic event and the discharge of water.
  • Increase in biodiversity: the rapid growth of the population in cities, as well as the high levels of urbanization have led to a higher level of demand for the existence of natural ecosystems. Designing buildings and urban environments that contemplate the integration of vegetation as an alternative for the increase of biodiversity (small insects, bees, small birds), plays an important role in the concern to maintain our environment. Some time ago we published a very interesting article on How to breed beneficial insects, which I recommend.
  • Energy efficiency: climate change generates significant alterations in the temperature levels of the earth, which leads to thinking about the search for alternative strategies to the use of fossil fuels for energy generation. Vertical gardens have significant thermal insulation capabilities, which translates into a contribution to energy savings or the reduction of consumption in buildings.
  • Urban agriculture: in addition to the energy and environmental benefits, food production can also be associated with this type of system. Vertical urban agriculture, or vertical gardens have the same potential to create a community spirit that is associated with this type of practice, and that perhaps makes it the solution to ecological consumption.
Detail and variety of species in a vertical garden. Image: Pixabay Commons

Cause of the benefits provided

As we have been able to observe, this type of system does not only signify an added aesthetic value to buildings, but also brings with it a series of new conditions that in turn allow the goal of more sustainable cities to be achieved.

All this is mainly due to three main aspects:

  • The shade provided by the vegetation, which varies according to the density of the species
  • The thermal inertia of the substrate, and by this we refer to the ability of the cropland/substrate to conserve the thermal energy received and progressively release it, thus reducing the need for alternate air conditioning systems
  • And finally evapotranspiration as a natural biological process of plants, which refers to the loss of moisture from the substrate by direct evaporation followed by the loss of water through the foliar apparatus (plant apparatus)

Brief historical review of vertical gardens or green walls

But all this does not arise spontaneously, like everything, it has a starting point, and in this case it is thanks to a French researcher and botanist Patrick Blanc. This new vertical garden technique in the city has become an art thanks to the development of research in the field of botany. His work focused mainly on the study of subtropical plants, consolidated in a technological proposal in the technical field, with the reinterpretation of the behavior of these species, which present a vertical development on rocks.

Patrick Blanc, botanist and researcher. Image: Wikimedia Commons

From this first invention presented by Patrick Blanc, the interest for innovation in these topics arises, consequently he begins the trial and error with different materials, different construction systems, types of species and various substrates that seek to emulate what he has started. French investigator.

This historical review leads us to establish a punctual classification based on two preceding lines:

  • One that comes from the ancient use of vegetation on vertical surfaces, linked to the use of continuous vertical gardens, which start from the substrate in vases, and which develop vertically with natural rhythms, that is, there is no pre-cultivation;
  • And a second line that is much more technological and current, based on the contribution of Patrick Blanc, and where the concept of modular gardens is introduced, with a substrate incorporated in each module and very specific irrigation and sensor systems.
Use of vegetation as a screen in pergolas. Image: Pixabay Commons

Types of vertical gardens

There are different classifications of vertical gardens depending on the type of substrate, the irrigation system they use, or the construction technique.

Classes of vertical gardens according to the construction technique

In this case we will see the types of vertical gardens according to the method of construction or construction technique used.

modular systems

This type of system is made from industrialized and pre-cultivated modules in many cases, whose dimensions vary according to the design and the requirements of the project to which it is applied.

They are usually built from fixed components, which are repeated in all systems of this type:

  1. Moisture insulation
  2. vertical support structure
  3. Substrate container box/module
  4. Anchor elements
  5. Irrigation system
Installation of modular vertical gardens in the exhibition pavilion, Milan. Image: Pixabay Commons

continuous systems

Unlike the previous ones, it is a type of system that, instead of containing substrate boxes, is developed from climbing plants used to cover vertical surfaces that in turn allow the adherence of these species. The support structure on which the plant grows can be from cables, mesh, rigid structure, or supports attached to the wall.

The components that are maintained in this type of facades are:

  1. Substratum
  2. vertical support structure
  3. Vegetation
Continuous vertical garden of vines. Image: Flickr Commons

Types of vertical gardens according to the presence and type of substrate

Systems with substrate (organic)

The most important characteristic in this type of systems is that they have a substrate, that is to say, a cultivated land in which the roots grow in a granular medium with an organic percentage that is given by the components that are decided to be used (coconut fiber, humus, perlite, clay, technical foams, etc). This substrate gives them the ability to retain water, to provide important thermal and acoustic insulation capabilities, and also to decontaminate the air.

Installation of modular vertical garden system with substrate. Image: itdUPM

Systems without substrate (hydroponic)

Unlike the previous ones, hydroponic cultivation systems do not have a substrate, instead of a granular medium they have an inert medium in which the roots grow (polyethylene, polyester, rock wool, technical foams, etc.), together with a supply of nutrients through a mineral solution that is distributed through the tubes of the irrigation system. This method of nutrition and irrigation is called fertigation.

Installation of vertical garden with hydroponic technique. Image: Pixabay Commons

Types of vertical gardens according to location

Outdoor vertical gardens

In this classification we find all the systems that are arranged on the external walls or facades of a building. Depending on the versatility of the system, they can cover more or less square meters of surface.

They are used mostly to take advantage of their energy benefits.

indoor vertical gardens

On the contrary, this classification responds to all those installations that are located in the internal walls of the spaces. Used on many occasions for the aesthetic contribution they give, however, today many more important benefits are attributed to them, among which the psycho-perceptive well-being related to the presence and interaction with vegetation, and air decontamination stand out. in places with a lot of human activity.

vertical garden prices

The price of a vertical garden is associated with the type of installation, the dimensions and the maintenance it requires. They can be intended for external surfaces and are called vertical gardens or plant facades, or for internal walls and are called interior vertical gardens. It should be noted that the benefits provided do not depend on the location, the benefits will be proportional to the place where they are located.

That is, to decontaminate the internal air, it will be good to locate them inside a space, if instead what is sought is to help isolate high external temperatures, it is best to locate them on facades.

Being systems that adhere to the facades or internal walls of buildings, it is necessary to identify the variety of expenses that derive from their installation, and we will do it in two main points:

Costs related to the installation:

  • Cost of the vertical support structure (felts, plastic boxes, bottles, glasses, etc.);
  • cost of plants;
  • Cost of conditioning the wall in which the installation is made (if applicable);
  • Cost of the irrigation system;

Costs related to management and maintenance:

  • Ordinary maintenance (fertilizer, irrigation, revision of the support structure, etc.)
  • Extraordinary maintenance (if important damages or substitutions arise);

Steps to create a vertical garden

Up to this point we have told you everything about the theory, we are more excited about the practice, so we invite you to create your own vertical garden. Since you know everything about them, do you dare to be part of this green revolution?

We leave you a brief guide with some steps that will help you build your personal vertical garden:

First of all, the design

The first thing you should know is how and where to locate the vertical garden, what is the size and the type of tones you want.

Do you want a garden with only shades of green or would you like to create a set of textures and colours?

Do you want small or large plants?

Depending on your answers to these questions, you must choose the type of species you will plant, and how they will be distributed vertically.

Substrate and tools for vertical gardens

Vertical gardens, as we have taught you before, can be built with different materials, so you must decide between felt, glasses, or endogenous solutions such as plastic containers.

The type of substrate for vertical gardens is essential, you can choose it according to your interests (hydroponic, organic, and even some with part of domestic composting).

Choose the irrigation system

After you know the dimensions, location, material, type of plants and substrate, it is time to think about how to keep the plants alive and healthy. Depending on the type of substrate you have selected, you will need a less or more complex system.

If your choice has been a type of organic substrate, you will solve it with pipes that allow you to irrigate the garden by dripping, with them you reduce water consumption and you can control it manually.

You find these types of irrigation systems on the market!

Voilà your vertical garden is ready!

Now you just have to insert the plants, and start taking care of them. And do not forget to tell your friends, neighbors and acquaintances, so that more and more of us contribute a little of our day to day, to the fight against climate change.

Home vertical garden. Image: Pxhere Commons

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