Environment

Living walls found to drastically reduce heat loss in older buildings

Living walls found to drastica...
One section of a pre-1970s building, which was covered with a living wall, lost over 30 percent less heat than an adjacent non-covered section
One section of a pre-1970s building, which was covered with a living wall, lost over 30 percent less heat than an adjacent non-covered section
View 1 Image
One section of a pre-1970s building, which was covered with a living wall, lost over 30 percent less heat than an adjacent non-covered section
1/1
One section of a pre-1970s building, which was covered with a living wall, lost over 30 percent less heat than an adjacent non-covered section

Along with benefits such as air purification and noise reduction, "living walls" are also claimed to help regulate the temperature within new buildings which they're built into. A recent study now indicates that they have the same effect when added to much older, existing structures.

Led by Dr. Matthew Fox, a team at Britain's University of Plymouth started by installing a plant-filled living wall facade on one section of the west-facing exterior wall of a pre-1970s building on the campus.

That structure already featured masonry cavity walls, which incorporate two parallel sub-walls separated by an air space. In this case, the inner wall was made of concrete, and the outer wall was brick. The added living wall was made up of a series of linked felt pouches, each one of which contained soil and winter-hardy plants.

After measuring the room temperature (and thermal conductivity of the walls) within the west-facing side of the building over a five-week November/December period, it was found that the section with the living wall lost 31.4 percent less heat than an adjacent control section. Additionally, daytime temperatures within the living-wall-covered section were more stable, meaning that they swung up and down less in response to factors such as sun exposure and outdoor ambient temperatures.

As a result, less energy was required to heat that part of the building.

"Living walls can offer improved air quality, noise reduction and elevated health and well-being," says one author of the study, Dr. Thomas Murphy. "Our research suggests living walls can also provide significant energy savings to help reduce the carbon footprint of existing buildings."

The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Building and Environment.

Source: University of Plymouth

6 comments
6 comments
paul314
The crucial thing will be durability and keeping the plants away from the primary structure. Plants eat buildings (as anyone responsible for ivy-covered walls knows to their annoyance.)
ljaques
Because, YEAH, a foot of soil + plants is a better insulator than a sheet of drywall, a few inches of air, a sheet of plywood, and a coat of paint. Amazing discovery U Ply.
Chris__
@ljaques - the wall described was a masonry double-wall (concrete inner, brick outer), so dramatically better insulator than the minimal stud wall you describe. However, your point remains; adding an external insulating & sheilding layer seems pretty obvious that it will result in better insulation. And they didn't even try to quantify the benefit - surely this research is only worthwhile if you can measure R-value is gained by adding the living wall??
ShahbazParsipour
this method sounds good and it is pretty much the same or similar trick used in *semi-underground sustainable architecture* style used in some places around the world since old times ... and it works like this: we dig some space into and out of a hill slope, so we can have part of a house, say at least 1/3rd of its walls, covered by the natural soil of the hill, which insulates the building from heat or cold outside ... then we have the building's 'front' facing out ... in this manner, usually the bedroom(s), bath and possibly kitchen etc are built within the enclosed sections in the back (surrounded by the hill's soil) and the living area in the front to receive more light and air ...

another method, which is also good and let's light and air be distributed equally all over the house is a yard built and dug out of the ground (either on a hill, or preferably on a mounds, or even simply underground) which will be the center of the building ... then other rooms (bedrooms, living room, kitchen etc) are built 'inside' the soil and all around that yard, with each room having a window or side facing the yard ... the larger the yard with an open top to the outside world, the more light the entire house receives for all of its inner rooms and spaces ...

now, combining the latter method with the former one mentioned first, we can have the perfect mixture ... of course, building a place like that has its own issues and problems, especially when it comes to fully insulate a concrete wall against the soil's drainage problems ... but i can be done ... in fact, some people build a concrete building first and top of any flat land without a hill or a mound or digging an underground ... then they cover the outside walls with soil and might plant grass or some other plants on that soil ...

here are some good examples of this kind of architecture:
https://www.google.com/search?channel=fs&client=ubuntu&q=semi-underground+architecture
ShahbazParsipour
addendum to my previous / first comment: in short, we might as well call this kind of architecture the 'Hobbit House' style, as described in Tolkien's famous book, The Lord Of The Rings, shown in the movie too ...
ShahbazParsipour
addendum to my previous / first comment: in short, we might as well call this kind of architecture the 'Hobbit House' style, as described in Tolkien's famous book, The Lord Of The Rings, shown in the movie too ...