How green walls work

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The striking entrance to The Terrace rooftop bar at Emporium South Bank Brisbane, featuring a green wall with their branding in neon lights.

Ever wondered how green walls actually work?

Sometimes called living walls, green facades, bio walls or vertical gardens—green walls are a dynamic way to green a vertical built surface. 

Despite dating back to ancient Babylonian times, indoor green walls only became popular in the 1980s when French botanist Patrick Blanc invented the modern vertical hydroponics garden.  

They’re widely loved for their striking beauty and tangible health benefits (such as lifting employee productivity by up to 47 per cent—Knight, 2013), but are they practical?  

Clients often first contact us about green wall installation before realising that location or cost prohibits them from realising their vision. Unless they are open to artificial or silk alternatives. 

In short, they don’t understand how green walls work.

To help aid your research as to whether a vertical garden is right for your business, we’ve outlined the key considerations involved in understanding how living green walls work.  

But first: How much do green walls cost?

Before we explain the considerations involved in installing a living green wall, let us first address the primary prohibitor: cost. 

Living green walls are labour intensive and depending on the complexity of the system (and specificity of the design), can cost over $1,500 (ex GST) per square metre including installation.  

Why is this the case? Simply because there is a lot of work involved in setting a green wall up so that it will continue to look good over the long term.

They require waterproofing, building and installation of the structure, irrigation, plumbing and electrical work (for pumping and lighting). If set up well initially, ongoing maintenance becomes far more affordable. 

And while there are certainly more affordable systems (and even DYI kits) available on the market—these often do not include irrigation, waterproofing and consultation services that can end up saving you thousands overall. Nobody wants a dead green wall!

If the cost of a living vertical garden is out of reach but your heart is set on the optics, you can opt for an artificial green wall. Prices for artificial walls range from as low as $150 per square metre excluding installation, and are determined by quality and style.  

Green wall installation considerations

Wall structure

First, you need to consider your wall structure. Allowance should be made for a weight of up to 50kg per square metre for one side of the green wall. 

Green wall structure

Then, we typically install 25mm ply sheeting to the wall surface (ideally after the trough and any side facias are installed) before it is waterproofed with a black finish.  

Black waterproofed wall, ready for green wall installartion.

While there are many different set ups for a green wall, our preference is to apply a powder coated wire mesh to the ply wall.

This allows for small individual pots—each holding a plant—to be hung from the mesh such that when it is time to replace a plant, this can be done quickly and easily without leaving a large unsightly hole in the green wall.  

Black powder coated weld mesh fixed with mesh lock screws.

Trough/drainage

Again, there are a lot of different set ups that can be used for green walls. We’ve found that the best results are achieved where a trough is installed along the base of the wall (both sides). This is to capture the water and either re-use it and/or channel it into the drainage.  

Wall frame mesh and trough, prepped for green wall installation

Plant pods

Plant pod

We use plant pods to suspend plants on the vertical mesh. The pods are suitable for almost all species of plants. Each plant is grown in its individual pot, enabling each to grow in the most appropriate planting medium. 

Plant selection

We work closely with you when making the selection of plants for your green wall. You have the choice of different design options to complement the surrounding environment and your own personal taste.  

Green walls are living art, and one of the great advantages of using the plant pods is that the design can easily be changed throughout the year for seasonal purposes or special events. 

Lead time

If you’ve read this far and are convinced living green walls are still for you, keep in mind a lead time of 6-12 weeks is preferred.

The average time required to complete a green wall installation (including sheeting wall with ply and waterproofing two coats) is five days.

Learn more about our service offering by requesting a Capability Statement or contact our designers for a free consultation today!

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