Impact of Climbing Plants on Buildings and Their Environment

Impact of Climbing Plants on Buildings and Their Environment

Jacek Borowski (Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Poland)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4105-9.ch013
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In this chapter, the impact of climbing plants on facades of buildings and their surroundings is presented. Benefits and risks of plant growth on the walls are discussed with respect to their durability. Economic benefits from the presence of vines are shown including energy savings for home heating and cooling. Additionally, the phytoremediation (cleaning up the environment by plants) properties of vines are describe. It should be stated that climbing plants can contribute to damage only in places where facades are damaged, plaster cracked, or where plants are incorrectly planted.
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For many years, there has been a total agreement concerning the positive impact of plants on the quality of living in a city. With this position comes the undisputed need to plant them. There is less and less space for animate nature in central districts of modern urban agglomerations. Difficult conditions and lack of space result in the need to seek solutions that allow introducing plants to unavailable places. Building façades are such places.

When we move away from peripheral districts toward city centres, the acreage of built-up areas increases; however, the surface area of vertical walls increases even more (Figure 1).

Figure 1.

The surface area of walls suitable for covering with plants by building development type

Baumann, 1991, as amended.

These spaces can be brought to life and become biologically active only thanks to such specialized plants as climbers. Selected plants must meet the entire set of urban conditions; they should create a large mass of greenery with high aesthetic values. Climbers in natural conditions cling to vertical supports, often beginning their growth in deep shadow, in forest understory, ending in tree canopies, in direct sunlight. For this very reason, climbing plants exhibit a large tolerance to habitat conditions, including unfavourable conditions prevalent in cities. And, more importantly, they occupy little space in built-up conditions (Borowski & Latocha, 2014).

One of the properties that distinguish climbers are very long and flexible sprouts; many species climb very high, up to 30 m, and produce an enormous amount of leaves in a short period. Such plants are ideal for greening walls of large buildings.


Building Greening Methods

The most important benefits of building greening systems include: improving the appearance of surroundings, cleaning the air, exhibiting biofiltration capabilities, reducing noise and vibrations, increasing biodiversity, social and psychological effects, intensifying water circulation, reducing the urban heat island effect, affecting temperature inside buildings, protecting façades, increasing the value of real estate (“A guide to Green”, 2014).

Plants can be placed on buildings using three basic methods: green roof, green wall, and green façade (Figure 2).

Figure 2.

Vegetation added to the building

A Guide to Green, 2014.

Green roofs are the most expensive to make and keep; they can result in very interesting effects; nevertheless, they require a specially designed building. Green wall systems are easier and cheaper. Again, there are several options.

The façade greening method in the form of a vertical garden was invented by Professor Stanley Hart White from the University of Illinois in 1931-38. Despite the passage of years, “green walls” are still rarely found. Their most famous proponent, Patrick Blanc, began his work on “Mur Végétal” in late 1980s (Blanc, 2013).

Unquestionable benefits of green façades, compared to systems made of climbers, include better insulation and larger plant mass affecting its environment. The diversity of applicable species and varieties is also larger. These benefits mostly apply to modular green systems (Table 1).

New artistic aspects of green façades are being continuously discovered. Using a variety of colours and textures of woody plants and perennials can result in interesting effects. It’s possible to “paint” pictures that change over time. Increasingly often, green façades are designed to function as temporary advertising banners (Rutgers, 2012).

Industrial felts systems, or systems utilizing a similar hydroponic technology are more artificial and do not foster biodiversity. The substrate is less capable of retaining water, which does not contribute to its biofiltration (Table 1).

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