Seeing Green…. Buildings

We have been hearing a lot about alternative energy sources, such as wind power, solar power, ethanol, and hydrogen fuel cells; however, there are tons of other green technologies out there.

One such technology, green roofing, has been growing in popularity over the past few decades. This environmentally friendly building technique takes advantage of normally wasted roof space to grow vegetation. The plants also have the added benefit of collecting rainwater and preventing it from washing human pollutants into nearby rivers and streams. A new movement gaining popularity is the green wall. A green wall can be as simple as vines and other fast growing plants held against the facade of a building by a metal scaffold. Newer techniques use small modular panels which are made of small polypropylene containers that the plants can grow from or a geotextile. The geotextile is a woven material formed into small pouches which contain soil or some other growing medium. These modular panels allow sections of the green wall to be easily replaced.

Besides from the obvious benefit the plants have in capturing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen; green walls have a host of other benefits. The plants act as insulation, reducing the heating and cooling costs of the building. In the summer, the plants have the added advantage of evaporative cooling as water transpires from the leaves of the plants. Irrigation systems collect rainwater and deliver it to the plants, preventing rainwater runoff from polluting water sources. These green walls and roofs can even be used to grow edible crops. Creating a more environmentally friendly future is going to take more than just alternative energy sources. Green roofs and walls are just one way to tap into, what is currently, a wasted resource.

For more information and images see this article on Verdant Surfaces.

Comments (5) Add yours ↓
  1. skassel

    Pretty cool, literally I guess. How much does adding a roof or wall like this add to construction costs? Do they degrade the underlying structure at all? This brings back memories of an earth-sheltered house that one of my friend’s brother built!

    15 October 2008
  2. pokane

    It does not actually damage the underlying structure because there are membranes and scafolds involved which separate the growing medium from the building. It does cost more, especially for the green roof, because the building needs to be designed to hold up the extra weight. The goal is to recover this loss with long term savings on heating and cooling.

    15 October 2008
  3. pokane

    I was actually just reading about some earth shelters built out in the middle of the Nevada desert and i am pretty interested. It could be a future post topic.

    15 October 2008
  4. csimmons

    Over the summer I went to the Smart Home Exhibit at the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, and it was pretty sweet. It had a green roof like the one in the photo. The plants were all-weather, so you wouldn’t have to worry about replacing them after every winter. Here’s a link, and you can look at the inside of the house, too – some pretty cool gadgets. http://www.msichicago.org/whats-here/exhibits/smart-home/the-exhibit/green-inside-and-out/

    In regards to vines, however, they do creep in through the cement between the bricks of houses and chimneys, so I would stay away from those. The plants that go into holders though seem great. The problem with this idea in general is that the rain does not replenish the aquifers that are quickly being depleted. But I’d probably still get one if I could.

    20 October 2008
  5. skassel

    Cincinnati Offers Grants For Green Roofs – http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/10/02/tech/main4494089.shtml?source=RSSattr=SciTech_4494089

    1 November 2008

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