Energy Efficiency and the Environment As an urban center develops, the landscape changes. Surfaces that were once permeable and moist are replaced with impermeable, dry surfaces that absorb heat and radiate it into the immediate atmosphere, causing the phenomenon known as a “heat island”. During the summer months, the temperature in metropolitan areas can be 2˚F to 8˚F warmer than nearby non-urban areas. At night the difference can range as high as 22˚F. As temperatures rise, power plants have to keep up with the energy demand, which means emitting more smog and harmful pollutants into the air that increase respiratory and heat-related illnesses like asthma and heat stroke. Living walls provide cooling through a combination of shading, evapo-transpiration and surface reflectivity of the building. As the plant works to cool itself, it lowers the outside air temperature and reduces heat transfer to the inside of building, thereby insulating the interior and greatly decreasing the building’s energy consumption in the summer. During the winter months, the additional layer of the living wall provides extra insulation that prevents heat from escaping. The overall effect reduces energy costs and decreases carbon emissions, which helps to combat climate change. Increase Bio-diversity and Promote Native Species Urban areas are becoming an increasingly hostile environment for wildlife at the rate of modern urbanization and its effects of pollution, noise and loss of vegetation. Habitat Horticulture seeks to improve the environment for humans and for the numerous organisms that comprise a thriving ecosystem. Air Quality Whether enjoying a beautiful day outdoors or reposing in the comfort of home, we are exposed to an array of pollutants. Motor vehicle emissions are a major source of these, however other sources range from flooring adhesives to the paint on our walls. Some of these toxins are known carcinogens, such as formaldehyde and benzene, while others may not be as perceptible -- save for the headaches, fatigue, asthma and respiratory problems they can induce. Like many of today’s environmental problems, the solution can be found by looking to the natural world. Plants have the ability to trap particulate matter and carbon dioxide gasses from the air while releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. According to the research of Dr. William Wolverton with NASA, the level of many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and trichloroethylene can be greatly subsided by even a few houseplants. In addition to extracting these toxins from the air, plants release oxygen back into the air as a byproduct of photosynthesis. This increase in oxygen helps to keep us healthy and alert. Living walls and roofs can also improve the quality of air by increasing the surrounding humidity. This occurs through plants’ cooling process, known as transpiration, whereby water vapor is released through minuscule surface pores, stomata, on the underside of the leaves. Depending on the size of the living wall, the increase in humidity can greatly reduce the negative effects of aridity such as dry eyes, sore throat, difficulty concentrating and muscle fatigue. View the original NASA study.... Physical and Mental Well-being People have coexisted with plants throughout time and for good reason. Plants provide us with many necessities: food, shelter, clothes, energy, art, medicine and a connection to the natural world. The importance of this connection is not yet understood, however researchers have found that our physical and mental well-being is elevated in the presence of natural greenery. The benefits we experience around plants include enhanced self-esteem, reduced stress levels, and an overall sense of well-being. Several studies have demonstrated greater productivity, creativity and problem solving as a result of simply adding plants to the workspace. Exposure to greenery and gardens has shown increased recovery time and a reduction in demand for pain medication in hospital patients. Horticulture therapy is often incorporated into the treatment of patients with mental illnesses for the restorative effects described above. learn more about: The Stress Reducing Effects of Plants Plants and Increased Worker Productivity Plants and Speedy Surgery Recoveries Space Efficiency In metropolitan residences and offices, floor space is a limited commodity. Every square inch is maximized to increase functionality, production or storage, while the walls are often left barren. Walls are a rich source of real estate, offering a huge canvas on which to provide greenery in close quarters where using floor space is not an option. Living walls are a smart and effective medium for urbanites to grow herbs, fruits and vegetables even in the smallest of studios. Acoustics Plants are well known for softening and dampening sound waves through absorption and refraction. The most frequently viewed example of applied plant acoustics is the freeway sound barrier, a large stonewall draped with plants, but a wall covered with hundreds of plants provides the same effect. Living walls in urban spaces can be installed to reduce distracting echoes in large rooms and dampen vexing street noise.
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