If you haven’t been keeping tabs on my latest blog series, I’ve been talking about some new products and trends in construction that are making some waves in 2016! In this final part of the series, we’re going to look at Green Roofs and Living Walls – two trends that taking Green Living to the next level.
New Technologies and Trends to Watch in 2016
The first time I read The Hobbit, I remember thinking how cool it would be to live in a hobbit hole, buried under the top of a hill. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter, protected from the elements and surrounded by lush landscaping and curb appeal – what else could you want in a house?
Believe it or not, Hobbit living is now a thing due in large part to the pre-fabrication industry! The true genius in these structures is that they can be molded and shaped to fit into the surrounding topography. The materials and use of arches is designed to properly distribute the weight of the earthen insulation that is eventually heaped on top of these unique homes as well.
Beyond the niche of homeowners looking to live in the pages of a classic literary work, this type of green living is now taking root in urban development and non-residential construction as well. The re-introduction of the Green Roof and the Living Wall is the focus of this final post in my series on building green in 2016!
The Green Roof
The use of the green roof is probably as old as human civilization. You need look no further than the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon for some historical reference on the matter. Once the construction industry started to move away from stone, wood, and other natural materials in favor of steel beams, the green roof disappeared from industrial revolution skylines.
The pendulum has started to swing back towards nature, though, as benefits of green living make their way back into the picture. Here are just a few of the benefits to a green roof:
- The Heat Island Effect
- The presence of large amounts of asphalt and concrete in urbanized areas has led to a phenomenon where portions of a city are considerably warmer than surrounding rural areas. By introducing vegation and shade on rooftops, a massive amount of solar radation can be diverted back into the atmosphere which has a cooling effect on the building underneath.
- Energy Reduction
- If you’ve ever been blessed to have a house under a sprawling oak tree, you’ll know all about the energy savings that go along with it. When your air conditioning runs for fewer cycles every day, your wallet will always heave a sigh of relief
- Self Sufficiency / Rooftop Gardening
- Justified or not, a lot of people have a fear of the food that is being produced by the modern agricultural industry. Whether it’s GMO’s or a desire to exercise a level of self sufficiency in a hectic world, rooftop gardens are popping up in cities all across the globe.
- It’s no secret that the green movement can mean big dollars for those heavily vested in the industry. This is definitely the case in municipal politics and urban planning! When you consider that 30% of the inhabitted surface of the Earth is actually a rooftop, there’s a clear Public Relations benefit to the green roof. With things like drone based aerial photographs, there’s an ability to showcase lush rooftops that can promote the “green-ness” of a p
The Living Wall
When most people think of the living wall concept, they probably have images of Wrigley Field or an Ivy League college. Living walls can offer a lot more than a feeling of historical significance though. Here are a few other benefits that come to mind:
- Water reuse
- Shallow rooted plants and succulents are the perfect type of foliage for a living wall. One aspect of these types of plants is that they can only retain so much water at one time, and any other water that they collect will gather as runoff. Knowing that, an eco-friendly builder can combine a living wall with a drainage and water retention system which can then be used for ongoing drip irrigation systems. Depending on the local climate and rainfall patterns, this can be a great way to “zero scape” in an urban setting.
- Air quality and Sick Building Syndrome
- Building a living wall inside has some additional benefits when it comes to the air that office workers breathe every day. Higher oxygen levels and improved air filtration have shown to have a positive effect on air quality inside of a building. In addition, studies have shown a reduction in sick building syndrome for offices that have instituted living walls.
- Sound dampening
- Studies have shown that the leaves of plants can dampen sound by reflecting, refracting and absorbing it in small amounts. Green walls contain such a large number of plants that the acoustics of a room can be substantially improved.Plants and trees have been used for years as barriers against traffic and other urban noise pollution. Green walls built on the exteriors of buildings will do the same. They insulate against noise, vibrations and reduce sound penetration. In addition, they can even help to absorb the echo’s that bounce off of buildings and they can dampen the noise pollution of modern cities.
Hopefully you found this series interesting! Keep your eyes peeled for my next series which will look at the aging electrical grid in the United States. I’ll explore all of the challenges, as well as the opportunities that aging infrastructure presents and we’ll take a look at what the future holds as well.
As always, keep your thoughts and comments headed my way, I’m always eager to hear how these topics are resonating with my readers!
– Tyson Conrad