Vertical Gardens: Saving Water, Space & Waste
Maybe you've been looking at that tight alley running up the side of the house wondering how to get a garden bed and the bins to fit in there. Or perhaps you're tired of looking out the bathroom window to a completely blank timber fence. Either way a vertical garden is going to make those areas look amazing! But that's not all a green wall can do for you and your family.
According to a Monash University study, "Green walls, or vegetated walls, offer multiple benefits in urban areas, such as temperature control, energy savings, increased livability and acoustic dampening, with the addition of space saving, as they are suspended on building walls."
Read on to learn how these eco-friendly, modern systems can do all that!
Are you on water restrictions from your local council? Or just tired to standing in the yard with the hose? Atlantis Gro-Wall® are the perfect solution for both indoor and outdoor vertical gardens with automated watering. Vertical gardens are created utilising natural soil mixes to retain nutrients. This modular system, as well as geofabric strips in each pot, enables localised moisture retention and access to individual plants.
Because of this useful framework, and the angled planting style, the plant's leaves are exposed to as much sunlight as possible, while the soil remains shaded. This means less water is required to keep the plants healthy, when compared to a comparable sized open garden bed.
Depending on the type of green wall system you are using, it may come with a drainage/excess water collection channel. Otherwise, you can still create a catchment at the base of your wall and actually reuse that water for the same garden, or other areas of your property! In order words, no water is left to evaporate on your outdoor pavers, the deck and so on.
Gro-Wall® modules can be fixed to any structural wall including brick, concrete, wood, sheet metal, drywall and other surfaces. The modules allow for vertical and horizontal expansion and require only standard potting mixes. No framework is required as the structure is self supporting. You can even have your walls back-to-back for a brilliant eye-catching centerpiece in the garden.
The range includes a unique facade-style structure made from the same durable material. It is made up of small individual pieces that connect together without the need for glue or cutting. This makes Gro Wall Facade the perfect framework for green walls that need to fit into a very specific shape or tight space. It's also very cost effective for large areas and can double as fencing with the right framing.
Of course, these vertical gardens would be on Eco Sustainable House if they weren't made from eco-friendly materials. In the case of the Atlantis Gro-Wall® products, and our Australian-made Green Wall Pots, they are made from at least 85% recycled polypropylene. This plastic is fully UV stabilised, doesn't react to ground chemicals and won't leech anything into the soil. They have a lifespan of 50 plus years!
The Monash University study mention above was conducted on the pollutant-scrubbing properties of green walls. It found that most such walls produced a significant impact on the pollutants in the air around them. Their research also showed that using grey-water on your green walls didn't affect this ability to offset fossil fuels.
Plant replacement is also greatly reduced, with a 0-5% rate when using the Gro Wall systems (assuming correct maintenance), compared to an industry standard of around 30%.
Feel free to browse our Vertical Gardens page for more information on individual models of green wall systems or email email@example.com with your enquiry.
Brownfield Sites, Meet Industrial Buildings: The Perfect Ecological Solution
Brownfield sites, land with known or suspected pollution, have always been a bit of an ecological conundrum. It’s not always possible to return them to the environment if they’ve been contaminated by waste, but they’re not an attractive (or safe) place to build a family home, either. So, what is there to do about these unused swathes of land? One ingenious solution is the conversion of industrial buildings to luxury apartments.
Industrial buildings don’t always come with brownfield sites, but the two go hand-in-hand; often, whatever industry was there before was the cause of the polluted land in the first place. However, these barren fields and vacant warehouses are seeing new life in the “warehouse conversion” movement throughout Australia. By returning these fields to the city through converting them into housing, it changes them from a waste of space to a brilliant piece of prime real estate.
The warehouse conversion concept has been popular for some time, but its trending rise has spurred a truly eco-friendly reuse of the brownfield sites that the warehouses sometimes sit on. Like we stated above, the sites can’t really be given back to the environment, so the only options are to rebuild or leave what’s already there.
Obviously, if the brownfield site is unsafe for habitation, efforts to remedy that need to be taken first. However, leaving the buildings that already exist on these properties instead of tearing them down both preserves their history and saves money. That’s why the warehouse conversion and the brownfield site go together so well; attractive apartments can be built within the existing infrastructure that’s both cheaper and arguably as in-demand as new construction.
Unfortunately, the idea isn’t perfect. Since the buildings are so large, they’re not particularly eco-friendly, and they often face challenges due to the level of technology they were built with, such as inefficient ducting, plumbing, or wiring, unless these are fixed artificially. The large buildings are also very expensive to heat in the wintertime. In comparison to alternative options, though, the warehouse conversion option is still tough to beat.
Once a brownfield suite is decontaminated, the question often remains what to do with it. However, with the luxury-apartment-warehouse-conversion option, we have a relatively cheap way to repurpose the real estate of the original building, all while preserving its history. While the buildings themselves may be less than perfect to begin with, the repurposing of the land is certainly an environmentally friendly message that many have heard.
If you’re considering a warehouse conversion, or just have an industrial site you want to be more eco-friendly, have a look at Eco Sustainable House’s full range here. With rainwater tanks, venting skylights, solar hot water, green walls and much more, you can really transform any building.
Alicia Rennoll (Environmental Research)
Sustainable Housing: Passive Home, Active SavingsPassive design is the pursuit of a home that can be comfortable year-round without relying on mechanical cooling or heating. The movement began in Germany, where it is a voluntary standard for reducing a building’s carbon footprint by maximising energy efficiency. The initiative has taken off around the world, with many home builders and renovators following the standards and other countries like Sweden establishing their own national equivalent of the certification. While the original concept was developed for a colder European climate with an emphasis on retaining heat, the same standard has also been proven to work in warmer climates, like Australia’s, even without modifications.
With an emphasis on robust insulation and ventilation, preventing moisture from entering the building, dehumidifying the interior and fixed external shades for windows, passive temperature regulation can be easily achieved in any Queensland building. Whether you’re looking to build an energy efficient home from the ground up or want to make changes to your existing property to reduce your reliance on air conditioning, it’s a worthwhile process. The ideal end result is a lower carbon footprint, and a huge drop in electricity usage.
Here are a few principles to follow for passive building design success.
With one of the most important tenets of the passive house standard being air tightness, the idea of sitting in a sealed room at the height of the Queensland summer seems like madness, but couldn’t be further from the passive house plan. The key here is achieving consistency of temperature, and in fact, passive house standards don’t require windows to be perpetually closed – far from it.
As a country, we’ve already caught on to the core philosophy of passive cooling – look at the humble Queenslander. Characterised by being up on stumps with that distinctive wrap-around verandah, it captures prevailing breezes and is cooled underneath while being shaded from the sun and rain.
- Building from the ground up? Verandahs or covered sleep-outs are great for all-weather relaxing as they let the breezes in while keeping out the sun and rain during storm season. Nice, wide eaves can also help.
- Look at each window you’ve noticed you need to close when bad weather hits and see if an awning or external louvres could help you let air in without letting in the rain.
- Hot air rises, so high ceilings are great, but if you can’t modify your ceiling height, a skylight is the perfect solution to allow hot air up and out. Velux solar powered skylights can even be programmed to automatically ventilate the room at regular intervals. They’re also good for rooms that don’t have many windows and are lacking in natural light.
Maintaining a consistent, comfortable temperature within a controlled space is what passive housing is all about, and a lot of the things you do to help cool your home in summer can also serve to help you keep it warm in winter. Heat retention is a major part of passive housing, and where a lot of research has been conducted, but if you don’t have the cash to make your home completely airtight like the certification demands, fear not. There are some smaller-scale things you can do to optimise your home’s thermal retention that will help you rely less on heaters in winter.
- Homes can gain and lose a substantial amount of heat through their windows, so double glazing can help make that heat transference slower, keeping heat out in summer and in during winter. They can even help with noise reduction, so if you live close to a road or your neighbours it can assist with keeping noise out or in.
- Insulation is an essential part of any Queensland home. We all know that good insulation is crucial to stop the heat of the sun warming up our homes, but it also helps to keep warmth from escaping during winter. A lot of newer homes focus on insulation in the roof but neglect it elsewhere. So, if you happen to be building from scratch don’t skimp on the insulation in your walls. Similarly, for existing homes, it can’t hurt to increase the insulation in your roof.
There are many things you can do to take the first few steps towards a passive house, with varying levels of invasiveness and expense, but all are worth the investment. As energy bills continue to climb and the weather only gets wilder, future-proofing your home is not only the smart choice, it’s the right thing to do for the environment.
The Real Green Screen - Using Plants & Screens for Privacy
A new challenge for both urban developers and dwellers is how to achieve a balance between embracing nature and preserving privacy. The simple solution is to combine the two, with screens that allow light and air through and can also act as a structure to train creeping plants. Plants can have a strong visual impact as well as a proven benefit to our health when we spend more time around them, so make even more use of them by cleverly incorporating them into your space. With endless applications, indoors and outdoors, commercial and residential, you can mask unattractive features or make a visual statement almost anywhere. Not only is the result functional, you’re also helping to improve your building’s environmental sustainability..
Where to use them
If you want to mask an area of your backyard such as a hot water tank or an external air conditioning unit a screen with a climbing vine is an instant improvement that will only look better as the plant grows. You can even use this method to add extra height to your fence if your neighbour is a little close or overlooks your property. If you live in an apartment with a balcony it’s a quick way to get a bit more privacy and sound reduction from your immediate neighbour or whatever your balcony may be facing, like a busy road. It’s a quick, easy and cost-effective way to conceal your indoor or outdoor areas from unwanted onlookers or to screen off unappealing sights all while introducing some greenery.
Screen with vines or vertical garden?
The main distinction between training a vine on a decorative privacy screen and a full green wall is the number of plants and the complexity of the setup. Because of a higher capacity, you can fit more plants and more variety in a green wall, which may also require an irrigation system to be installed. A screen and a few creeping plants is a comparatively subtle look but also quicker and cheaper to set up. However, with the right drainage system are perfectly suitable for apartment balconies, rooftops and even large indoor settings such as an office foyer.
Which creeper plants to use?
When choosing a creeper for training along your security screen, you need to consider whether you would like to have native plants or something from abroad, flowering or even deciduous. If the idea of more shade in summer but more sunlight in winter sounds like a feature you like, a deciduous creeper like Wisteria could be a good match for you. If you want bold, bright flowers consider the classic Bougainvillea, but remember it does come with thorns. For a perfumed flower, Madagascan Jasmine thrives in tropical climates but prefers a somewhat sheltered spot. Grape vines can come in an ornamental variety that doesn’t bear fruit and it sports striking burgundy, red, orange and yellow foliage in autumn before losing its leaves in winter and growing new, green ones in spring.
Putting up some privacy screen panels up and training creeping vines along them not only looks fantastic, it can bring nature and privacy to your indoor or outdoor space for a price that won’t break the bank.
- Cody McConnell
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