Green living walls can reduce heat lost from buildings by over 30%

Scientists have shown that it is possible to reduce the amount of heat lost from buildings through walls by as much as 30 per cent by making use of green living walls.

Green living walls are those walls that have soil and plants in them. Walls with an exterior living wall façade comprises of a flexible felt fabric sheet system with pockets allowing for soil and planting. The study was conducted by University of Plymouth researchers on a pre-1970s building on the university campus – and compared how effectively two sections of its walls retained heat.

After five weeks of measurements, researchers found the amount of heat lost through the wall retrofitted with the living façade was 31.4% lower than that of the original structure. They also discovered daytime temperatures within the newly-covered section remained more stable than the area with exposed masonry, meaning less energy was required to heat it.

The study is one of the first to ascertain the thermal influence of living wall systems on existing buildings in temperate scenarios and was conducted by academics associated with the University’s Sustainable Earth Institute.

Writing in the journal Building and Environment, they say while the concept is relatively new, it has already been shown to bring a host of benefits such as added biodiversity.

However, with buildings directly accounting for 17% of UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions – and space heating accounting for over 60% of all energy used in buildings – these new findings could be a game-changer in helping the UK achieve its net-zero commitments.

The University is renowned globally for its research into sustainable building technologies, and this study’s findings are already being taken forward as part of the University’s Sustainability Hub: Low Carbon Devon project.

Supported by an investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the three-year £2.6 million programme is exploring low carbon solutions through research and support for local enterprises.

Specifically, this aspect of the project is looking to optimise the performance and sustainability of external living walls in sustainable building design through research on the thermal properties, and carbon sequestration, offered by different plant and soil types.

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