Thursday, July 02, 2009

Thinking about Bio Walls

"Living Wall" by Intrepidacious

Today on Twitter, Debby (@torvaanser) of Pulau Hantu Blog posted a question: "What do u think abt biowalls (aka living/greenwalls)? Are they all they claim to be? Wld u like to see more of them?"

So, what are BioWalls? What do I think of them? Monkey was put to task to think about these biowalls as I sought to answer these questions for Debby's article about the increasing installations of BioWalls in Singapore.

Biowalls are usually a wall with plants growing on it, and a big hype in green building designs of late. They are supposed to serve wonderful purposes such as insulation from heat (as building facades) or air and water purification (as walls inside buildings).

Biowall Diagram by The Robertson Building
Ideally, a Biowall should serve these functions as illustrated in this diagram. This was installed in the robertson building in Canada.

So what do I think?
Active biowalls are a wonderful ways to combine technology with natural ecosystem services such as air or water purification by plants in our buildings for example. However, if these biowalls are not fully integrated into building systems design, it defeats the purpose of installing the "so-called" biowalls. They become merely aesthetic horticultural features, making them no different from existing floral features.

We all know Singapore love to sell ourselves to be clean and green. But having just a wall made up of plants without proper integration into the building to allow it to provide environmental services to us, then that does NOT make it a "biowall". They would just be another piece of indoor plant decor "art". If building developers still went ahead and label them as "biowalls" then i definitely smell greenwash in the air.

So the next time you see a "biowall", let's be critical and ask about the natural services these plants provide for the building, if any. But if building developers do make a concerted effort to fully harness the potential of these walls then we should definitely applaud them for it! Kudos.

Read full article here