Green Walls Aren’t Just for Aesthetics

Sourced from the American Geophysical Union

AGU’s renovation project was broken down into four categories of high performance design strategies that collaboratively help the building to reach net zero energy goals. They are generation, absorption, reclamation, and reduction. The building’s hydroponic phytoremediation (hy-phy) wall, which is also known as a living plant wall or green wall, is one of a handful of reclamation strategies being used across the project that will help reduce the building’s overall energy usage. AGU and the project team worked closely with Nedlaw Living Walls to design its green wall for the space.

Living walls are well known in sustainable design not only for their aesthetics, which improve building occupants’ well-being, but also for their potential to improve the indoor air quality. But, not every green wall is a hy-phy wall. AGU’s green wall will serve as an indoor air biofilter reclaiming air in the building, drawing it in through the root systems of the plants where it is filtered air quality for building occupants, and recirculating the clean air through the building. AGU’s wall is hydroponic because the plants will be suspended in a growing media that allows the plant to gather nutrients through water and air, rather than traditional soil. Some green walls use containers to suspend traditional soil. The “phytoremediation” part of the name refers to the use of plants for removing contaminants from the air.

The hy-phy wall functions sort of like the nose hairs of the building. It will work in concert with the dedicated outdoor air system with exhaust air heat recovery (DOAS) as part of the building’s ventilation. The DOAS conditions and delivers outside air to the building but the hy-phy wall allows the building to reduce the amount of outside air needed by recycling indoor air through the DOAS. This collaboration between the ventilation system and living wall system reduces the energy needed to circulate fresh air throughout the building.

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