With more emphasis put on ‘being green’ and people making more of an effort in their day to day lives, infrastructure is also following the green pattern where buildings are literally being covered in plants, vegetation and flowers.
Not only does this vegetation growing on the sides of the buildings make them more appealing and easier on the eye; people generally feel more comfortable and less stressed when they are surrounded by plant life.
There are currently two main methods that can be used to create green infrastructure: green walls and green facades. Green walls are basically vertical gardens that involve building the plant’s bases into the wall. This is made up of the structural supports that are able to handle the weight of the soil as well as the ancillary watering systems. The drawback of this method is that it can be very expensive and can be restricted by the existing design of the building.
The second method is to use a green facade which is actually a better economical option and is easily retrofitted. Creepers and vines grow and cover a building and the roots are anchored into the ground or at strong points on the building. The advantage of using these types of plants is that they provide better coverage through better leaves distribution creating a much more greener and blooming facade to gaze at.
One benefit that the greenery provides is welcome shade, particularly on hot sunny days, keeping offices cooler and thereby reducing the need for air conditioning during the summer months and helping to reduce electricity bills.
With greater reductions in electricity costs, this also has a positive effect on a building’s sustainability rating making it much more sustainable. There are currently over 600 projects throughout Australia that have achieved the Green Star ratings.
Ratings range from One Star to Six Star, with Six Star meaning World Leadership. The Council House 2 (CH2) in Melbourne became Australia’s first Six Green Star rated commercial building by the Green Building Council of Australia, through adding a green facade.
The greenery also has a positive impact on the environment as it helps to improve the air quality through plant photosynthesis. This also helps our health, according to the Australian Department of the Environment, as an improved health and well-being means we are likely to have less sick days increasing productivity levels when we are at work.
Too much noise is also believed to be a major contributor to higher stress levels, but as the greenery is able to absorb noise pollution, this is thought to have a positive impact and help to lower our levels of stress.
Green infrastructure therefore has a great level of appeal to future occupants, whether they are businesses who are looking to be greener and increase their sustainability rating, or residents who are looking for a home that is more eco-friendly.
Owners of a building that incorporates green infrastructure also have a win-win situation as they are able to increase their rental rates, so I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more green infrastructure in the next few years.