You can let ivy or wisteria flourish! According to a study, ‘living walls’ can reduce the energy consumption of your home by 30 percent.

  • ‘Living walls’ of plants can reduce heat loss from homes by 30 per cent — study 
  • Two walls of an old building were measured by University of Plymouth researchers
  • One of them was retrofitted with exterior living wall façade for soil and planting
  • The living wall lost more heat after five weeks of measurement

Although it is quite a sight to see Ivy climbing up homes’ walls, they have been shown to cause damage to property and reduce their value by thousands.

Although this is often more to do with the state of the walls – new brickwork won’t be affected but an aggressive species can weaken those that are already damaged or crumbling – homeowners are always wary of the danger.

A new study has shown that wisteria and ivy may have more to offer than their beauty.

This study showed that living walls of plants could reduce the heating loss through your house by as much as 30%. 

'Living walls' of plants can slash your home's energy bill by reducing the amount of heating lost through its structure by more than 30 per cent, a new University of Plymouth study has found

According to a University of Plymouth study, living walls of plants can reduce the heating loss through your house by up to 30%.

How can ivy damage your home? 

Its dense, green foliage is what makes it easy to identify. 

The glossy three- and five-lobed, climbing leaves are decorated with glossy green leaves. By producing aerial roots, it attaches itself with supports. 

Sometimes the root ends can remain after the stems have been pulled off the wall. These roots are often difficult to remove with wire brushes and pressure washing.

There are approximately 400 cultivars across all the species.

English Ivy (Hedera Helix) can damage your home and destroy native habitat.

Both the Persian ivy and Algerian ivy, Hedera canariensis (Persera colchica), grow very fast. They can reach eight inches in length.

In terms of the best species to have growing on your house, experts say the most preferred are Virginia creeper and Boston ivy.

They are both self-climbing but the aerial roots of these plants aren’t strong enough to cause damage even though bricks or mortar may be weak.

Plants can also hide unsightly or imperfection on walls.

The research, carried out by the University of Plymouth, used the Sustainability Hub – a pre-1970s building on the university campus – to measure how effectively two sections of its walls retained heat. 

One of them was retrofitted with an exterior living wall façade, made up of a fabric sheet system with pockets allowing for soil and planting. 

Five weeks later, the researchers discovered that the volume of heat lost through the wall’s living section was 31.4 percent lower than its original counterpart.

The researchers also found that the new-covered area was more stable in the day than areas with exposed masonry. This meant less heat was needed. 

Matthew Fox, an architect and researcher on sustainable architecture, was the lead author of this study. 

Although regulations are more recent to enhance the thermal performance new constructions have not yet changed the fact that existing buildings use the most energy and contribute to the carbon emission. 

“It is essential that we improve the thermal performance and energy efficiency of existing buildings if the UK wants to meet its goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050. This will also help reduce fuel poverty caused by rising energy prices.

This study was conducted by researchers associated with the University’s Sustainable Earth Institute. It is the first time that living walls systems have been studied for their thermal impact on buildings.

The concept, although it is new to researchers, has been proven to have a variety of advantages such as biodiversity.

With buildings accounting for 17 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions – and space heating accounting for over 60 per cent of all energy used in buildings – the authors believe their findings could be a game-changer in helping Britain achieve its net-zero commitments by 2050.

The study is one of the first to ascertain the thermal influence of living wall systems on existing buildings (stock image)

It is the first study to assess the thermal effects of living wall systems upon existing buildings. (stock image). 

One of the researchers Dr Thomas Murphy said that “green infrastructure”, which is nature-based, could be a solution to climate change, pollution, and loss of biodiversity. It would also facilitate low carbon economic growth. 

Living walls are a great way to improve air quality, reduce noise and enhance your health and wellness. 

Our research has shown that living walls are a great way to save energy and reduce the carbon footprint for existing buildings. 

“Further optimising living wall systems is needed in order to maximize the environmental benefits, and lower some of their sustainability costs.

The study has been published in the journal Building and Environment.

What are ‘GREEN WALKS’?

“Green walls” are structures that have been lined with greenery, such as trees and bushes.

The idea behind them is to absorb major pollutants from busy roads and streets.

A 2012 study by the Universities of Lancaster and Birmingham found that ‘Greening’ streets through urban walls can reduce pollution levels in urban areas up to 30 percent.

Researchers found that green walls could remove 40 per cent of nitrogen oxides and 60 per cent of particulate matter from the surrounding air.

'Green walls' are urban structures lined with trees, bushes and other greenery. They have been proposed as a way to tackle air pollution by absorbing major pollutants. Pictured is a Green Wall installed at Edgware Road Underground Station in London

“Green walls” are urban structures that have been lined with greenery, such as trees and bushes. These walls are designed to absorb major pollutants and reduce air pollution. Pictured is a Green Wall installed at Edgware Road Underground Station in London

These pollutants have been shown to increase the risk of developing lung cancer, heart attack and other health problems.

Because plants absorb carbon dioxide and other pollutants naturally, the walls absorb it. Then they expel clean, fresh oxygen.

The best place to put green walls is in a city’s “urban canyons”, which are confined spaces surrounded by concrete walls or glass.

Since pollution can’t escape streets canyons easily, it is possible to line them with walls made of grass or climbing ivy. These plants will trap harmful particles at ground level.

There are many sites in Britain with green walls, including Centenary Square, Birmingham and a variety of London locations, such as Westfield Shopping Centre, Park Lane, Edgware Road Underground Station and Westfield Shopping Centre.