Greenery on buildings How plants improve the quality of living

Blackberries, kiwis or simply ivy: plant-covered buildings are more than a mere fashion trend. They even have health benefits.

by Ueli Bischof 08 Jan 2018

Greenery on buildings has been proven to have a calming effect on people’s moods. Photo: istock.com.

Building land is scarce. In Switzerland, four out of five people live in towns or cities. Densification is increasing, but green spaces are still in high demand. “One solution to this dilemma is to bring more green into towns,” explains Mark Krieger of the HSR, the University of Applied Sciences Rapperswil. “This is both healthy and economically attractive.” As a professor of Landscape Architecture, he knows that plants have a calming effect on both people and the urban climate. “Trees reduce stress, as well as lessening the effects of excessive heat and cold.” He explains that this is why the green boulevards of Paris stay pleasantly cool while the rest of the city swelters in 30o temperatures (90o F). “Even the most sophisticated technical solution can’t provide shade in the summer and let the sun shine through in the winter.”

Vertical gardens

Although plants in the city look lovely, there isn’t much space for them. Mark Krieger has some solutions: “Creating a world of green is possible in even the smallest areas.” Trellises on the walls of buildings allow wisteria and fruits like blackberries or kiwis to grow. An easier option is to plant some ivy. “The claim that ivy destroys facades is utter garbage.” According to Krieger, you just need to make sure the plasterwork is well sealed, and cut back plants before they reach windows or grow under the roof.

Vertical gardens are becoming increasingly important in the world of architecture. “Planted facades can replace flowerbeds,” explains Moritz Küderli, the CEO of Hydraplant. His company has been making buildings greener for 45 years. One of its projects involved growing climbing and hanging plants on a facade at the Novartis Campus. They change with the seasons and protect against ultraviolet light and noise.

Greenery raises the value of the property

“This effect also works indoors,” adds Küderli, who recently planted olive trees in an office in Oerlikon. “The plants help to increase humidity and improve air quality.” These effects are proven to increase employees’ concentration.

Plants also have another positive effect: they raise the value of a property. This is confirmed by Daniel Hengartner, President of the Swiss association of real estate appraisers: “Attractive outdoor areas make properties easier to rent out and help residents’ wellbeing.” He adds, however, that it is important that such areas are low-maintenance.

Wonderfully green

Grass borders: Natural grassy areas are best if you want lots of species. If you prefer a neater look, simply frame the natural area with a meter-wide lawn border. This supports biodiversity and looks attractive.

Breathe easy: Buildings with closed windows often have low humidity, which can lead to a dry throat. For a natural solution to this problem, simply plant some nutgrass (Cyperus eragrostis). If the hygrometer reads 45 percent, your room has perfect humidity.