Science & Technology

Green walls can reduce the heat lost to buildings by more than 30% in warm climates

According to new research, plants help keep buildings warm in winter and cool in summer. The secret is to plaster those walls.

The University of Plymouth Sustainability Hub has refurbished the exterior living wall facade. Image Credit University of Plymouth.

According to new research, remodeling hollow walls (double masonry walls with air gaps in between) with green or living walls will greatly help reduce heating costs. The authors report that these improvements can reduce the amount of heat lost to the structure by more than one-third (30%).

The study was conducted on the University of Plymouth campus at the Sustainability Hub, a pre-1970 building. Although the findings have practical applications for individual users, the large-scale adoption of such measures will also make an important and positive contribution to our efforts to combat the climate crisis.

Green for warmth

“In the UK, about 57% of all buildings were built before 1964. Recently, regulations were changed to improve the thermal performance of new buildings, but they require the most energy for heating. , Existing buildings are a major contributor to carbon emissions, “said Dr. Matthew Fox, a researcher of sustainable architecture and lead author of the study.

“Therefore, if the UK reaches its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050 and helps reduce the potential for fuel poverty due to rising energy prices, it will begin to improve the thermal performance of these existing buildings. Is essential. “

In this study, the insulation properties of the two sections of the building wall were compared to the additional green walls. insulationUse an uncovered wall as a control. The green wall consisted of a flexible felt fabric sheet with a system of pockets to hold the soil, planted with different types of plants.These included sedges, ferns and rushes, And flowering shrubs. A living wall was attached to the outside of the masonry wall. Due to the interior layout of the building, only one area of ​​the green wall was monitored, as shown in the figure below.

The performance of these two wall sections was monitored over a five-week period. Finally, the authors reported that those with a living wall façade showed a 31.4% reduction in lost heat compared to their bare counterparts.

Apart from better insulation, the living wall has also improved the thermal stability of the structure. The daytime temperature of the two green wall sections of the building varied less than the non-insulated sections, making it easier for the building’s heating system to maintain the desired temperature range.

Two monitoring locations in the building. Image credit Matthew Fox et al. , (2021), Building and environment.
The U value (thermal transmission rate) of a building indicates the amount of heat that the building transfers (losses) with the environment. Image credit Matthew Fox et al. , (2021), Building and environment.

They also found that the daytime temperature in the newly covered section was more stable than in the exposed areas of the masonry. That is, less energy is needed to heat it.

The authors explain that building energy use directly accounts for 17% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. Since heating alone accounts for more than 60% of the building’s total energy consumption, green walls can have a significant impact on national emissions when adopted on a large scale. They can also bring other benefits to the table. Increase biodiversity In an urban environment where they are severely lacking.They also help us by providing a modest but significant contribution to air filtration in urban landscapes. mental health, And hold City temperature I can bear it.

Personally, the green walls also look very cool.

The study was one of the first to explore the benefits of green walls as an insulation system in temperate climates, and the team added that they provided reliable data on their effectiveness. Such data can help both private and public stakeholders, such as homeowners, businesses, and policy makers, in deciding which insulation system to apply to a building.

“As the urban population grows,“ green infrastructure ”is a potential nature-based solution that provides opportunities to address climate change, air pollution and biodiversity loss while promoting low-carbon economic growth. The author of the study.

“Living walls can bring about improved air quality, reduced noise, and improved health and well-being. According to our research, living walls are carbon dioxide emissions from existing buildings. However, these living wall systems need to be further optimized to maximize their environmental benefits and reduce some of their sustainability costs. there is.”

The paper “Living Wall System for Improving Thermal Performance of Existing Buildings” Release In the journal Building and environment..

Green walls can reduce the heat lost to buildings by more than 30% in warm climates Green walls can reduce the heat lost to buildings by more than 30% in warm climates

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