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Bringing nature back into our cities is a vital component for a better future, but we are rapidly running out of space to do so. Green infrastructure such as living walls are being applied to the exterior of commercial buildings in order to tackle this growing decline of green spaces in urban environments. These outdoor living walls add tremendous environmental and social value to cities across the globe, as well as adding a touch of beauty to what would otherwise be a concrete landscape.

Due to their many substantial benefits, it is no wonder living walls are increasing in momentum in cities across the world. Internationally renowned landscape and garden designer Andy Sturgeon states “Many cities including London and Singapore now encourage green walls through their planning policies, and this is already having a significant impact”.

But what actually are the benefits of living walls for commercial buildings?

If you are an architect, contractor, or proprietor looking to incorporate a living wall into your next project, you may be asking yourself this question. To answer your question, we have created this informative blog outlining the top 4 benefits of living wall systems for commercial developments.

1. Living walls encourage biodiversity

The built environment sector needs to protect biodiversity. Why? Because this sector not only depends on the raw materials provided by the natural environment, but it indirectly depends on the regulation of ecosystems, and the health and aesthetical benefits of the natural environment. Being responsible for nearly 30% of biodiversity loss globally, the built environment sector must find solutions to restore nature in our cities. 

Living walls are an ideal solution, providing a natural space for plant life to flourish, and wildlife and insect species to return to urban environments. In fact, a 2014 PHD thesis by Caroline Chiquet which studied the biodiversity present in 22 living walls in the UK, found that birds were more present in areas with living walls than similar areas without living walls. In total, Chiquet found nine species of birds, 13 species of snails, 33 species of spiders and over 2600 morphospecies across the studied walls, thus proving the quantifiable benefits of living walls for the reparation of biodiversity in cities.

urban biodiversity

2. Living walls improve air quality

It is a well-known fact that poor air quality leads to numerous health issues and is gradually having a negative impact on the planet’s atmosphere. According to the World Health Organisation, polluted air is the reason behind seven billion people’s death annually, which is quite frankly terrifying.

However, it is estimated that 40% of the global greenhouse gasses that cause pollution, can be traced back to the construction and maintenance of built structures. It is therefore essential that the built environment sector makes efforts to reduce emissions and find more renewable, and sustainable solutions for future and existing developments to avoid poor health and polluted air.

Living walls reduce emissions and improve local air quality through photosynthesis – a process in which plants absorb common air pollutants such as NO2 and CO2 and convert it into Oxygen. According to a study,  1m² of living wall extracts 2.3 kg of CO2 per annum from the air, and produces 1.7 kg of oxygen – so imagine how much oxygen a 250m² living walls such as the one at St Mary’s student accommodation produces!

The benefit of living walls on surrounding air quality is undeniable, and those living in cities with green infrastructures will as a result see a significant reduction in pollution-related health issues.

3. Living walls solve regulatory challenges

Due the immense environmental and structural assets of green infrastructures, living walls allow project stakeholders to solve key regulatory challenges and building standards. These include:


BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is a sustainability assessment method that sets standards for the environmental performance of buildings through the design, specification, construction, and operation phases.


WELL, is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind.


BNG (Biodiversity Net Gain), is an approach to development, and/or land management, that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than it was beforehand. Under the Environment Act 2021, all planning permissions granted in England (with a few exemptions) will have to deliver at least 10% biodiversity net gain from an as yet unconfirmed date, expected to be in November 2023.


UGF (Urban Greening Factor) is a policy that aims to accelerate the greening of urban areas and ensures well planned and high-quality interventions that add to a multi-functional green infrastructure network.

This policy is particularly important for developments in London. Outlined in the London Plan Policy G5 (guidance prepared by the Greater London Authority), all major developments are required to include urban greening as a fundamental element of site and building design in which the UGF is a major policy initiative. To achieve UGF targets, the GLA sets out green infrastructures such as living walls as a solution.

cleaner air living walls

4. Living walls improve well-being

Biophilic design is a core component of green infrastructure and is based on the theory that human beings have an innate instinct to connect with nature and other living beings in order to live happy lives and build safer communities.

In fact, access to nature has been found to reduce stress, increase happiness, and promote more positive social interactions, according to psychologist Marc Berman, who states, “the evidence is very solid”.

In urban environments where natural spaces are few and far between, city dwellers are almost 40%  more likely to develop depression, compared to those living in rural areas. In addition to this, it is estimated that public areas with little to no natural spaces are more likely to have higher crime rates.

So how can local councils tackle these issues?

Living walls provide cities and urban areas with a turnkey solution. Being applied to commercial building’s vertically, these structures require no ground space – meaning they will cause minimal to no disruption to city layouts. Living walls also provide urban environments with a key source of nature and greenery, allowing locals to reconnect with nature more regularly – improving mental well-being, and encouraging safer communities.

living walls for health and wellbeing

Be part of the living wall revolution

Living walls are an immensely valuable asset to urban landscapes across the globe, providing incomparable benefits to societies, the environment, ecology, and local economies. Such benefits cannot be overlooked for those of you who are committed to reaching 2050 targets for NetZero and creating a healthier and happier future for generations to come. 

For more information on living walls and their benefits, contact Viritopia today.

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