We’re used to seeing the scaffold on long-term building projects covered up with advertising, but what about—crazy idea—not creating an eyesore on the city and doing something interesting instead? That’s what Arup architects is doing during its renovation of Grosvenor’s St Mark’s building, in London’s fancy Mayfair neighborhood. The firm has hung a vertical garden over the whole proceedings instead.
The Living Wall is made by Green Fortune, a Swedish company that specializes in covering vertical surfaces with plants. The Grosvenor wall covers 860 square feet, and is made up of grasses, strawberries, and flowers. Not only does it look a million times better than a scaffolded building, the carpet of greenery may actually improve its surroundings. Arup says that noise pollution from the construction site it cloaks could be reduced by 10 decibels, and the plants could also clean the air.
That might sound like a typical greenwashing claim, but Arup seems to actually be interested in finding out how effective the wall is. The Living Wall, which Arup designed with Green Fortune, « will be fitted with sensors to monitor its impact on noise, temperature and air pollution. » Those are the kinds of data that will help future projects justify the expense of a temporary green garden, and may even push city planning departments into requiring them for certain projects.
U.S. site Construction Dive takes the pessimistic view, pointing out the problems of extra weight, and of not being able to pass things through the greenery to the construction workers inside. That might be the case on a big construction site, or perhaps U.S. scaffold is left open (bringing its own dangers of debris and equipment falling onto bystanders). In much of Europe, where streets are narrow and kept open throughout construction, scaffolding is already sealed off with nets or other covers to protect passersby. In that situation, a green wall would do nothing but help.
Arup says that the installation is also a part of its own plan to reduce the company’s carbon emissions 50% by 2030, which shows that big initiatives to reduce emissions aren’t just good for us in an abstract, global kids way, but at the local grass roots level too—pun intended.