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It’s no secret that the number of living wall installations has been skyrocketing in recent years. They support health, promote productivity and are universally attractive to the eye. And while all living walls are seeing an increase in sales, they are finding their greatest growth to be in indoor spaces. From Tesla to Microsoft, businesses all over the US and abroad are insisting on taking their stagnant spaces and breathing life into them. While this can largely be credited to increased awareness through the sharing of health and wellness information over the internet, it can also be attributed to the general growth of infrastructures, businesses and buildings.
As workers return to work from remote positions, and the average work day becomes longer, companies are willing to spend extra money to ensure that their employees are happy and productive. Introducing Biophilic Design, often by way of living walls, is one of the most popular ways to do this.
What Does Biophilic Design Have to Offer?
Beyond aesthetics, biophilic design offers many physical and mental health benefits. Introducing plant life to a space creates an accommodating atmosphere, making it easier to establish a focus and remain productive. Plants can also help reduce stress, which is where their benefit on physical well being intersects with their positive impact on mental health. Being exposed to greenery is shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce heart rate.
Plants add a visual and sensory appeal which can boost feelings of calmness and relaxation, while also promoting a connection with nature. There has been an overall push to incorporate biophilic design into homes, offices, and healthcare facilities. However, we want to encourage designers to look deeper into the potential benefits of living walls in an even greater variety of settings.
Grow walls are great ways to practice better mental health practices, without having to sacrifice any significant amount of space in your set up. You can practice caring for your grow wall, of course, by simply participating in its agricultural needs. However, you can also get creative by experimenting with engineering projects such as vertical irrigation systems and creative light installations.
Biophilic Design in Lifestyle Settings
Biophilic design creates a sense of comfortability, and it is shown that people will remain in a commercial space if the space incorporates plants into their decor. Retail is, of course, changing. You can read all about how our perception of retail shopping has changed in this article here.
For a time, it seemed consumers would switch entirely to online shopping. The pandemic, however, actually renewed an interest for in person retail, as people missed the social aspect and experiential nature of shopping in a store front. However, what customers perceive as “shopping” has changed on a conceptual level. They now see the physical interaction with a product as a “test drive,” where they find something they like in person and try it on or get a hands on interaction with the product, and then contemplate before eventually going home and purchasing at a later time.
So, it is now even more important than ever to ensure a pleasant shopping experience. The experience of seeing the item will need to remain with the customer, even upon leaving the store. Ensuring a comfortable and positive shopping experience is one way to do exactly this.
Of course, plants can help in other lifestyle settings beyond retail shops. Living walls can serve as effective privacy screens in settings like restaurants, helping to soundproof seating options while also purifying the air.
The presence of plants in settings such as this help ensure the customer had a pleasant experience themself, but also improves the mood of the person who has been in the space the longest- the employee. Of course, improving the server/ customer interaction is a huge part of the food industry, and helping to boost a positive atmosphere to aid in communication and overall pleasant mood is huge. Customers will have a dining experience where they can relax and enjoy their food, perhaps lounge and order more drinks or apps, which will benefit businesses in turn.
Plants for Neurodivergent Individuals
Plants can appeal to and help cater to the needs of a variety of neurodivergent experiences. Biophilic spaces offer a variety of natural textures and patterns, which can serve as both a sensory stimulation and as a retreat. This duality comes from nature's soft and recognizable aspects, as well as its dynamic and changing nature. This creates a safe place for focus to be engaged and attention to be drawn outside of oneself.
As we come to further understand the experience of those with autism and ADHD, we can accommodate them in school and office spaces to help them perform their best. Of course, these benefits are not exclusive to neurodivergent individuals, either. They can be shared with whole communities, allowing for even greater communication and more equal interaction.
Outdoors Vs. Indoors.
In response to a heightened interest in all these developments in our society, there has been an increase in outdoor shopping spaces being installed. However, there are many shopping centers which are not feasible to recreate in this way.
Some developers have turned these spaces into things like huge, indoor climbing gyms. Recreation is a great addition to indoor spaces to give them a more open feel, but you can think a little smaller to start.
Plants can be incorporated into both the more open layout part of a “lifestyle center,” while also installed into individual store fronts. A plant wall display is a great option, recreating artwork in a more sustainable way while also keeping all your plants together in an easy to water and care for set up.
The light you use also matters. Harsh LED's can become glaring on the eye and are not only unpleasant to you customers, they are also uncomfortable to your staff. This means, that through no fault of their own, your staff may find themselves becoming irritable and thus be less effective sales people, which is not beneficial, nor is it conducive with convincing them to remain in the store.
Lighting Limitations Indoors
As everyone knows, plants need two things to grow – water and sunshine. While living wall systems and regular plant maintenance ensure that living walls are properly watered, lighting has remained an issue for many indoor plant installations. Insufficient lighting is the most frequent cause of living wall failures. The design and location of the living wall must be relative to the sunshine it receives, and additionally limits the types of plants used. This not only jeopardizes the quality of the living wall, but many times will prevent its installation altogether.
There are many beautiful grow lighting options for plant walls on the market these days, especially the Highland™ Track Light System. Don’t sacrifice any of your living wall's beauty on harsh blue/purple beams when soltech is here to help with all your plant health needs!
GROW LIGHT SCIENCE
Grow lights really began to hit the indoor gardening scene with the legalization of marijuana. Engineers and plant scientists found they were able to replicate the sun’s photosynthetic spectrum with man made lighting. The latest grow lights can perfectly mimic the desired photosynthetic spectrum to replicate the sun perfectly and even manipulate it to best suit how you want to grow your plants. However, people grow plants indoors for many different reasons, and similarly, grow lights are designed to suit those purposes. While most grow lights are designed for agricultural operations and small-scale tabletop plants, there have been very few grow lights designed specifically for living walls. And like other indoor growing systems, living walls have their own unique criteria for effective lighting.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN LIVING WALL LIGHTING (SAP RULE)
There are several factors to consider when evaluating grow lights for your living wall – power, intensity, color temperature, color rendering, and spectrum. As plant people, the best way to remember is with the SAP rule - Spectrum, Appearance, Power.
What gives a grow light the ability to grow plants is their photosynthetic spectrum. The reason why plants react to grow lights rather than regular ambient light is because grow lights target the wavelengths of light that plants respond to. Regular ambient lights neglect to include those wavelengths since they’re outside of basic perception of the human eye. While plants react best to red and blue, the human eye reacts best to green. In recent years LEDs have become the ideal grow light for this exact reason.
LEDs can be designed to pinpoint the exact desired chlorophyll peaks along the wavelengths that activate a plant’s growth. A basic rule of thumb is non-flowering plants prefer blue light to encourage leaf growth, while flower plants prefer red light to trigger blooms and flowers. However, since the human eye must be taken into consideration when designing living walls, it is best to include all red, blue and green light in a grow light. These are known as full spectrum grow lights and appear as regular ambient lighting. The Grove™, Soltech’s most recent addition to their catalog of decor grow fixtures, is bar light with the perfect spectrum to promote plant growth. Even better, the mounting brackets make the style of this fixture a perfect addition to living wall setups.
As previously mentioned, living walls are designed to be admired, making the appearance of the light displaying them particularly important. Kelvin (K) and Color Rendering Index (CRI) values are measurements with which to determine both a light’s appearance and ability to display. Kelvin measures the color temperature of a light and is typically preferred at approximately 3000K or 5000K. 3000K is a warm white color and preferred by interior designers for its inviting ambiance, while a 5000K light is a cooler white color and is typically preferred for a crisp and invigorating setting. Color Rendering Index is used to determine how accurately a light displays the true color of the area it lands. It scores from 0 – 100 with 100 being the most natural representation and highest accuracy of true color.
Power becomes important in two ways when considering living wall lighting – strength and appearance. You want a light that’s strong enough to grow your plants, but not too overpowering to become a harsh eyesore in a room. Watts are used to measure the general output of light and Lux and Footcandles are used to measure the intensity and strength with which the photosynthetic light reaches the desired area. It is always best to measure the wall with a light meter to see how much natural light the wall is already receiving before adding the supplemental lighting. This is important because the grow light will add on to any natural light that may already exist in the desired area.