How Living Walls Earn LEED Points
Living walls are more than beautiful. Adding plants to a building also provide benefits to increased productivity, improved health, and energy savings. These benefits are recognized as credits that give your building project LEED Points. Here are some potential ways you can get LEED points for your architectural project.
What is LEED?
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is an internationally recognized green building certification system that covers issues of sustainability, energy savings, indoor air quality, health & wellness, and acoustics, among others.
Potential LEED credits earned by installing a living wall
Living walls can qualify for LEED credits and helps gain an additional thirty points for additional benefits. Credits are earned by adding the benefits below to your building project.
Credit 3: Integrated Pest Management, Erosion Control, and Landscape Management Plan (1 point)
- Outdoor Pest Management:
- Landscape Waste Diversion: when pruning, all of the clippings are mulched, composted and diverted from entering the waste stream.
- Reduction of Chemical Fertilizer: an OMRI (Organic Material Review Institute) certified organic fertilizer is used and only in minute amounts.
Credit 5: Site Development: Protect or Restore Open Habitat (1 point)
Note this credit applies only to horizontal surfaces. However, living walls attract natural habitat. Please confirm this credit viable for your project.
- The natural site that is damaged by a building can be restored with a green wall which is an area that provides habitat and promotes biodiversity.
- Only native and locally adapted plants are used and placed vertically thus increasing the percentage of the total site area covered by vegetation.
- An exterior green wall positively impacts this LEED credit.
Credit 6: Stormwater Quantity Control (1 point)
- Rainwater can be collected and used to irrigate a green wall. In doing so it increases on-site infiltration and evapotranspiration.
- The roots of plants (and microorganisms that live around them) breakdown and utilize pollution and contaminants within the water which leads to a reduction or total elimination before it is released back into the surrounding environment.
- A living wall incorporated as part of a stormwater management plan can qualify your building for this LEED credit.
Credit 7.1: Heat Island Reduction: Non-Roof (1 point)
- Plants naturally cool their surroundings and absorb solar radiation; by covering a bare wall with vegetation the heat island effect is mitigated. Studies have shown that a green wall can be up to 50 degrees cooler than an exposed surface.
- The panels used totally shade the building envelope and because of the way they are attached to the frame, air is free to circulate behind them.
- A green wall qualifies for this credit as it fits into the category of ‘exterior structure supporting vegetation’.
Credit 8: Light Pollution Reduction (1 point)
- If an artificial light source is required, it is programmed using an automatic timer ensuring that it is off during all after-hours periods.
Water Efficiency (WE):
Credit 3: Water Efficient Landscaping (1-5 points)
- Captured rainwater can be used to irrigate a green wall thus reducing or completely cutting out potable water use or other natural surface or subsurface resource consumption.
- Special water-efficient, climate-tolerant native or adapted plant species are selected.
- Moisture sensors or weather data-based controllers can be installed which automatically shut off the irrigation system when not required.
- A green wall positively impacts this LEED credit.
Energy & Atmosphere (EA):
Credit 1: Optimize Energy Efficiency Performance (1 – 18 points)
- An interior or exterior green wall can help a building achieve an increased level of operating energy efficiency performance through the following two ways:
- Having a large number of plants can reduce indoor air temperatures by up to 45 degrees. Electricity savings of up to 20% can be obtained through reductions of air conditioning requirements.
- The Florafelt system recommends a layer of air between it and the wall; this acts as additional insulation thus reducing heating and cooling requirements of a building.
- An interior or exterior living wall positively impacts this LEED credit.
Materials & Resources (MR):
Credit 3: Sustainable Purchasing: Facility Alterations and Additions (1 point)
- The plants and materials are sourced locally.
- The fabric used is made up of recycled fibres.
- Recycled metals or sustainable wood products can be used for framing.
Indoor Environmental Quality (EQ):
Credit 1.4: IAQ Best Management Practices: Reduce Particulates in Air Distribution (1 point)
- Plants can be thought of as natural, non-mechanical air filtration media.
- A Florafelt living wall incorporates hundreds of plants, many of which have been proven by NASA scientists to substantially reduce particulates.
- Certain tropical plants have demonstrated that they capture and remove airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, particulate matter, VOCs, trichloroethylene, carbon monoxide, benzene, toluene, xylene, plus countless others. This leads to significant air quality improvements during the recirculation of indoor air within a building.
- An indoor green wall has a positive effect on this LEED credit.
Credit 2.1: Occupant Comfort: Occupant Survey (1 point)
- A green wall can improve a buildings score on an occupant survey in the following ways:
- Thermal comfort; natural cooling of plants and insulation provided by the Florafelt living wall system.
- Acoustics; the leaves of plants attenuate sound by reflecting, refracting and absorbing acoustic energy which leads to fewer echoes.
- Indoor air quality; plants have been proven to filter and substantially remove airborne particulates and toxins.
- Other comfort issues; having greenery in and around buildings has shown to alleviate stress and increase overall wellness of its occupants.
Credit 3.6: Green Cleaning: Indoor Integrated Pest Management (1 point)
- Routine inspection and monitoring for pests is part of our ongoing maintenance package.
- If required, only organic methods of control are used and then just for targeted species.
Innovation in Operations (IO):
- Installing a green wall does not only help in gaining LEED points but does it in an innovative way. This is accomplished by simply incorporating the technology that nature has provided instead of relying on man made solutions, which usually require much more energy.
- A green wall is unique in that it meets a broad range of LEED credits and does so with a single system.
US Green Building Council
For more information about LEED see: US Green Building Council.