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Green facades—a view back and some visions


Building facades are under permanent environmental influences, such as sun and acid rain, which age and can ultimately destroy them. Living wall systems can protect facades and offer similar benefits to those gained from installing a green roof. A view back in history shows that vegetated facades are not new technology but can offer multiple benefits as a component of current urban design. In the 19th century, in many European and some North American cities, woody climbers were frequently used as a cover for simple facades. In Central Europe in the 1980s a growing interest in environmental issues resulted in the vision to bring nature into cities. In many German cities incentive programmes were developed, including some that supported tenant initiatives for planting and maintaining climbers in their backyards and facades. Since the 1980s, research has been conducted on issues such as the insulating effects of plants on facades, the ability of plants to mitigate dust, plants’ evaporative cooling effects, and habitat creation for urban wildlife, including birds, spiders and beetles. The aim of this paper is to review research activities on the green wall and facade technology with a focus on Germany. The potential of green facades to improve urban microclimate and buildings’ ecological footprint is high, but they have not developed a widespread presence outside of Germany because they are not as well known as green roofs and there is a lack of implementation guidelines and incentive programs in other countries.

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The project HU-Building, Berlin Adlershof is funded by a Berlin government administration, thanks to Brigitte Reichmann. Thanks to Jeremy T. Lundholm, Saint Mary’s University, Nova Scotia, Canada, for improving earlier versions, and Molly Meyer, USA, for reviewing.

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Correspondence to Manfred Köhler.

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Köhler, M. Green facades—a view back and some visions. Urban Ecosyst 11, 423–436 (2008).

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  • Living walls
  • Green facades
  • Extensive roofs
  • Nature in cities
  • Environmental benefits