February 27, 2019 David Ameryun

I fell in love with Living Walls in 1987 when I went to Europe after college graduation.

My degree background was in science and I was headed to grad school in the fall. Having grown up in farm country and with most of my jobs being in landscape, I appreciated plants but I had never heard of or seen a living wall. While moving around Europe, my eye was drawn to walls intentionally covered in plants and they jumped out at me everywhere. They made lots of sense to me and were beautiful in a way I had not imagined before. Living walls fascinated me then and I am now amazed that they have been the focal point of my career……but not how I had planned it.
In the early 90’s when I was setting out to create my first Living Retaining Wall System, no sooner than the first walls went up, did the drive to understand how to make them successfully grow over with healthy plants and stay that way become front and center to my mission. Lots of history, relationships and many stories have shaped my understanding of the subject. For the purpose of this post, I will stick to the main points and will offer some deep dives in other posts over time, so keep coming back for more.
Here I will cover the main issue any designer will need to overcome if they are to be successful with the specification and performance of living walls. Living Walls or Green Walls come in many types and perform in service applications from structural to facades and slopes to vertical. They all have the same needs and many of the questions discussed here apply to them all. Living Walls are environmentally beneficial while naturally beautiful, which makes them a great tool for Green Building but will not be utilized as often as they should, until more well thought out systems become available and specifiers become comfortable with their successful grow-in.
Living Walls Consulting Presentations
The Big Issue With Living Walls
Living Wall Consulting Facts
The Hard Truth About Living Wall Systems
Its a fact that vendors will not discuss but most systems that claim to be living walls or to support plants covering the face are line extensions of non-living systems that have not been well thought out for the living applications they are sold for.
Living Wall Consulting Questions
Get These Questions Answered For Success

Plants grow in soil.

  • The more soil in the face the better and great soil, appropriate to the plants intended is even better. Living Wall vendors must understand this and communicate it.
  • If the product vendor cannot show how a large quantity of the right soil gets into the face, accurately every time…. they are not offering a properly thought out system.
  • Potential living wall systems must securely hold the soil so that it stays in place long-term or the plants will not be long-term either.
  • A qualified living wall system vendor will know exactly how many cubic feet of the right soil is held securely in the face of their system…. or living walls is not really their business model.
  • Well thought living wall systems will have several ways for plants to be introduced into their facings. Whether from seed mixed in the soil during installation or blown on the face after installation or live plugged into the face during or after structural completion. Their system will elegantly accommodate the method of introduction and they can quantify it and stand behind it. Its complicated and more to discuss that I care to type in this blog post.
  • Lastly, water is a key factor that can overcome poor seasonality of construction or harsh weather patterns to bring success to vegetation grow-in. Not all walls can be irrigated or need it but if a system has not designed an elegant system to add irrigation to their facing system…. they are not really in the living wall business. Again, lots more to discuss but this is a good start.
There is so much more to cover and it leaves me with plenty of room to run in later blog segments. Proper vendor and product selection is a major factor in the ultimate success of a living wall so this is a great place to start.


January 5, 2019 greenwallmojo1

Maintenance………..the mere mention of it has been a deal closer in the wrong direction for my entire career in the Living Wall niche!

Having been in the living wall business for the last 25 years, the one thing that has never gone away is that no matter who you’re talking to, the first difference they can see between a “traditional wall or structure” and one that is “living or green” is that the living option will require some maintenance. Generally that has been the eventual deal breaker.
Designers want to head the most environmentally beneficial direction, at least initially. When talking with designers and their clients, benefits of living walls are obvious and desirable. Project teams always get excited because it is the right thing to do and the outcomes can be structural, beautiful and so environmentally beneficial.
Budgets drive product selection and pretty early in every specification process the question gets brought up about the cost of maintenance and it being the big difference between the non-living product and the living product. My ability to positively guide the maintenance discussion has always been the key in being able to close the deal to get a living wall built. Many times, an owners lack of desire and commitment to maintain the living walls for an extended period of years, finally killed the deal at some point.
I think I probably would have closed almost every project I approached, if it weren’t for the negative perception of maintenance and the notion that it was going to cost a fortune over the long haul.
Maintenance perception and successful management strategies are the big hurdles standing in the path of living walls of all types being way more commonplace. I have dreamed of a day when living walls were the mainstream rather than the niche. We are close to that day.
Vertical Living Wall with Succulents at Habitudes in Irvine, CA
Understanding Expectation is Everything
I feel like product manufacturers are the first voice in the maintenance discussion. Unfortunately, I have not seen much demonstrated understanding of the need for good information, its dissemination or an understanding that the lack of it holds back huge sales volume for those manufacturers.
A Few Questions to Ponder:
  1. Does living wall maintenance cost a fortune compared to non-living?
  2. How big of an impact is it really and does a living wall pay any dividends or simply increase cost?
  3. How can maintenance cost be controlled or predicted?
  4. Where does maintenance cost really begin?
  5. Does it begin when the project is built or does it really begin when it’s being designed on the drawing board?
  6. What factors drive maintenance cost and can the specifier manage them?
  7. Does product selection and job-site execution impact the long-term cost of maintenance?
I am going to try to take a different approach to answering the 7 questions above.
My monthly “Living Wall Success” webinar is coming up this Wednesday, June 13th and its the perfect venue for more fully disseminating and discussing the answers to the questions posed above. Even if you do not attend the webinar, it will be recorded and the link to the recording will be posted on our social media outlets, website etc.. You can either register for the webinar on our website event calendar or check back for the recording and review it as much as needed.
I prefer that you register for the webinar, bring your questions and ad to our discussion live. See you there!

The webinar is complete now and it went well with lots of questions and participation by the attendees.
Rather than posting a new blog as a follow up, I am dropping some of the slides and info from the webinar right here for review. You can reach out to us for the recorded webinar if you want to see and hear the live recording and we will be happy to send you the YouTube link.
Maintenance Webinar Title Slide
Living Wall Maintenance Webinar Title Slide
Elements of living wall fear
The Living Wall Fear Factor
Before we can deal with the 7 questions posed for discussion earlier in this blog post, we need to talk about the effect of fear on the whole process!
Remove fear with clear and complete information, plus confident understanding of a systems maintenance needs and drive up the use of those systems across the board!
Living Wall Maintenance Answers
Answers to Living Wall Q1
All walls need maintenance. Living Green walls of all types need it but it can be predictable. Even non-living walls need maintenance and it can be problematic since designers and owners are not expecting any maintenance.
All walls need to be maintaiined
No Free Puppy – Q2
Living Wall Maintenance Begins with Designers
Living Wall Answers – Q3-Q7
We discussed quite a bit more than is delivered in the slides here and you may want to dig deeper. Please reach out to us on our contact page and we will be happy to send you the link for the recorded webinar or to discuss it all directly. Send in your questions and maybe we can help out.
We want you to be an advocate for Living Green Walls and Slopes so that we can all benefit from the beauty and environmental performance!
Living Wall Construction
Living Wall Construction