YYÜ TAR BİL DERG
(YYU J AGR SCI)
2016, 26(3): 430-438
Geliş Tarihi (Received): 14.08.2014
Kabul Tarihi (Accepted): 21.06.2016
Ecological-Social-Economical Impacts of Vertical Gardens in the
Sustainable City Model
Gülçinay BAŞDOĞAN1*, Arzu ÇIĞ2
1 Department of Landscape Architecture, Agriculture Faculty, Yuzuncu Yıl University, Van, TURKEY
2 Department of Landscape Architecture, Agriculture Faculty, Siirt University, Siirt, TURKEY
Abstract: Issues such as utilization of natural resources, environmental problems and global climate
change increase the awareness on “green design” in the built environment and give direction to the
attempts of creating cities with natural environment. In this context, planting works are done on the
facades of the buildings to reduce the negative impacts of urbanization and create a sustainable city
model. These practices are called vertical gardens- living walls- green facades. Vertical gardens, which
allow growth of various species of plants in the complicated city life, balance urban ecology and enhance
the quality of urban life. Strengthening the urban ecosystem and improvement of economic-social
balances constitute the essence of a sustainable city model. Vertical garden practices contribute to
increasing air quality, reduction of urban heat island affect, increasing energy efficiency, reduction of
noise pollution in addition to reduction of stress caused by the urban life by improving city aesthetic and
provide new job opportunities in the economy. In this study, it is aimed to determine ecological-
economical-social impacts of vertical gardens to create liveable, ideal and healthy environments and to
reveal how they contribute to sustainable urban model.
Keywords: Sustainable city, Urban ecology, Vertical gardens
Sürdürülebilir Kent Modelinde Dikey Bahçelerin Ekolojik-Sosyal-Ekonomik Etkileri
Özet: Doğal kaynakların kullanımı, çevre sorunları, küresel iklim değişikliği gibi konular yapılı çevrede
“yeşil doku” konusundaki duyarlılığı artırmakta ve doğal ortam koşullarına sahip kentler oluşturma
çalışmalarına yön vermektedir. Bu bağlamda hızla gelişen kentleşmenin olumsuz etkilerini azaltmak ve
sürdürülebilir kent modeli oluşturmak adına yapı cephelerinde bitkilendirme çalışmaları uygulanmaktadır.
Bu uygulamalar dikey bahçeler-yaşayan duvarlar-yeşil cepheler- olarak adlandırılmaktadır. Karmaşık
kent yaşamında farklı tür ve sayıdaki bitkilerin doğal olarak yetişeceği dikey bahçeler kent ekolojisini
dengelemekte ve kentsel yaşam kalitesini arttırmaktadır. Kent ekosisteminin güçlendirilmesi ve
ekonomik-sosyal dengelerin iyileştirilmesi sürdürülebilir kent modellerinin özünün oluşturmaktadır.
Dikey bahçe uygulamaları; hava kalitesinin arttırılması, kentsel ısı ada etkisinin azaltılması, enerji
verimliliğini arttırması, gürültü kirliliğini azaltmasının yanı sıra kent estetiğine katkı sağlayarak kent
yaşamının getirmiş olduğu stresi azaltmakta ve ekonomik anlamda yeni iş olanakları sunmaktadır. Bu
çalışmada, dikey bahçelerin kentlerde yaşanabilir ideal çevreler yaratmak ve sağlıklı ortamlar oluşturmak
için ekolojik-ekonomik-sosyal etkilerinin neler olduğu ve sürdürülebilir kent modeline nasıl bir katkı
sağlayabileceğinin ortaya konması amaçlanmıştır.
Anahtar kelimeler: Dikey bahçeler, Kent ekolojisi, Sürdürülebilir kent
“Liveable city” concept emerged as a new urban approach in the 20th century. Rapid and uncontrolled
urbanization threatens the future of the third world and the developing countries, while it caused
environmental pollution, transportation problems and socio-economic segregation problems in the cities
of the developed countries, which are called global-mega-metropolitan-world cities. Integration of the
sustainable development policies into urbanization is foreseen as the solution of this complicated
situation. Realizing the sustainable city model is a concept with a wider scope than environmental
protection. It has economic, social and cultural aspects in addition to environmental ones. It includes
equity among both today’s generations and the future ones (Uslu 2009). Geenhuisan and Nijkamp (1994)
described the sustainable city as the city in which socio-economic benefits are synchronized with the
environment and energy related concerns in order to ensure change in the continuity; while Bayram
(2001) described it as a structure in which continuity of change is assured by handling urban, social and
economic benefits with environmental and energy related problems.
Sustainable urbanization concept has three main objectives. First one is improving the quality of life of
the city dwellers in their relation with the city, and utilization of public areas and public services. Second
one is strengthening the ability of the city to survive as a settlement. Lastly, questioning the production
and consumption patterns in overconsumption and transformation of resources in the cities (Yazar 2006).
In the literature, “sustainable cities” are cities or urban lands in which economic, social and physical
systems aiming the highest life quality with minimal environmental load based on a sustainable social
basis are internalized in appropriate urban policies (Palabıyık 2005). According to this view, sustainable
urbanization can be described as “urbanization and urban development promoting and protecting
economic opportunities, social capital increase and a healthy environment” (Bayram 2001).
Sustainable urban development approach covers all the issues related to social justice, sustainable
economy and environmental sustainability. In a sustainable city model, increasing housing need due to
the increasing population is fulfilled with horizontal development instead of vertical as a space-saving
solution. New tools are developed for enhancement of urban ecology and improvement urban life quality.
One of them is the vertical gardens. The vertical gardens do not only improve the environmental quality
within the city, but also reduce environmental costs and poses positive socio-physiological impact.
Aim of this study is to reveal the contributions of plant usage on building facades, as in the case of
vertical gardens, in the urban ecology by creating liveable environments in the cities in order to create
sustainable healthy environments.
Description and Features of Vertical Garden
One of the ecological and aesthetic solutions, named as vertical garden- green wall- wall garden- green
facades- living walls in the literature, developed to minimize the devastating impacts of rapid
urbanization and provide green space alternatives to the city dwellers includes planted facade design and
practices (Yüksel 2013). Vertical gardens are divided into two main categories: green facades and living
walls (Figure 1). These categories have subcategories. Green facades develop directly on the walls or
specially designed supporting structures with climbing plants, while the roots are in the ground and the
shoot system grow upwards along the building. On the other hand, vegetation and growing medium is
established using polypropylene plastic containers, geo textiles and irrigation systems in modular panels
of the living walls (Green Roofs Organization 2008; Sharp 2007; Yüksel 2013) (Figure 2-3). Vertical
garden implementations are done on the panel system (hydroponic panel system and earthed panel
system), the metal fence system, the modular system and the suspended system (Yüksel 2013). These
systems are mostly implemented on the buildings and wall facades and require intense maintenance. In
the panels, framings, modular and fences systems, nutrients required by the plants are provided
G. BAŞDOĞAN, A. ÇIĞ
Figure 1. Types of vertical gardens (Yeh 2012; Green Roof Organization 2008; Köhler 2008; Yüksel
GREEN WALLS- VERTICAL GARDENS
Green Facades Living Walls
Flowers in Pots Landscape Walls
Rewind Wall Planted Walls
Modular Living Walls
Wire Cable Net System
Figure 2. Living wall detail (Cooney et al. 2004; Yüksel 2013).
Figure 3. Examples of green facades and living walls (Greenroof 2016; Vertical Garden 2016).
G. BAŞDOĞAN, A. ÇIĞ
Benefits of Vertical Gardens
Urbanization induced environmental pollution spread the idea that vertical gardens would have positive
impacts on the urban life quality. Social, ecological and economic impacts of the vertical gardens are:
Energy conservation, carbon sequestration, oxygen production, noise isolation, habitat creation for wild
life, particle filtering, reduction of the impact of rain water, creating urban agriculture area, positive
impact on human.
Social, Ecological and Economic Impacts of the Vertical Gardens
Social impacts include physiological, aesthetic and health impacts. Social impacts present the relationship
between the human behaviour and activities and vertical gardens. Positive impacts are observed more
than negative impacts in the vertical gardens.
Psychological impact is difficult as it is based on subjective responses and attributes. Interaction of the
people living in the urban environment with the nature is limited and this causes depression and anxiety
(Darlington et al. 2001). Horticulture has a therapy field regulating human-plant relationship to reduce
stress, fear, anger, blood pressure and muscle tension (Brown et al. 2004). Vertical gardens take attention
like the natural environments and affect the negative thoughts like meditation (Peck et al. 1999). Benefits
of the gardens in the working places are also identified. A study showed that green plants in the working
places reduce absence of the employees by 5-15%. The plants in the classrooms reduced the stress level
and increased productivity of the student by 12% (Butkovich et al. 2008). When we look at these
examples, it is not surprising that people prefer nature dominant places to the urban environments, which
lacks green spaces.
Many buildings in the city surround the city and create a cold, artificial and aesthetically week look.
Corroded building surfaces, grey facades and soulless structures adversely affect the aesthetics of the city.
These unwanted impacts can be reduced with vertical gardens. Urban aesthetics increases with the
vertical garden practices, deformed structure surfaces can be covered with plants and urban image can be
Impact of the vertical gardens on health can be experienced by people and might be related to time spent
around them (Butkovich et al. 2008). Every year Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) costs American
economy 15-40 billion dollars. SBS is a collection of nonspecific systems such as eye, nose, skin and
throat irritations, headache, fatigue and skin rashes. Vertical gardens can reduce interior levels of volatile
organic compounds (VOCs) and SBS related compounds (Butkovich et al. 2008). From a physiological
perspective, vertical gardens might have an impact of reducing heart rate and stress (Peck et al. 1999). It
is reported that symptoms such as headache might be reduced by at least 20% (Bringslimark et al. 2009).
Humidity is an important factor in the working environment. Its level is 45-65% in an ideal working
environment (Cooney et al. 2004). Another important factor affecting the comfort of the occupants is
noise. It is known that noisy environments are stressful and annoying and prevent people from working at
the full capacity (Huang 2011). Vertical gardens can be considered as an additional layer absorbing the
external and internal noise (Peck et al. 1999).
Many projects are developed on a sustainable urban model and to re-create nature and city relationship.
Vertical gardens create a different perception and open a place for themselves with their different design
concept. New business and job opportunities are created in the market when the local governments and
private sector started vertical garden practices for urban memory and identity in the institutional green
Environmental and Ecological Impacts
Vertical gardens positively contribute to both living space and the city by creating a living environment
inside. The plant composition reduces intra-urban radiation and heat caused by the building surfaces.
Environmental impacts of the vertical gardens in general can be summarized as: reducing urban heat
island effect, improving air quality, improving energy conservation, reducing noise, increasing
biodiversity, providing space for wildlife and creating space for urban agricultural practices.
Reduction of Urban Heat Island Effect
Urban areas are warmer than the rural ones due to absorption of heat in the impervious surfaces and this
phenomenon is called Urban Heat Island Effect. This factor, adversely affecting the lives of the urban
dwellers, leads to placement of a different emphasis on the vertical gardens (Yeh 2009). Water loses in
the plants through evapotranspiration reduces the temperature in the surrounding atmosphere. In a
research carried out in the Physics Institute in Berlin, it was revealed that daily cooling capacity of 56
potted plants in a 4-storey building is 157 kWh. In the warm climates, it is possible to save the air
conditioning energy cost by reducing inner temperature using plant cover on the buildings, in addition to
reduction of ambient air temperature and urban heat island affect. For example, 8-9°C temperature
reduction is foreseen in a valley with 10 meters height and 15 meters length in an urban area of Hong
Kong by greening the facades and rooftops of the buildings (Alexandri and Jones 2006).
Improvement of Air Quality
Plants absorb the sun light and produce glucose and oxygen by splitting the carbon dioxide produced by
living things and water. Vertical garden practices in interior and exterior spaces filters chemical particles
in the air such as CO2, NO2, SO2, VOC, and CO. Furthermore, plants increase the oxygen level declining
during the day by converting carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere into oxygen. In addition to this gas
circulation, plants absorb harmful aerosols in the air such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
Improvement of Energy Efficiency
Vertical garden simply limits the heat transmission into the wall and reduce the surface temperature (Bass
2007). The vertical garden, creating an air gap between the garden and the wall, slows down the vertical
movement of heat, and thus heat is captured during cold weather and isolated during hot weather. Table 1
shows the average energy consumption of a five story building with and without the installation of the
vertical garden (Binabid 2010).
Table 1. Average energy consumption of a Five-Level Building with and without vertical garden (Binabid
J. 2010; Shiah and Kim 2011)
Energy Consumption with
Vertical Garden Installed (kWh)
Heating from Natural Gas
Cooling from Electricity
Lighting from Electricity
Hot Water from Natural Gas
Noise insulation property of the plants is the objective of the afforestation along the highways. Utilization
of the plants as noise barrier on the highways is a reference for the vertical gardens with its function of
dispersing the noise compared to reflectivity of the surfaces. Moreover, it is known that planted rooftops
convey sound into the inner space less than the unplanted ones. Thus, it is a reality that plants play an
G. BAŞDOĞAN, A. ÇIĞ
aesthetic and functional role in dissemination and absorption of the noise created both in the dense urban
structure and on the highways (Loh 2008).
Green walls should be used to increase biodiversity and their benefits should be explored. Most of the
urban studies focus on green roofs and providing habitats for plant-animal species. Green walls are
natural extensions of these environments with their potential connection to the roof (Green Roofs
Technology 2008). Green wall designers need basic knowledge on biodiversity and ecological restoration
for plants as well as on fauna for animals. Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) and
morning glory (Ipomoe tricolor) attract butterflies and hummingbirds (Green Roofs Technology 2008).
Storm water ponds and filtration systems help in reconstruction of the habitat with certain leaved plants.
Additionally, vertical gardens provide shade (Green Roofs Technology 2008).
Rapid urbanization and reduction of rural areas adversely affect the agricultural areas. New food
production techniques are tested due to increasing population and urbanization. One of them is vertical
agricultural practices emerged due to the reduction of horizontal spaces. This way, fresh and safe food
can be produced and it can be a contribution to sustainable urban model.
Profitability is the main factor on usage of technologies. Economic analyses are carried out for the
investment cost of the technologies and their profitability during their lifetime. Installation cost vary
between 100$ to 1200$ (Curtis and Stuart 2010; Inhabitat 2007). Urban heat island phenomenon is
common in concrete buildings. Heat is absorbed by the building during the day and building temperature
rises compared to its surrounding and creates a heat island. Vertical garden can act like a cooler due to
plant canopy and plant evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration creates a cooling effect due to evaporation
of the water in the leaves. For example, 2.5 MJ energy is required to evaporate 1 kg of water (Ottelé
2010). A vertical garden can reduce impact of the wind by 75% and heating demand by 25% (Peck et al,
Storm Water Management
Vertical gardens can be affected from heavy rain and strong wind. They can clean the water along
planters filled with plants (Peck et al. 1999). Furthermore, they reduce waste water as rain water collected
in the hydroponic system is used for plant irrigation (Ottelé 2010).
Bio-filtration of Indoor Air Quality
A vertical garden in a building can act as a bio-filter and oxygen generator. For example, 27 g oxygen can
be generated in 25 m2 leaf surface in an hour. This is equal to human consumption and 150 m2 leaf
surface can provide human in take for a year (Peck et al 1999).This huge amount of oxygen is produced
by a small leaf. If the plant is at an adequate size, its impact is stronger. Moreover, a 60 m2 vertical garden
can filter 40 tonnes of harmful gases and 15 kg heavy metal (Vertical Ecosystems 2011). Plants in the
interior vertical gardens can degrade VOCs, benzene, toluene and other toxic fumes (Darlington et al.
2001). People suffering from asthma and other respiratory diseases can benefit from these aspects.
Furthermore, 3.5 kw per person can be saved during peak seasons (Cooney et al. 2004).
Other Economic Impacts
Vertical gardens increase the value of the building they are applied on, due to their aesthetic and
functional properties. Furthermore, they provide accessibility to fresh and cheap food by agricultural
production (vegetable gardening).
Minimizing the pressure on the limited/ non-renewable resources in order to convey them to the future
generations describes the concept of sustainability. Sustainable city is where social-economic-ecologic
approaches become compatible with the city in order to ensure the continuity of the change-
transformation-development. In this context, one of the examples of sustainable city approaches in
practice is vertical gardens.
Vertical gardens ecologically contribute to urban life quality by insulating noise, increasing biodiversity
by creating habitat for birds and insects, reducing urban heat island effect and creating opportunity for
urban agricultural practices. They improve aesthetic perception by providing a positive psychological
effect on people and create new job opportunities. They also raise awareness by contributing to the urban
identity as living materials.
Economically, vertical gardens provide energy efficiency and if rainwater is used for irrigation, water
efficiency can also be provided. Economic contribution constitutes the keystone of a sustainable city
model. Thus, economic value gains importance as a basis in the vertical garden practices.
Vertical garden practices, ecosystem continuity and renewable production constitute the design priorities
in the sustainable city model. In some practices, provision of required water, light and nutrients from
outside, especially for maintenance, is inconsistence with a sustainable approach. Thus, in the design and
implementation of vertical gardens, priority should be given to implementations minimizing dependency
on outside, using rainwater for irrigation, providing the light naturally and minimizing the requirement for
Alexandri E, Jones P (2006). Temperature decreases in an urban canyon due to green walls and green
roofs in diverse climates. Building and Environment 43 (4): 480-493.
Bass B (2007). Green Roofs and Green Walls: Potential Energy Savings in the Winter. Toronto:
Adaptation & Impacts Research Division Environment Canada at the University of Toronto
Centre for Environment, Research Gate.
Bayram F (2001). Sürdürülebilir Kentsel Gelişme: Araçlar, Yaklaşımlar ve Türkiye, Ankara.
Binabid J (2010). Vertical Garden. The Study of Vertical Gardens and Their Benefits for Low-Rise
Buildings in Moderate and Hot Climates. University of Southern California, ProQuest LLC. P:
Bringslimark T, Hartig T, Patil GG (2009). The psychological benefits of indoor plants: a critical review
of the experimental literature. Journal of Environmental Psychology 29 (4): 422-433.
Butkovich K, Graves J, Mckay J, Slopack M (2008). An Investigation into the Feasibility of Biowall
Technology. George Brown College Applied Research & Innovation.
Brown K, Bellows A, Smit J (2004). Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture. Retrieved from Community
Food Security Coalition. http://www.foodsecurity.org/UAHealthArticle.pdf (accessed
Cooney E, Deller S, Michie L, Wedderburn D (2004). A Research Study of the Feasibility of
Implementing a Living Wall into the Environmental Studies 2 Building. University of
Curtis L, Stuart M (2010). Enhancing CHBE Indoor Air Quality: Biowall Technology, UBC Social
Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Student Report, University of British
Darlington A, Dat J, Dixon M (2001). The biofiltration of indoor air: air flux and temperature influences
the removal of toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. Environmental Science & Technology, 240-
Greenroof (2016). http://www.greenroofs.com/virtualsummit/2013/virtualsummit2013-agenda.htm
Green Roofs Technology (2008). Introduction to Green Walls Technology, Benefits & Design September.
Green Roofs for Healthy Cities: Introduction to Green Walls.
G. BAŞDOĞAN, A. ÇIĞ
Geenhuisan MV, Nıjkamp P (1994). Sürdürülebilir Kenti Nasıl Planlamalı? Toplum ve Bilim Dergisi,
Huang Y (2011). Impact of Green Building Design on Healthcare Occupants with a Focus on Health Care
Staff. Michigan State University.
Inhabitat (2007). Living Wall. http://inhabitat.com/living-wall/livingwall1_copy/ (accessed 07.11.2013)
Köhler M (2008). Green facades-a view back and some visions. Urban Ecosystem. 11: 423-436.
Loh S (2008). Living walls: A way to green the built environment. BEDP Environment Design Guide
Technology, 1 (26): 1-7.
Ottelé M (2010). Vertical Greened Surfaces and the Potential to Reduce Air Pollution and the
Improvement of the Insulation Value of Buildings. Delft University of Technology.
Palabıyık H (2005). Sürdürülebilirlik ve Yerel Yönetimler: Uygulanabilirliği ve Ölçümü Üzerine, Yerel
Yönetimler Üzerine Güncel Yazılar-1: Reform, Hüseyin Özgür ve Muhammet Kösecik (Ed.)
Peck, SW, Callaghan C (1999). Greenbacks from Green Roofs: Forging a New Industry in Canada. Final
eport. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corperation.
Sharp R (2007). Things You Need to Know About Green Walls, Building Design and Construction.
BD&C News. http://www.bdcnetwork.com/article/CA6459410.html (accessed 07.11.2013)
Shiah K, Kim J (2011). An Investigation into the Application of Vertical Garden at the New SUB Atrium,
University of British Columbia APSC 261 November 24, 2011.
Uslu A (2009). Sürdürülebilir yeşil kent fikirleri, örnekleri ve Türkiye için dersler. XXI. Uluslararası
Yapı ve Yaşam Kongresi Bildiriler Kitabı, Mart 2009, Bursa.
Vertical Ecosystems (2011). Vertical Garden Benefits. Retrieved from Vertical Ecosystems.
http://www.paisajismourbano.com/EN/beneficts.php (accessed 07.11.2013)
Vertical Garden (2016). http://www.verticalgardenpatrickblanc.com/realisations
Yazar KH (2006). Sürdürülebilir Kentsel Gelişme Çerçevesinde Orta Ölçekli Kentlere Dönük Kent
Planlama Yöntem Önerisi (yayınlanmamış doktora tezi). Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler
Yeh Y (2009). Green Wall-The Creative Solution in Response to the Urban Heat Island Effect.
http://www. nodai.ac.jp/cip/iss/english/9th_iss/fullpaper/3-1-4nchu-yupengyeh.pdf (accessed
Yeh YP (2012). Green Wall-The Creative Solution in Response to the Urban Heat Island Effect. National
Yüksel N (2013). Dikey Bahçe Uygulamalarının Yurtdışı ve İstanbul Örnekleri ile İrdelenmesi
(yükseklisans tezi) Bahçeşehir Üniversitesi Fen Bilimleri Enstitüsü, Kentsel Sistemler ve
Ulaştırma Yönetimi Yüksek Lisans Programı, İstanbul.