Arup designs a living wall scaffold for London renovation

living wall
© Arup

Construction scaffolding serves a number of functions; it is a staging area for exterior work, protection to keep things from falling on people and keep in dust and debris, and last of all to hide what is going on and look a little better.

In the fancy Mayfair district of London, Arup has designed a living wall to enclose a renovation of an historic property owned by Grosvenor, the landlord and developer that owns a big chunk of London.

The living wall, installed by Swedish living wall company Green Fortune, covers 800 square feet and is a mix of a mixture of grasses, flowers and strawberries. It is expected to reduce air pollution by 20 percent and reduce noise pollution by about 10 decibels. Mark Tredwell of Grosvenor explains:

This is a great initiative and is in line with our long-term ambition to improve the environmental sustainability of the buildings across our London estate, reducing emissions by 50% by 2030. As the estate continues to adapt and evolve we want to ensure that the impact on the community is positive. As well as reducing air pollution, we hope the living wall will introduce a rich biodiversity to Mayfair and encourage people to linger in the area.

Grosvenor has deep pockets, historic restorations are often slow, and the neighbours no doubt have good lawyers to complain about noise and pollution, so this can work in Mayfair. But others are not so sure that it would work in the USA. Construction Drive thinks it might even be dangerous.

…materials are often handed or hoisted up to workers through the scaffold openings, so anything blocking vision or movement could pose a danger to both material handlers and workers. Damage to the plant wall could also create hazardous falling debris….Also, OSHA inspectors would likely balk at not being able to assess visually the current state of the scaffold's setup and the fall-protection equipment employees are required to utilize while working at high levels.

St Marks building© Grovenor

I think that is overstating the problems. This is not a big building, and masonry restoration is mostly done carefully and slowly by hand, they are not tossing material around willy nilly. This is not your usual construction site. It might in fact be the nicest scaffolding anybody ever worked on.

hoardingLloyd Alter/ construction in Turin/CC BY 2.0

It is also a lot better than what they do in Italy, where restorations get covered in advertising and people have to look at coffee ads for years.

Piazza del PopoloLloyd Alter/ Piazza del Popolo/CC BY 2.0

Or this in one of the most important squares in Rome, Piazza del Popolo, where the church of Santa Maria in Montesanto is covered in an ad for a video game. Definitely, let's go for the living walls as scaffolding.

Given the acoustic and pollution benefits, I hope this catches on.

Tags: Green Roofs | London

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