Picture a city of the future, in which the outside of buildings are enveloped in
green, wrapped in a living, breathing garden. Inside office buildings, special
wall hangings bursting with live flowers and ferns will act as a natural
air-conditioners, at the same time humidifying and purifying the air. Suddenly,
workers complaining of dry eyes and headaches will be cured by the calming
presence of greenery, as the plants cleanse toxins from the air.
goal is to insert a little bit of nature into the concrete city,” says Richard
Rozenbaum, owner of Rozenbaum Advanced Gardening Systems in Jerusalem. “In areas
where there wouldn’t be enough room for gardening because of the crowding of the
buildings, you can suddenly build a huge gardening area.”
When I walk
into Rozenbaum’s “showroom,” a gardening shed with a two-meter-tall vertical
garden, I leave the dry heat of summer behind and am immediately embraced by
moist, pungent air that makes me feel like I’ve stepped into a
Vertical gardens, a new craze sweeping landscape architecture
firms in Europe, have finally arrived in Israel. Green walls are a type
“isolated gardening,” also known as container gardening, which means
garden isn’t connected to the ground. Rozenbaum builds two types of
filled with begonias, small palms, ferns and other common house plants.
smaller, outdoor walls are built using perlite, a material made from
rock that is incredibly light and porous. He builds the perlite vertical
just 10 cm. deep, which is more than enough room for the roots to open
flourish. The material also makes watering and fertilizing easier,
doesn’t absorb the way regular dirt does.
“You could grow a tree in this
stuff,” Rozenbaum explains. “Without this product, it would be
create vertical gardens.”
INDOOR VERTICAL gardens, which Rozenbaum
envisions will become a fixture in office lobbies, use technical,
nondisintegrating fabric that resembles tarpaulin, stretched over a PVC
The roots love the fabric, opening up in an area that is only two cm.
had to move this wall a few weeks ago for a gardening convention in Tel
says Rozenbaum. “It’s been growing for six months, and when I moved it I
couldn’t believe my eyes. You should have seen the amount of roots, it
tremendous!” “Roots don’t need earth,” Rozenbaum insists when I tell him
he gardens goes against everything I’ve ever learned about growing
has done a lot of experiments with this, and they found they could even
plants on Mars. I swear, you don’t need earth!” Rozenbaum’s passion for
ability of these vertical gardens to solve climate problems in the
contagious. He paints pictures of whole cities lowering the temperature
green walls, office lobbies transformed into jungles. In fact, he was so
to show off his green wall that he accidentally scheduled the interview
same time as his daughter’s bat mitzva.
After pushing it up a few hours,
Rozenbaum could barely contain his pride and passion for this new type
gardening, which he touts as “the solution of natural air conditioning.”
suffer from a climate phenomenon known as “urban heat island,” which
the temperature in the city is much higher than the surrounding area.
factors contribute to this: idling cars, belching factories, a higher
concentration of air conditioners and more areas covered in black
absorbs heat during the day and releases it at night.
Next time you enter
a city, see if you can notice the change. According to the US
Protection Agency, a city with more than a million people averages
and three degrees Celsius warmer than its surroundings. This difference
more noticeable in the evening, when cities can be as much as 12º warmer
the heat released by all of the asphalt.
Green roofs or green walls on
the outside of buildings are an effective but expensive tool in the
against urban heat islands. They can lower the temperature of the air
building by 2º.
They can also make the buildings last longer, by
absorbing acid rain and direct UV rays that lead to cracking and
of the exterior. Indoors, studies of Rozenbaum’s wall found that it can
the temperature of a room by as much as 10º, according to research done
“This wall sweats; it’s always donating humidity to its
environment,” explains Rozenbaum. “In France, the government has started
the whole subject of green walls inside buildings, because there have
reports that the quality of the air inside of office buildings is worse
air outside. These plants have the ability to cleanse toxins out of the
we can build walls that are maybe less aesthetic but have plants that
to absorb toxins. Having a green wall actually helps with health
because people who complain about headaches, or dry or red eyes, will be
feel a difference in the quality of the air.”
But it’s not just
air-conditioning and purification: Green walls are an effective tool to
the greenhouse effect, because plants consume a large amount of carbon
Generally, 10 square meters of a green wall consumes the same amount of
year as a four-metertall tree. Depending on which plants are chosen,
can also consume nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide, two common air
If it sounds like these green walls are the be-all and
end-all for global warming, the prohibitive cost will bring you back to
and keep them from catching on too quickly. Rozenbaum’s standard minimum
for two square meters is NIS 6,000 per square meter (before tax). As the
the vertical garden increases, the cost per square meter decreases. For
a wall that is 10 square meters will cost about NIS 2,000 for each
And though vertical gardens are simple in theory, they are
expensive and complicated to build. They must be watered 24 hours a day,
days a week, by a drip irrigation system. Because of the complexity of
watering system monitor, Rozenbaum needs to visit between once a week
every few months to check the water and the system, at NIS 500 per
Larger systems require a special computer that monitors the makeup
of the water to ensure that it isn’t too salty or has other impurities.
computer also has a dampness sensor that can adapt the amount of water
through the irrigation system to correspond with the exact amount the
needs, depending on heat, direct sunlight or air temperature.
will send Rozenbaum an SMS if anything goes wrong.
“We’re very excited
about saving water, because you can really control the water on a
garden,” says Rozenbaum.
“We were able to insert a [water measuring]
system that is incredibly precise. The hope is that there’s no wasted
Because the water is recycled, the water efficiency of a vertical
garden is much higher than a normal garden. An average vertical garden
half a liter to one liter per day for each square meter. In the summer, a
regular garden requires roughly five liters for one square meter.
office building, Rozenbaum points out, you can collect the condensed
air-conditioning units and use that to water the plants. Of course, with
successful green wall, you’ll be using the air-conditioning less,
“Plants and green spaces fight against the high heat inside the
city, but then there’s also the aesthetic reasons,” says Rozenbaum. “You
simple wall, and you can garden it. When you see a 15-meter-high wall
with blooming flowers, it’s just simply... you’re left with an open
are a lot of new gardening ideas that are arriving in Israel, but this
solution that is most suitable for the Israeli climate.”