Retrofitting an existing masonry cavity walled building with a green or living wall can reduce the amount of heat lost through its structure by more than 30%, according to new research.
The study, conducted at the University of Plymouth, centred around the Sustainability Hub – a pre-1970s building on the university campus – and compared how effectively two sections of its walls retained heat.
Despite being on the same west-facing elevation, one of those sections had been retrofitted with an exterior living wall façade, comprised of a flexible felt fabric sheet system with pockets allowing for soil and planting.
After five weeks of measurements, researchers found the amount of heat lost through the wall retrofitted with the living façade was 31.4% lower than that of the original structure.
They also discovered daytime temperatures within the newly-covered section remained more stable than the area with exposed masonry, meaning less energy was required to heat it.
Dr Matthew Fox, a researcher in sustainable architecture and the study’s lead author, said:
“Within England, approximately 57% all buildings were built before 1964. While regulations have changed more recently to improve the thermal performance of new constructions, it is our existing buildings that require the most energy to heat and are a significant contributor to carbon emissions. It is, therefore, essential that we begin to improve the thermal performance of these existing buildings if the UK is to reach its target of net zero carbon emission by 2050, and help to reduce the likelihood of fuel poverty from rising energy prices.”