Air Quality And Other Benefits Of Plant Covered Buildings

It’s clear that in many cities green spaces have started dwindling as urban density rises. But lots of progressive cities are moving to preserve and plan around nature, wildlife, and green spaces. Finding new and creative ways of incorporating more plant life into urban areas is a job all in itself.

One way of doing this is by incorporating plants onto the exteriors of buildings. When plants grow either naturally or in a maintained way on buildings they provide lots of amazing benefits that you might never have even thought of! There are many benefits of plant covered buildings.


Biological concrete building developed by researches at a Spanish university. Image Courtesy: Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona

Lichen The Magical Algae/Fungus Thing

One plant (that’s not actually a plant), lichen has special properties that are all the rage with urban planners and landscape architects. Lichen is a mix between fungus and algae (another miracle non-plant) and in its natural environment grows on mountain faces in arid climates. So its ideal urban environmental equivalents are buildings, bridges, and other concrete facades.

Lichen is thought to act as an indicator for pollution levels, changing colour when air contaminants are higher. Researchers can use lichen to study the difference in air pollution throughout the city. The leafier version of lichen can’t survive when air pollution levels are high so if they die you know you need to do something about your air quality.

The low maintenance “hybrid” organism is also a great air conditioner, with the potential for keeping heat levels to a minimum when grown on various buildings throughout the city.


Moss is another low-key plant that grows n buildings without the required maintenance of living walls. Besides the aesthetic value of greenery, moss offers other energy advantages when grown on building exteriors. It can actually act as a solar conductor and power the building given it has reached the necessary temperature.

Researchers in Spain have worked on developing a type of bio-concrete that amplifies the beneficial properties of moss, providing countless other benefits including insulation, improved air quality, and rainwater collection. Moss, you rockstar!

Other Sprouts And Plants


Living wall on the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, France. Image Courtesy: Vincent Brasinne

Buildings that are covered in lush, green plants actually see improvement in air quality inside the building. That’s because the oxygen emitted by the plant fortress is actually sucked back into the ventilation system of the building for fresh air intake! Ipso facto these plants are also lowering harmful carbon dioxide. Thank you plants!

When architects design complex living wall facades that are maintained hydroponically, it adds value to the building as people are willing to pay more to live and work in a beautiful green building!

I bet you didn’t think lichen, moss and other nondescript sprouts could be interesting. But as you can see they are important to improving urban life all around us! So hopefully we’ve all gained an appreciation for vegetation.

Feature Image: A green wall on the Semiahmoo Library in Surrey, BC. Image Courtesy Danna

About The Author

Natalie Brooks
Natalie is an avid blogger and writer with a passion for sharing her stories and ideas about sustainable design and integrated urban agriculture. Her motto: "Green is beautiful!"