Integrated Vegetation in Urban Landscapes

Vegetation is the growth of various plants in any given area. It’s not a complicated process, but the idea is newly established as a way to be ecologically-conscious in cities; especially for structures created before the concept of sustainable building was practiced. Both green roofs or living wall systems help lower costs and save energy by providing an extra source of insulation. This is pretty much accepted as an architectural fact. Integrated vegetation really changes the way we interpret our surrounding environments. However for most of us, we may wonder: where do we start?


A London hotel is home to the world’s largest living wall which helps combat chronic urban air pollution and stormwater runoff. Image via Dezeen.

Integrated Vegetation Considerations

Here are five things to know or consider about growing vegetation in and on buildings:

1. “Evergreen vines trap an insulating cushion of air, [which reduces wind chill].” This would be a good plant species to use in northern climates.

2. Alternative green solutions are often very expensive, for example, solar panels and energy efficient appliances. But did you know that typically green roofs can cost anywhere between $10-25 per square foot and because of that it makes it far more cost efficient.

3. Roofs with “4 inch substrate … retain [far more] rainfall.” A substrate is a substance that an organism can live on.

4. Often, green roofs require less maintenance than living walls. This might be helpful for beginners to understand that it does take some effort to keep vertical planters healthy, where as a green roof might be an easier first step.

5. Most importantly, we need to remember that the integrated vegetation solution should be selected for the particular ecosystem. Choosing plants based on that fact and not purely on what you would like it to be will make the project more sustainable.

Above are some quick tips for those of you who are interested in creating a green project in your area but are unsure of where to start. I think a lot of time, we are so caught up in the overall picture that we forget to think about the small ways we can help in our environment as well. The integrated vegetation into structures is one of the most efficient ways we can begin making a difference.

Feature Image: Spiraling building in China. Image via Singapore Seen.

About The Author

is a undergrad student who has been studying architecture for over four years, first at Pratt Institute and now at UCF. Sustainability is important to her as a designer because architects greatly influence the environment through building and construction. It's vital for her to understand what the current issues are and how we can go about improving them. Her motto is "We can't create innovation without knowing what has already been done".