Moss Walls versus Living Walls: Which is the Best Choice for Your Needs and Desires
Green walls are appearing more and more frequently in the workplace, the public space and in homes and we think that is a wonderful thing for all of our well being. If you are anything like us, you are acutely aware that there is more to manage and more information than ever before. And the next 20 years are likely to bring more changes to humanity than the past 300 years. Wow. At the same time, perhaps for this very reason, many are looking to greenery and nature as a counter-balance to technology. For us, the path to peace and calm is found in long walks and in nature. Whether in our backyard, Loose Park, Roanoke Park, or in our home, we find the more green we have around us, the calmer and at more at peace we feel. There is more than one way to bring nature into your home or workplace so we’re going to break down the difference between moss walls and living walls and give you the skinny on each of these brilliant biophilic options that provide calm and other benefits.
What’s a Living Wall?
So here’s the deal–living walls often referred to as green walls, are comprised of real, living plants that require soil or substrate and water often provided through an integrated water delivery system. Living walls are stunningly gorgeous and while most companies that provide living walls do not recommend that food or herbs grow on the living wall, it most certainly can be done and we recently admired the vertical herb garden in the courtyard of Banksia in downtown Kansas City.
For detail on how the living wall is constructed, we refer you to the lovely people at Ambius. They break down the details of how the living wall is constructed as well as the history of the living wall and a video on their site and it is very much worth the read (and view).
One thing to keep in mind as you examine this option is weight and Growing Green Guide out of Australia provides a great table of information on the weight of various plants for rooftops as well as vertical living walls. Based on the research we have conducted on the companies that provide living walls, the average weight of a living wall is 10 to 12 lbs. per square foot and you can check out LiveWall’s site for additional FAQs on their specific system functions and benefits.
We really dig (get it, dig *snort*) the walls that both Ambius and LiveWall (Missouri and Michigan, respectively) provide the Midwest region and we recommend them for large installations. We do our own version of vertical, but it’s on a small scale so if a living wall is ideal for your needs, we recommend checking both of these companies out and continuing to read other sources that detail wall-mounted living artworks, vertical gardens, and other green displays. We offer up this article from The Chicago Tribune to that end…
We have also been keeping our eye on Urban Strong. The photo below is the living wall that Urban Strong created for Rutgers College (see caption) and they’ve got a killer article on how living walls can make you smarter, along with making you feel better and happier in public and workspaces.
Our favorite living wall is in Canada at the University of Ottawa. The living wall in the Faculty of Social Science building is the tallest living biofilter in North America. The green wall is one example of the University’s sustainability projects.
It is so impressive and serves such a vital function. Even Gee-Gee, the University of Ottawa mascot chose it as one of his fave spots on campus.
You may have noted other references to Canada and Canadian companies in previous blog posts. Our CMO (and author of this post) grew up in Ontario and we’re thrilled to announce that we are creating a custom moss frame for Jamie Miller of Biomimicry Frontiers in Guelph, Ontario. Watch for our interview with Mr. Miller, coming soon.
What is a Moss Wall?
A moss wall, interestingly, is also called a green wall which is where the confusion can begin between the two. We construct our green walls aka moss walls with real, but preserved moss that does not require any dirt, soil or substrate, and does not require any watering or misting of any kind. We explain it like this: a moss wall is neither living nor dead, it is made of moss that is dormant, having been preserved using a natural paraffin or glycerin process. Moss walls retain their lush look with zero maintenance (except for the occasional dusting using compressed air just as you would use on a computer keyboard) for at least ten years and we’re talking to a company in Europe that is working on a real, moss spray that will extend the life of a moss wall far beyond ten years.
The Fat Plant Society moss is harvested in North Carolina and Kentucky and when it arrives, it smells just like standing in the middle of a forest. The moss has acorns and other treasures from its birthplace and we clean the moss before laying it out in our design studio. From there we use the moss just like a painter would use paint to achieve the colors, textures, and depth of each, handmade frame.
We use a few different kinds of moss to achieve the desired look and the moss we use depends on what the client is seeking in terms of the “feel” of their moss wall or frame. The photo to the right is reindeer moss but we also use pillow moss and sheet moss and even layer the different types on top of each other or next to each other so as to provide the most biophilic look possible. Our designs tend toward the natural look, as you can see but we are also developing moss logos for our clients and if a client requests Day-glo, blue and yellow moss (We’re looking at you, University of Kansas) or black and gold (Now we’re looking at you, University of Iowa), then color they shall receive. We have half a mind to make a black and gold moss Herky the Hawk as many in our “fam” are alums, students, die-hard Hawkeye fans or a combination thereof and it would likely delight them.
Personally, I love sheet moss because it contains such depth of color beyond just green. Sheet moss is replete with red hairs and varying shades of green as you can see in the photo. Contrast that look with the literal pillow shapes of pillow moss (pictured below) and you can imagine how exciting it is for us to select the type of moss that will bring the client’s vision to life (so to speak).
How are Living Walls and Moss Walls the same?
Living walls and moss walls are the same in that they are both referred to as green walls and that is accurate on both counts. They are also the same in that both provide environmental benefits such as reduction of noise pollution and air pollution (moss walls absorb VOCs) but don’t just take our word for it, there are a number of articles that support the fact that moss, though preserved and dormant, is still providing many of the same benefits that living walls provide, but to a slightly lesser extent.
How are they different?
Moss walls differ from living walls in that they do not need soil, watering or misting of any kind and the weight of a moss wall is less than 2 lbs per square foot in comparison to the 10–12 lbs per square foot weight of a living wall. They are also different in the sense that the living wall is literally that, living and needs care and attention on a weekly, if not daily basis. Real, preserved moss, on the other hand, requires little to no maintenance at all. Last, but certainly not least, as you may have noted in the articles we have linked to in this post, moss walls run roughly 40% less than living walls in terms of both installation and maintenance.
Which one is best for your needs depends largely on how much maintenance you want to (and have the budget to) provide to keep your green wall looking lush.
Both living walls and moss walls have incredible visual appeal and provide numerous health benefits and frankly, we’re in love with both but have chosen moss (along with succulents) as our materials of choice at The Fat Plant Society.
So that’s the skinny folks. We can guarantee that bringing green into your workplace and living space has enormous benefits. We never tire of looking at the moss and noting the changes in color as natural light and artificial light change throughout the day. We think it may have even made our stereo speakers sound better somehow but don’t ask us to definitively prove that one…And we also love our plants. From Namibian Bottle Trees to succulents to the Virginia Creeper that grows naturally in our urban garden, green makes us relax and smile.
There is more than one green option available to you and we could not be more thrilled about the “greening” of spaces from rooftops to libraries to living rooms.
Ironically, we will leave you with a little mix of both types of green walls. We took our “Tree of Life” design out into nature and well, see for yourself.
As always, yours in the love of all things green,
Kasey & Morten
The Fat Plant Society