Source: eKapija | Monday, 23.10.2017.| 13:41
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Green facades as a brooch on a black dress – Will Belgrade's Zeleni Venac finally live up to its name?

Test green wall mounted on Beobanka building in Zeleni Venac
Test green wall mounted on Beobanka building in Zeleni Venac
Architects, students of architecture and representatives of the company Stattwerk will try to help Belgrade's Zeleni Venac (Green Wreath) justify its name. This German design studio has bought the building of former Beobanka in the popular location and is planning to turn it into the first green edifice in the Balkans.

In order for this to happen, an architectural contest for the conceptual design of the future eco-center for professional architects and students of architecture has been opened. The architects should offer propositions for the reconstruction of the building, which will feature apartments, a restaurant, a pub and a lookout, office space meant for environmentally oriented companies, an educational eco-center and a garage, whereas the students are to design the facade so that it fits the green, energy efficient architecture. This way, the skyscraper in Zeleni Venac should wear its “green suit”.

For now, a test green wall has been mounted on the Beobanka building in cooperation with Gras Garden Belgrade. It will help establish an efficient use of water needed to maintain the greenery on the future first skyscraper with green facades in Serbia.

Green walls are used more and more globally, both in exterior and interior design. Aside from a range of technological, energy and environmental benefits, the most important of which is their energy efficiency, these walls also have a primarily aesthetic architectural value.

Aesthetic impression

Budimir Sudimac, professor at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade, says that the architecture of the 21st century has changed a lot compared to previous periods. Together with his students, as part of the master academic studies at the Urban Oasis course, he has developed a software studying green walls.

– We are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, and architecture will accordingly have to take on elements of technology as well. Regarding green walls, one of the most important questions pertains to energy efficiency, that is, what impact they have on the need for cooling in the summer period. Still, the thing that architects find to be the most important are the artistic creation and the aesthetics of the walls, the impression they have on visitors, their impact on architectural structures, both the existing ones and the new ones – Budimir Sudimac says for eKapija.

According to out interviewee, his students are working on creating a new design and making these walls from new materials, while adding an artistic aspects to them.

– Our orientation is towards the artistic aspect, rather than the technological one. Architecture requires changeability, and this way, images are created on the facade. When it comes to greenery, the nature itself creates images, as plants grow, change their color and size, thereby changing the image. The idea is to find those elements which will make the structures more attractive architecturally – Sudimac explains.

As our interviewee says, this leads to tourism benefits as well, as such walls are increasingly more attractive globally, and research shows that green walls reduce energy needs by 6 to 10 %, depending on the size of the wall, the type of plants, the density of leaves...

– Such walls are not, however, expected to solve all the issues of the energy efficiency of the building itself. In the future, a way for facilities to start creating their own energy will have to be found – Sudimac says.

Construction varieties

As Sudimac explains, there are two ways to build green walls. The first variety is created by planting perennial plants, primarily vines. The main disadvantage of this approach is the fact that it takes a lot of time for full effects to be felt.

Another manner of construction is the usage of annual plants, that is, planting them in the construction panels. The desired images are created immediately this way. Regarding this variety, there are already systems manufactured by various producers that are easily mounted on existing walls. Plants are applied to them and the effects are visible right away, and according to Sudimac, it costs around EUR 300 per square meter to create such a facade. Their main disadvantage, however, is lack of durability.

Aside from the prefabricated systems available in the market, similar systems can be “homegrown”, but the maintenance of such installations is problematic.

– This kind of facade always needs to look healthy and plants need to be healthy. Their maintenance involves adequate feeding, irrigation, pruning, everything required for a plant to grow and develop properly. We have used cans, plastic bottles, pots, pallets in making panels, and we are now experimenting with thermal concrete, which would enhance the thermal characteristics of the wall and make it light – our interviewee says.

Regarding the planting material, all plants growing in local climate conditions are viable, and, as Sudimac points out, bigroot geranium has proven to be the most resistant one.

Edible plants can also be built in into such walls, which creates so-called vertical gardens. In this case, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and such can be picked from the walls. Such vertical walls can be mounted on any facility and are getting more and more popular in the world, Sudimac says.

The brooch of Belgrade

When the Beobanka building in Zeleni Venac “goes green”, Belgrade will join a long list of cities boasting green suits, among which are Vienna, London, Milan, Geneva...

As they say at the Faculty of Architecture, there are lots of cracked walls in Belgrade,which might get green facades instead of murals or graffiti. However, it is not good for an entire city to be “dressed” in such facades.

– This way, things would be too uniform and mass-produced, which is certainly not the point. These facades are a detail, just like wearing a brooch on a black dress.

Katarina Stevanovic
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