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Vertical vegetation design decisions and their impact on energy consumption in subtropical cities

Stav, Yael & Lawson, Gill M. (2012) Vertical vegetation design decisions and their impact on energy consumption in subtropical cities. In Pacetti, M., Passerini, G., Brebbia, C.A., & Latini, G. (Eds.) The Sustainable City VII : Urban Regeneration and Sustainability, WIT Press, Ancona, Italy, pp. 489-500.

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Abstract

Vertical vegetation is vegetation growing on, or adjacent to, the unused sunlit exterior surfaces of buildings in cities. Vertical vegetation can improve the energy efficiency of the building on which it is installed mainly by insulating, shading and transpiring moisture from foliage and substrate. Several design parameters may affect the extent of the vertical vegetation's improvement of energy performance. Examples are choice of vegetation, growing medium geometry, north/south aspect and others. The purpose of this study is to quantitatively map out the contribution of several parameters to energy savings in a subtropical setting. The method is thermal simulation based on EnergyPlus configured to reflect the special characteristics of vertical vegetation. Thermal simulation results show that yearly cooling energy savings can reach 25% with realistic design choices in subtropical environments. Heating energy savings are negligible. The most important parameter is the aspect of walls covered by vegetation. Vertical vegetation covering walls facing north (south for the northern hemisphere) will result in the highest energy savings. In making plant selections, the most significant parameter is Leaf Area Index (LAI). Plants with larger LAI, preferably LAI>4, contribute to greater savings whereas vertical vegetation with LAI<2 can actually consume energy. The choice of growing media and its thickness influence both heating and cooling energy consumption. Change of growing medium thickness from 6cm to 8cm causes dramatic increase in energy savings from 2% to 18%. For cooling, it is best to use a growing material with high water retention, due to the importance of evapotranspiration for cooling. Similarly, for increased savings in cooling energy, sufficient irrigation is required. Insufficient irrigation results in the vertical vegetation requiring more energy to cool the building. To conclude, the choice of design parameters for vertical vegetation is crucial in making sure that it contributes to energy savings rather than energy consumption. Optimal design decisions can create a dramatic sustainability enhancement for the built environment in subtropical climates.

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ID Code: 52702
Item Type: Conference Paper
Keywords: Vertical Vegetation, Living Walls, Thermal Simulation, Energy Consumption, Sustainable Design
DOI: 10.2495/SC120411
ISBN: 9781845645786
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000) > ARCHITECTURE (120100)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Design
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 WIT Press
Deposited On: 24 Jul 2012 23:17
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2012 07:38

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