The History of Hydroponic Systems

Growing plants without soil may seem like a futuristic idea, but the concept of hydroponics has been around longer than you might think. The famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon employed the principles of modern hydroponics and provided inspiration for later growing methods.

In the 1600s, English philosopher Francis Bacon talked about the notion of growing plants without soil in his book, Sylva Sylvarum. Two centuries later, German botanists Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop worked with mineral solutions in an effort to do the same. These individuals and others paved the way for today’s modern hydroponic methods.

Why are hydroponic systems so appealing?
To get a better understanding of the appeal of using hydroponic systems, it is important to first understand how they work. Hydroponic systems eliminate the need for soil and commonly involve some type of growth medium to support the root system of the plants. This offers several unique benefits over traditional cultivation methods, one of the largest being water conservation.

Watering plants in soil is a tricky business. If you use too much water, you deprive the roots of oxygen. If you use too little, the plants can become dehydrated and can die. On top of that, any unused water seeps into the soil and is wasted. Soil less growth systems use oxygenated water reservoirs to ensure plants get the oxygen they need, and any water not used by the plants is then recirculated back into the system to conserve resources. Hydroponic cultivation also offers more control over the growing environment and typically yields more plants in less time, as each root system has easy access to essential nutrients. Finally, growers have fewer problems with pests, fungus and disease.

type of living green wall

 

What makes the Sagegreenlife hydroponic system unique?
The Sagegreenlife living wall system is a hybrid hydroponic system that is both cost-effective and ecologically beneficial. It delivers water and nutrients evenly and efficiently only when the plants need them. The Biotile™, a patented hydroponic technology, is the foundation of our living walls and includes layers of dense Rockwool, a basalt rock-based growth medium that is recyclable and will not decay or change in size over time. And, because Rockwool is antimicrobial, there is no mold or bacteria inside it. The density of the Rockwool also insulates plant roots and provides extra protection throughout the winter months. This allows Sagegreenlife outdoor living walls to survive, even in the coldest climates. These insulative properties also extend to sound, giving Sagegreenlife living walls the added benefit of noise reduction.

 

At Sagegreenlife, our mission is better living with living walls. Learn more about how we have brought nature to the built environment.
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Types of Vertical Green Walls

Biophilia, or the innate desire for humans to be connected to nature, can take many forms in the built environment. It can be a water feature, architecture that promotes mystery and curiosity, a vertical green garden or materials that remind us of the outdoors. Unfortunately, plant blindness has replaced our everyday connection with nature. Plant blindness is the inability to notice or recognize plants and nature that are all around us. 

It can be difficult and even overwhelming to sort through the many avenues to fight plant blindness and incorporate biophilic design. There are endless possibilities, but we break down some of the options to help guide you. Specifically, when it comes to plant walls, there are two different options, artificial green walls and living green walls. 

 

Artificial Green Walls
Artificial green walls give the appearance of living plants, but do not offer all the benefits of biophilic design. The most common type of artificial walls are sourced from moss. This type of material is preserved meaning it is no longer a living plant material. As a result, these types of walls require little to no maintenance; they don’t require any water, fertilizer, or planting medium and it is even suggested to keep these walls out of direct sunlight. In order to keep these walls looking green and “lush,” a layer of preservatives or paint is applied to the moss. Since artificial walls are not living, they will collect particles and require an occasional dusting to keep them looking fresh. People who have sensitive allergies should be aware of the different products used on moss walls. The majority of moss walls use natural and non-toxic preservatives and paints, but it is recommended to take a closer look to avoid allergies or reactions. 

moss wall

 

Living Green Walls
Living green walls are exactly what their name implies: they are made up of living plants. As with any living organism, they require care and attention to maintain and keep the wall healthy. Plants need water, light, a growing medium and nutrients. A thriving living wall needs a sophisticated system to keep plants looking fresh, which is often a system with irrigation, lighting and plant maintenance, such as pruning and possibly replacement. Fortunately, green thumb or not, living wall systems have been designed to be simple and seamless to allow anyone to have one.

employees at a desk sitting in front of a desk

 

Living Green Walls – System Applications

  • Container systems (Biotile™, tray, pot rack) work similar to the concept of legos, plants are grown ahead of time and arrive at the final destination in blocks. This makes installing the wall very simple, as it only requires the container to be put in the correct spot. A container system, such as Sagegreenlife’s Biotile™, can be installed in both interior and exterior environments as well as custom designed or freestanding for modular use.The Sagegreenlife container system utilizes a patented Biotile™ with a soil-less, organic material called Rockwool. This material is composed of layers of rock fiber that evenly distributes water, oxygen and nutrients. Rockwool is perfect for this type of living wall because it does not decay, mold, or change shape when heated, cooled, wet or dry, and is uninhabitable for pests. Sagegreenlife also offers routine maintenance to keep the living wall looking just as healthy as it did on installation day.

 

  • Felt is similar to a container system in that there are “pocket like” structures where plants are placed. However, felt walls cannot be planted in advance resulting in a longer and tedious installation. There is also an increased risk of putting plants in the wrong pocket. In addition, felt will degrade over time, it cannot tolerate extreme climates as the weather changes and is not water efficient.

felt pockets for a living wall

 

  • Trellis is another system where plants cannot be grown prior to installation resulting in a bare facade until the vines mature enough to create a green wall. This takes a considerable amount of time and most vines go through growing and dormant seasons leaving months where the wall looks dead.

trellis planter on outdoor building

 

Vertical Green Wall Benefits
Artificial and living walls both provide benefits to the built environment as the sight of plants improves both mental wellbeing and physical health. Our brains associate plants as nature and offer a break during the work day resulting in a decrease in stress and tension. 

However, living walls go beyond these benefits and actively purifies the air and provides an environment with clean oxygen through photosynthesis. This benefit helps attract talent, retain tenants, enhances the built environment and promotes sustainability. 

  • Attract Talent and Retain Tenants
    People who work or live near nature have reported a 15% increase in perceived wellbeing. In addition, nature in residential buildings and workplaces have shown to reduce stress and negative feelings by 30-60%. Stress related sick days costs the U.S. $300 billion a year, so nature plays a significant role in reducing these costs. People who work in areas surrounded with nature take 11 hours less of sick leave per year than people whose work environments are void of nature.

 

  • Enhance the Built Environment
    Bringing nature into an environment also has effects on one’s physical health by providing cleaner and fresher air as mentioned above. The particulates and chemicals in the air can cause dizziness, coughing, dry eyes and headaches. The most common harmful particles in the air at any given time are ammonia, xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. These substances can cause symptoms for the people in the space, however, an environment with nature can have 50-60% less of these particles than environments without nature. When people live and work in an environment with fresh air, these symptoms significantly decrease.Living walls also have the added advantage of acting as a sound barrier, reducing noise levels by an average of 15 decibels. Sagegreenlife’s living walls have been proven to have near perfect sound abatement.

 

  • Promote Sustainability
    Living walls can also reduce the carbon footprint of an area or building. As we all learned in elementary school, plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. Adding living walls into areas that have been void of nature have significant benefits by helping clean the air and reducing carbon emissions. They also actively absorb heat, so in dense urban areas, they have a role in reducing the urban heat island effect.Urban areas can be up to 20ºF warmer than surrounding rural areas. This is one way builders, architects and city planners can combat the increasing global temperature and climate change. A vegetated facade can reduce the surface temperature of a build by up to 54ºF, which reduces the need for air conditioning units to run and business owners to spend more money on energy costs. Sagegreenlife’s walls have an added advantage of using 75% less water than other living wall providers. Our streamlined system allows the user to use less energy than other systems.

 

At Sagegreenlife, our mission is better living with living walls. We can help bring your vision to life with the added benefits of a living green wall. See how we have brought nature to the built environment.
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Do You Have Plant Blindness?

Did you know 57% of the species on the US national endangered species list are plants? Unfortunately, the majority of the population are not aware of these species and many may no longer exist today. As a society, we often forget about plants because they go widely unnoticed. This is referred to as plant blindness, the inability to notice or recognize plants that are all around us. It is a chronic problem that needs to be solved.

The root cause of this issue is society has disconnected from nature. As previously discussed, people are bringing nature back into urban areas, however, there is still a large gap and areas for improvement. There is more than simply disconnecting, it is also how our brain processes information. We naturally recognize creatures that are similar to us or that may cause harm: humans, animals, objects that pose a threat, strong weather or a steep drop off on a mountain. So since the majority of plants are green, and because our brains are master organizers, we organize all of nature as one large green object. 

In addition to how we see plants, we also have a lack of knowledge on their function and structures. Schools spend very little time teaching students about plants and this is where plant blindness begins to take shape in individuals. It is overlooked by academia, therefore, it is overlooked by students. Elementary schools might teach a chapter explaining how plants photosynthesize their food and ask students to grow their own lima beans, but this is where education begins and ends. 

When a large group of society has plant blindness, it causes many problems. As mentioned earlier, there is no national attention that plants are endangered. The result of this leads to issues in the ecosystem, animals could lose access to their food or habitat forcing these animals to eat or take over other plant species and start a ripple effect. 

Plants also play a large part in the fight against climate change, specifically the urban heat island (UHI) effect. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the annual mean temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. At night, the difference is even more pronounced and can be as high as 22°F (12°C) because cities, unlike more remote areas, tend to retain heat longer. However, plants act as insulators that can significantly reduce this effect making an impact on the increasing global climate change. 

While plant blindness is a problem, it is fortunately an issue that can be solved. As individuals, we can take responsibility by becoming aware and recognizing there is a problem. For example, be present in the moment and notice how many parks you pass on the way to work or school, how many storefronts have landscaping and what types of trees surround your office. Educate yourself about the power that plants have on your physical and mental wellbeing. Surround yourself with plants and practice how to take care of them. Start small and grow an appreciation for the nature that surrounds you. 

 

tree lined city street

Beyond the individual, school administrators can help by incorporating botany throughout the curriculum, such as, teaching students about different plants, how to grow a garden, the function of plant parts and cultivating a sense of curiosity so they will seek more information. With encouragement and education, students will pause to observe the nature around them. Some might even find themselves so interested they will pursue a career in the field. 

The biggest impact can be seen by organizations and companies that are already making a difference. In the built environment, developers are starting to create spaces devoted to plants for their tenants to not only enjoy, but also create a better way of life. Whether an established foot print or a new build, a living green wall can incorporate plants into the everyday bringing nature into any environment. Living walls have the capability to bring a room to life creating moments of awe and reflection.

 

Sagegreenlife is especially passionate about fighting against plant blindness. We believe in the power of nature designing living walls for better living.
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Biophilic Design Trend: Nature in the Space

We previously introduced a new trend of biophilic design and its three categories:

  1. Natural Analogues encompass the indirect, organic biophilic design in an environment. This category takes on a more subtle approach of rekindling our innate desire by bringing in elements that remind us of nature, such as selecting color palettes or patterns that occur naturally.
  2. Nature of the Space appeals more to humans’ emotions by designing a place that promotes a sense of mystery, refuge or risk and peril.
  3. Nature in the Space is the most straight forward of the three and brings the outdoors into the built environment.

 

Each unique in the ways biophilic design can bring nature into an environment, but all can work together to provide a space that fulfills humans’ desire to be one with nature. The patterns within these categories also provide various benefits, both mental and physical. Below we take a closer look at the third category, nature in the space. the most common approach within biophilic design.

The Visual Connection
The first pattern that falls within nature in the space is a visual connection. Simply put, this is the type of biophilic design that provides the ability to see nature. The most common and recurring attempt of this pattern is a potted plant on a desk or large windows in an office building. These are steps in the right direction, however, there is much more that can be done to provide people with a visual connection. Nature in the space can also be a koi pond, a piece of art resembling nature, a well designed landscape or a living green wall

The advantages of a living green wall compared to a pond or landscape is the ability to be incorporated into virtually any space with minimal to no construction. Living walls can provide an escape from the computer screen, textbook or phone, even if just for a small moment. The benefits of a visual connection with nature can be seen in improved cognitive performance, stress reduction and mental wellbeing. The presence of nature can improve mental focus and attentiveness, lower blood pressure and heart rate and increase overall happiness. There has been extensive research proving these benefits exist and the real impact they make in an environment. 

living wall in an apartment lobby

 

The Non-Visual Connection
Biophilic design goes beyond the visual aspect; it can be experienced through auditory, haptic, gustatory and olfactory senses as well. The study and research behind these senses and their relationship to biophilic design has opened the door to even more biophilia that can be invited into an environment. These can occur naturally or be simulated or constructed forms of a non-visual connection to nature. A naturally occurring form can be found in herbs or plants that are very aromatic and can fill a room with their pleasant scent or an opened window to hear songbirds or wind blowing through the trees. 

Simulated examples of nature include sounds from a water feature or materials that resemble textures in nature. In addition to materials that have nature-like textures, there are also those with different physical properties. For example, a stone material is more likely to feel cool to the touch while wood is more likely to feel warmer to the touch. These non-visual connections provide benefits in much the same way as visual connections. Studies have shown a decrease in systolic blood pressure and stress, a positive impact on cognitive performance, and perceived improvements in mental health and tranquility. 

 

Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
Without thinking about it, we all recognize that there are natural movements happening all around us. The ever changing shape and presence of clouds, the reflection of light off of a water surface or the breeze blowing through plant life. This type of biophilic design is termed non-rhythmic sensory stimuli. These rhythms can be studied, but they cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy. The presence of these movements in a space have positive impacts on heart rate, systolic blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity. This pattern of biophilic design also has effects on cognitive performance resulting in increased attention and exploration. To maximize these patterns into an environment, incorporate large windows where clouds are visible, create an unpredictable broadcast of nature sounds or dampen light elements. The key to this pattern is to create random and subtle movements in the space that will only be noticed subconsciously.

woman sitting in front of a body of water

 

Thermal and Airflow Variability
Studies have shown that thermal and airflow variability have impacts on comfort, wellbeing, productivity, concentration and an improved perception of alliesthesia, the relationship between an external stimuli and the pleasure or displeasure that the stimuli invokes. There are plenty of ways that thermal and airflow variability can be built into an environment to fulfill this type of biophilic design. A building can be constructed with large windows allowing heat to travel through and create spots that are warmer than the surrounding areas, or the walls and shapes of the building can create a draft that flows through the space. The HVAC can be programmed to keep an area at comfortable temperatures while creating some variability that stimulates a reaction in the occupants. The building can also implement materials that naturally reflect heat when the sun hits its surface. 

 

Presence of Water
In addition to the visual connection, non-visual connection, non-rhythmic stimuli and airflow variability, the presence of water has its own pattern of biophilic design. There are many benefits associated with the sounds, movement and simply the presence of water. There has been evidence that shows reduced stress, increased feelings of tranquility, lower heart rate and blood pressure. It has also been shown to improve concentration, memory restoration, enhanced perception, psychological responsiveness and positive emotional responses. This form of biophilic design can be incorporated by using a pond of water or an aquarium. And while real water should be the priority, pictures and computer simulations of water can present similar benefits to those of real water. 

water fountain in the outdoors

 

Light Diffusion and Shadows
One of the under-appreciated occurrences in nature are the changes in shadows and intensities in light that happen throughout the day. An environment that is well designed in terms of diffused light can cause a sense of drama, intrigue and mystery to a space. This type of biophilic design can easily be brought into a space when windows are present. However, if window accessibility is limited or it is a cloudy day, light diffusion cannot pass along its benefits to humans. An easy way to implement light diffusion into an environment is use low glare lights and treat windows to reflect rays that are not great for a person’s eyes. A subtle way to achieve this is to have a circadian color pattern that is integrated into the office. Ideally it would be white light in the morning, and as afternoon approaches, it would reduce blue light. This would encourage healthier sleep patterns by complementing the natural circadian rhythms. Diffused light also takes stress off of eyes and increases general comfort. 

 

Connection with Natural Systems
The last pattern included in this category is the connection with natural systems. Essentially, this pattern is reminding people of the natural cycles nature goes through. Cycles such as seasons, weather changes, pollination and the food chain among animals. It is difficult to build these elements into an environment because there is nothing we can do to make seasons change, effect the weather or insects to pollinate, however, we can build environments with these elements. Office buildings can use landscapes with native plants that change with the seasons, rainwater collections or plants that attract insects and structures such as bird houses and feeders. This biophilic design pattern benefits people by providing an enhanced positive health response and shift in perception, which aids in fighting against plant blindness. 

rain drops on a window

These seven patterns of nature in the space are one of many ways biophilic design can increase the aesthetics of an environment and provide an array of benefits to those within the space.

 

Imagine nature in your environment. Explore and learn more at sagegreenlife.com.
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