How to light a living wall


The World Health Organisation predicted that stress-related illness, such as mental health disorders and cardiovascular disease, would be the two largest contributors to disease by 2020. But, it's not all doom and gloom.


Research has shown that incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment (biophilic design) can reduce stress, blood pressure, and heart rates. At the same time, increasing productivity, creativity, and self-reported wellbeing rates – we can all think of places that could do with some of that!

Naturally, this has led to a boom in biophilic design.

As a direct result, the introduction of living walls (a vertical greening typology, where a vertical built structure is intentionally covered by vegetation) in many working environments.

'Biophilic' designed workplaces are reported to reduce absenteeism and improve productivity by 8 to 10 per cent, with 'rates of wellbeing' boosted by 13 per cent.

And it's not just in the office; the education sector has witnessed an increase in test results by between 20 and 25 per cent.

Is it any wonder that living walls have started to appear in offices and public buildings?

Now back to school. What do plants need to thrive? You've got it, LIGHT.


Recent advances in technology now offer low cost and highly efficient ways to provide light for living walls. However, illuminating them well is a challenge for lighting designers—one that must sensitively balance the plants' needs and the aesthetics of the wall.

Research projects are currently looking into the ideal conditions for living walls to flourish (click here), and we very much look forward to seeing the results.

However, let's look at what we already know:

We would take advantage of natural light, right? That's what plants use to grow. So, if light can be introduced from a skylight above or window across from the living wall, we would tick all boxes. It costs nothing and is the most ecological solution. But not many buildings can afford this luxury - the answer artificial light.

How much light?

Plants will not survive without an appropriate amount of light. Poor illumination slows photosynthesis. For photosynthesis to occur, we need light levels of at least 1000 lux for plants to thrive, with levels of 2500 lux often being required. The type of light is down to preference. Aside from LED horticultural luminaires, a good solution is track-mounted spotlights to focus lumens onto the living wall and play with beam angles to give good coverage. They also allow for quick and easy reconfiguration as plants need change.


What colour temperature?


Plants have evolved in nature to optimise their photosynthesis at the ends of the colour spectrum. The light colour will determine the plant's ability to produce strong stems, leaves and its ability to flower. The blues (6500K) encourage good leaf and stem growth, while reds and oranges (3000K) promote flowering.

It's good to remember that natural sunlight provides a full spectrum of colour so treat your living wall to a combination of blue and red.


How long should you light a living wall?

For most situations, your plants should get ten hours of light per day. Then a night of rest.


If you need help lighting a living wall, we are happy to lend a hand. Contact the team today for more information and advice.

Also, ask us about our custom spectra bespoke solutions - as pictured below at Westfield