K II in Düsseldorf

Green Facades: Urban Nature

Green Facades Generate a “Breathing Urban Space” and Promote Biodiversity in Urban Areas.

The plants of a green facade bind CO2 and clean the air. Greening improves the microclimate of sealed and overheated urban spaces. For both, building owners and users, facade greening also offers noise reduction and visual protection. Planting on the facade provides shade and sun protection as well as lowering the ambient temperatures. The rainwater retention provided by green facades is also important – not only because of the increasingly frequent heavy rainfall events.

Calwer Passage in Stuttgart

Green facades offer significant added value, but also lead to slightly higher investment costs. Additional costs arise for care and maintenance as well as (depending on the design) additional loads for the supporting structure. In the planning phase, therefore, various specific requirements that greening entails must be taken into account. These include fire protection, integration of supply technology, frost and heat protection as well as height access for maintenance and care by gardeners.

Based on three selected green facades, the following will explain in more detail what the special features are in planning and realisation, and how these can be appropriately taken into account.

Trees for the roof of Calwer Passage in Stuttgart
Trees for the roof of Calwer Passage in Stuttgart

Green Facade Example: Calwer Passage, Stuttgart

The new building of the Calwer Passage in Stuttgart has a length of more than 130 metres and, in addition to office use on the upper floors, also accommodates flats as well as areas for retail and gastronomy. On the facade sides facing the street, intensively greened strips are created along the upper floors as well as roof gardens.

The facade greening consists of a supporting horizontal steel substructure along the opaque parapet bands, which serves to accommodate the pre-cultivated plants in inner troughs. These green strips are arranged one above the other on each storey, being connected to each other with vertical climbing aids in front of the glazed surfaces. It is therefore not a small-scale vertical greening along a wall surface, but a construction in front of the building with planters of considerable size.

Trees for the roof of Calwer Passage in Stuttgart

The large trees on the Calwer Passage already reached heights of up to 10 m and weighed up to 7 t when they were installed in May 2021. Later, they are to reach crown heights of up to 15 m.

Excess Water is Collected

The irrigation and drainage of the planters is integrated into this construction, which also provides access for the gardeners, for example for the care and pruning of the plants. The green facades are complemented by the intensive greening of the roofs using a wide variety of woody plants and large tree species. The planters themselves release excess water downwards through openings. From there, it is drained off and collected in a controlled manner.

An irrigation system is also used to supply the plants; monitoring is carried out via humidity and temperature sensors, among other things, which are installed at selected points within the facades. The system can be operated fully automatically, still being monitored by experienced gardeners, of course. The plants used on the facade were cultivated before the shell construction began, so they had reached a certain size and robustness when finally being used in Stuttgart.

K II Kö Bogen and Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf

Green Facade Example: KII, Düsseldorf

The trapezoidal, six-storey office and commercial building forms a green urban ensemble together with the “food court” opposite. The building is planted with over 30,000 hornbeams – an absolute novelty in Europe. The hedges are set in a kind of trough-in-trough system. The rows of troughs are positioned in relation to each other in a way, sunlight and rainwater to the plants is being guaranteed. To ensure adequate height access for pruning and maintenance of the plants in the facade, maintenance walkways and safety systems for the gardeners have been installed. In places where there was no space for maintenance walkways, a drive-on system has been installed along the trough rows.

Design sketch for the supporting structure of the trough system at KII.

Absolute Novelty and Challenge: 30,000 Hornbeams

In order to keep the number of penetrations of the insulated building envelope as low as possible, a special substructure with intermediate beams in the insulation level was developed for the green facade. A sheet metal cladding above the insulation and waterproofing layer acts as weather protection and allows fallen leaves and branches to slide down as if on a large slide. On the ground floor, the green waste is collected in large-volume gutters and removed by the landscape gardeners.

The hedges were pre-cultivated over a long period of time in a tree nursery and delivered to Düsseldorf for installation in the interior troughs. The facade structures include supply systems for irrigation, fertiliser admixture and drainage. The installed technology partly regulates itself automatically on the basis of information on humidity, temperature, etc. provided by sensors distributed throughout the facade. In addition, the facade is being inspected and maintained at regular intervals by experienced gardeners.

K II Bögen in Düsseldorf and Schauspielhaus in Düsseldorf

Green Facade Example: Q20, Stuttgart

In Stuttgart’s Neckar Park, a new residential and commercial area is being built on a total area of approx. 25 hectares. The Q20 ensemble consists of three above-ground, non-orthogonal building sections and a shared underground car park. The greened facades and roofs, especially to the publicly accessible courtyard of the three buildings, are intended to form a “green valley”. The buildings taper upwards in this area, thus enabling optimised use of daylight while at the same time implementing the municipally required green component in the facade through large-volume plant troughs.

The use of rainwater through retention bodies rounds off the sustainable neighbourhood development.

Baufeld Q 20 Neckarpark in Stuttgart © Caspar
Baufeld Q 20 Neckarpark in Stuttgart

Plant Selection from a Variety of Different Species

A greening system with large-format, pre-cultivated plants is structurally much more demanding than a ground-based system. In order to limit the effort for the substructure, Q20 mainly aims at load transfer through the building’s supporting structure itself for the plant troughs of the green facades.

The partly cascade-shaped arrangement accommodates this; to secure the troughs behind the curtain-type rear-ventilated facade in the parapet strips, they are only secured in position. Components of the greenery at Q20 will include planted troughs, climbing aids, supply systems with sensors for monitoring and drainage. Similar to the green façade of the Calwer Passage, the plants will be selected from a variety of different species.

Video: The Ecological and Functional Importance of Green Facades

Would you like to learn more about the importance of green facades and their technology? Then take a look at the following videos on our YouTube channel – it’s definitely worth it. In the first video, our board member Roland Bechmann talks about the ecological and functional significance of green facades.

Experimental House R128

By loading the video, you accept YouTube privacy policy. More information in our privacy policy.

In the second video, Florian Starz (Team Leader Facade at Werner Sobek AG) explains, how he and his team of engineers and architects helped to develop some of the largest green facades in the world.

R128-Copyright-Zooey-Braun-Stuttgart-7.jpg

By loading the video, you accept YouTube privacy policy. More information in our privacy policy.

Grünfassaden in der Architektur: Das Büro- und Geschäftshaus KII von Ingenhoven Architects, bepflanzt mit 30.000 Hainbuchen in der Düsseldorfer Innenstadt
Green facades in architecture: The KII office and commercial building by Ingenhoven Architects, planted with 30,000 hornbeams in Düsseldorf's city centre.

Other Topics