Feature, Office

Scientists probe the right lighting for green walls

The ‘vertical garden’ at the Sofitel Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, designed by Patrick Blanc for the architects MIRK and lit by Delta Lighting Design. The walls, which are becoming hugely popular, are a challenge for lighting designers.

SCIENTISTS at University College London are engaged in a study to identify the best way to light a green wall.

The research is taking place in a laboratory at the UCL Bartlett’s Here East Campus in Stratford, east London.

Specifically, the researchers are asking: how do we illuminate the plants well while giving them what they need?

It’s a dilemma that’s stumped lighting designers tasked with specifying the lighting for the boom in living walls.

The use of ‘biophilic’ design in workplaces is reported to lead to a reduction in absenteeism and improvements in productivity of between 8 and 10 per cent, with ‘rates of wellbeing’ boosted by 13 per cent.

In the education sector, it is said to enhance test results by between 20 and 25 per cent.

In hospitals, the approach can lead to post-operative recovery times reduced 8.5 per cent with a commensurate cut in pain care medication by some 22 per cent.

Results like this have led to a boom in green walls – vertical plantings of indoor shrubs – in offices and public buildings.

Illuminating the green walls, however, is a challenge for lighting designers as it involves a balance between the needs of the plants and the aesthetics of the wall. The researchers are aiming to answer two key questions:

  • What light source is best for the plants?
  • What light source is best for viewing the plants?

Leading the research is David Gilbey, the head of creative lighting at the London office of NDYLIGHT, who is working  in collaboration with Dr Amardeep Dugar of Lighting Research & Design and Professor Peter Raynham of UCL at the UCL Bartlett Here East Campus in Stratford, east London.

Sponsors of the research include Xicato, AlphaLED and green wall supplier Wonderwall.

‘In essence this is a longitudinal test of three months to monitor the health of three plant walls lit by three different spectrums of light,’ says Gilbey. ‘There’s no point in having perfect healthy plants if they look like they are made of plastic.’

The team are also gathering viewer appraisals for a statistical analysis. However, colour perception is, however, context dependent while colour preference is even more subjective and complex.

The results are expected this summer and will be widely shared.