Hello wall, (hello, hello)
How’d things go for you today?
~ Hello Walls, Faron Young and Willie Nelson
Humans seem to need walls. We build them to separate things and ourselves. We put up walls to keep our things inside and to keep other things out. We put up walls to establish ownership and create boundaries. Our walls are both physical and metaphorical.
A common use for walls is to separate us from the natural world. We want to protect ourselves from the weather outside, as well as the other beings — both animal and human. Inside our walls, we have control, or the illusion of control. Outside our walls we face the chaos of nature and the rest of the world.
We like our walls, and we do things to make them more acceptable and attractive. We use different materials, we sculpt and paint pleasing surfaces, and we place them to carefully align with cultural or societal biases.
However much we try, though, we cannot ignore our need to interact with our surroundings. We design our walls with doors, windows, porches and balconies to bring the outside world in. We cherish the confines of our dens and bedrooms, but relish sitting on the front porch watching the world go by. We open the windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter and allow a connection with the outside world. We install pet doors so our captive animals can come and go, but freak out if the cat brings in from the outside a mangled bird or mouse.
Try as we might, we can’t eliminate our need to touch nature.
It is also possible that our walls and structures are harming nature. Obviously, we displace nature by our presence and through our need for buildings, roads and other constructions. We have impacted biodiversity and the climate to our peril.
Among the various ways we might mitigate the damage we humans are causing, are solar collection, living walls, and creative designs. Several types of solar management are being used, from basic solar panels to reflective surfaces to glass walls that capture the sun’s heat for redistribution. White roofs, light-colored walls and road surfaces aid solar reflection and even adding more vegetation can cool urban heat islands.
Some building designs incorporate vegetation for both cooling and aesthetic reasons. Reporter Lloyd Alter notes, “The cooling effects of living walls are well known and easy to understand: The leaves shade the wall and the moisture evaporates, cooling the air around them.” He also notes that studies show the living walls can result in a “31% reduction in heat loss … And as a bonus, you get a lovely green living wall to boot, with its support of biodiversity, biophilia, cooling in summer, and the possible dramatic aesthetic improvement of so many awful British buildings.” The study cautioned, “It should be noted again that the addition of substrate and plant layer is not simple. This is expensive, it requires plumbing, continuous running water, and serious maintenance.”
Another type of green wall is a moss wall. As described by Laura Bourland, “A moss wall is an excellent way to tickle the sense of sight, smell, and touch. Moss has a subtle and earthy scent, similar to standing in a grove of evergreens … Moss walls are modern works of art that you can install inside or outside to literally bring the green to you. They provide all the wonderful benefits of time in nature, a beautiful home accent, and require little to no upkeep.”
“Moss walls are far more than just a beautiful decoration. They improve air quality, promote healthier minds and bodies, reduce noise pollution, and will even decrease your home’s energy consumption … A moss wall is an excellent way to tickle the sense of sight, smell, and touch. Moss has a subtle and earthy scent, similar to standing in a grove of evergreens.”
A BBC report discusses using special bricks in outer wall construction to improve bee habitat. “The bricks are made for solitary bees, which don’t live in hives or produce honey. They are important to the planet as their pollination helps to create a huge amount of the food that we eat… Their numbers are in decline for many reasons, including loss of their natural habitat. So, the idea is that the bricks give these bees somewhere to live, create their nests and — for the females — lay eggs.”
“Some people have criticised bee bricks saying that including bee homes within the structure of our buildings is not a solution to the problem, as we should be leaving them with more natural habitat in the first place.”
Maybe the point is that we humans must share the Earth with many other other species in order to survive. Therefore, it is important that we find ways to minimize our impacts, as well as make our lives more livable. If we need walls, then we should look at living walls, bee walls, or whatever it takes to protect us from or get along with, rather than fight nature.
Lloyd Alter, Living Walls Can Reduce Heat Loss in Buildings by Over 30%, December 9, 2021, Treehugger Voices
BBC Newsround, What is a Bee Brick? How Can it Help?, January 7, 2019
Laura Bourland, Moss Walls: The Ultimate Guide, March 26, 2020, Rise
Very interesting! Had never heard of bee bricks, never mind the debate about them. Thanks for this and a lovely discussion of walls!