- Peter Bottero
- Sydney, Australia
- Project Year
Green walls and fall protection barriers are generally seen as two different structures in terms of purpose and appearance. Barriers are largely about safety, while green walls and facades are usually installed for aesthetics and other benefits such as improved air quality and shading.
However, the two can be combined to create “green barriers” – strong safety barriers that look great and come with a range of environmental and other benefits.
The green screens at Taronga Zoo’s new accommodation retreat is an example of this. Each of the multi-story buildings at the retreat comes with its own green barrier – created using Jakob stainless steel vertical cables that support native climbing greenery. The barriers meet all the required safety codes for fall protection, while providing privacy combined with a beautiful dappled light effect. At the same time, guests can still get great views of Sydney Harbour.
The benefits of green barriers
Research is showing the extensive benefits that can come with green infrastructure. In fact, so much so that the RMIT School of Design is proposing ‘ecological buffers’ along Melbourne’s major roads and freeways to absorb both air and noise pollution.
The reasoning behind this is that while typical concrete and steel barriers can reduce noise for nearby residents, they do little if anything to improve air quality. Studies show that dense green plant growth is more effective than roadside trees, due to having a lower canopy.
Greened fall protection barriers could have similar effects – i.e. they could improve air quality and reduce noise in urban and city areas. They can also be designed for fast plant growth – unlike trees which can take years to grow to height and density.
This was a priority for the Taronga project, as the client wanted to achieve dense greenery as quickly as possible. By combining our skills and knowledge with that of the landscape architects on the project, we were able to make this happen. The result was almost immediate benefits for people using the retreat.
The versatility of green barriers
Green barriers can offer a solution for many other situations requiring robust safety, aesthetics and pollution reduction.
Car parks for example are not typically looked upon as aesthetically pleasing structures. Yet by creating green screens for fall protection on a car park the harshness of building can be softened and pollution reduced at the same time.
Green barriers can also be used indoors providing safety and acting as a supporting structure for indoor climbing plants. The purpose is to improve air quality and health by absorbing indoor pollutants.