Green Wall Sustainability Hub
Construction company Western GeoBuild wanted to utilise their specialist construction skills and diversify their business through the installation and maintenance of green wall and living wall systems.  
Western GeoBuild is a Devon-based enterprise that has evolved from a traditional construction company into one that incorporates plants and living green features into their designs and builds. Using their specialist expertise in construction, retaining walls and blockwork, they wanted to develop their work into greenwall and livingwall systems. The perfect collaboration arose as Low Carbon Devon's Dr Thomas Murphy was looking to develop local expertise in an emerging green wall market. Dr Murphy is interested in the use of nature-based solutions to tackle local and global environmental issues. In particular, his research looks at how we can optimise the performance and viability of green walls in sustainable building design.  

With an expanding urban population, ‘green infrastructure’ provides an opportunity to tackle climate change, air pollution and biodiversity loss, whilst facilitating low carbon economic growth. Green walls can offer heating/cooling savings, improved air quality, noise reduction and elevated health and wellbeing.

Thomas MurphyThomas Murphy
Lecturer in Environmental Sciences

What were the challenges?

To support their business diversification, Western GeoBuild needed to develop their expertise in greenwall systems, particularly the horticulture knowledge and understanding required for initial planting and ongoing maintenance.
Collecting meaningful data to support the different benefits of green walls.

Scoping out the demand and interest in the local area and marketing the enterprise as green wall suppliers and installers.
Low Carbon Devon project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, was able to help the enterprise to work through these challenges. Working alongside the Director, Matt McClelland, Dr Thomas Murphy took photosynthesis efficiency readings from existing living walls and was able to provide data on watering requirements of plants in a livingwall setting. 
Through ongoing testing and data collection the team were able to produce data on thermal performance of particular plant types to be used in greenwall settings to increase insulation and energy saving provided by living wall installation. 
They also tested use of a local ‘biochar’ product produced by Trimplants – another project working with Low Carbon Devon –
The data allowed the team to maximise the benefits of green walls, through insulation, increased biodiversity and an introduction of increased pollinators into urban areas.

What was the outcome?

The collaboration has supported the development of Western GeoBuild's new greenwalls installation and maintenance service.
Improved maintenance expertise can be shared with customers. 

Increased understanding of the benefits and how to maximise their impact, including the insulative qualities of greenwalls and how they can serve as a biodiverse habitat.
Improved understanding of how different growth mediums can support plant performance, water retention and insulation for the building.
Improved understanding and quantification of the summer water requirements of a range of plant species typically used in livingwalls. This includes understanding of use of native plant species such as Betonica officianalis
Western GeoBuild can also recommend particular livingwall planting schemes (soil and plants) to maximise the thermal performance for customers.

The support that we have had from Low Carbon Devon has been invaluable to us as we evolve our company. Tom’s knowledge, dedication and backing have helped us develop and feel confident within the greenwall sector.

Western GeoBuild Director, Matt McClelland
What's next?
Through the Low Carbon Devon project, Western GeoBuild have made new contacts, including a strong working relationship with Trimplants, a local nursery from Honiton, who have also worked with Dr Murphy. Western GeoBuild have also made contact with YGS Landscapes Ltd, a major landscape firm from Plymouth, about future collaborations. 
Western GeoBuild have been in discussion with two commercial organisations about the potential installation of livingwalls and also a possible living roof installation. They will be able to share what they have learnt through the research collaboration to hopefully result in an increased number of living green installations in the region that are healthy, robust and bring maximum benefit in areas such as improved air quality to supported biodiversity. 
Matt McClelland, Director of Western GeoBuild shares his experience of working with Low Carbon Devon to diversify into greenwall installation and maintenance.
Low Carbon Devon organised a series of events to promote the benefits of greenwalls and to address a gap in the market with regard to local contractors to install and maintain greenwalls. 
Greenwalls are a popular feature in local communities but the full extent of their many benefits is not widely known. As well as boosting biodiversity and improving air quality they can also help with sound and thermal insulation. Research by the University of Plymouth shows that retrofitting an existing masonry cavity walled building with a livingwall can reduce the amount of heat lost through its structure by more than 30%. 
In an emerging greenwall market, there are opportunities for companies around living wall installations. These events provided valuable information about the benefits and how to plan, install and maintain livingwall systems. For enterprises such as Western GeoBuild, these events introduced them to potential customers interested in opportunities for livingwall installations.
Greenwall on the University of Plymouth's Sustainability Hub
The University of Plymouth's Sustainability Hub
The Low Carbon Devon project was a five-year European Regional Development Fund project held at the University of Plymouth supporting Devon businesses to transition to the low carbon economy closing in mid-2023.
The project served as a catalyst for low carbon economic growth in Devon via the Future Shift internship programme, a series of free events and by connecting enterprises with expertise within the University of Plymouth.
The project collaborated with over 130 innovative Devon enterprises who are developing sustainable practices and securing opportunities in the low carbon economy.
To find out more about the University of Plymouth's business services visit Enterprise Solutions
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