Designing living plants into indoor spaces requires interior designers, architects, lighting designers and other specifiers to know and understand the benefits of exposure to nature, and also the technical aspects of designing and installing living green systems in buildings.
Green walls can create fascinating and yet calming centrepieces in places of hospitality, work, education and healing environments.
by Jille Kuipers
Table of Contents
- The Benefits of Architectural Plant Lighting
- Techniques in Architectural Plant Lighting
- Impact on Architectural Spaces
- Challenges with architectural plant lighting
- Get Lighting Design Guidance on Illuminating Green Walls
- Reveal the Beauty of Plants with the Right Light
- Quality of Light Beyond Kelvin and CRI: Including a Light Spectrum
- Illuminating Tall Greenwalls
- Conclusion and solutions
Architectural plant lighting, also known as greenwall lighting, is a fascinating field that combines the art of architecture with the science of plant cultivation. In recent years, the integration of plants into architectural designs has gained significant popularity, both for aesthetic and environmental reasons. As a result, architects and designers have started using specialized lighting techniques to enhance the growth, health, and visual appeal of plants within buildings. In this blog, we will delve into the world of architectural plant lighting, exploring its benefits, techniques, and the transformative impact it has on architectural spaces.
Proper greenwall lighting should provide visual appeal as well as sufficient light for plants to thrive
The Benefits of Architectural Plant Lighting
Architectural plant lighting offers a myriad of benefits, making it an attractive choice for designers and building owners. Firstly, it allows for the integration of nature into indoor spaces, creating a calming and visually appealing environment. Plants have been shown to improve air quality, reduce stress, and increase productivity, making them a valuable addition to any architectural setting.
It is unlikely that plants can fully replace air-purification systems in buildings. You would simply need too many plants. However the notion that green walls or plants can improve air qualit was popularized by research from NASA. In this study it was suggested that, in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen through photosynthesis, certain common indoor plants may also provide a natural way of removing volatile organic pollutants. These plants include: English ivy (Hedera helix) Peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa') Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) Red-edged dracaena, marginata (Dracaena marginata) Cornstalk dracaena, mass cane/corn cane (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana') Weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) Barberton daisy, gerbera daisy Gerbera jamesonii) Florist's chrysanthemum, pot mum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) Janet Craig (Dracaena deremensis "Janet Craig") Warneckei (Dracaena deremensis "Warneckei").
An outdoor natural greenwall in Croatia with flowers and plants
In a study about the health and wellbeing of adults in residential settings, scientists found Indoor gardening and horticulture programmes effective for cognition, psychological wellbeing, social outcomes and life satisfaction.
Architectural plant lighting enables the cultivation of plants that require specific light conditions to thrive. By providing tailored lighting spectrums, intensity, and duration, designers can create optimal growth conditions for a wide range of plant species, including exotic and highly decorative plants that would not typically survive indoors.
Programs like LEED and WELL are including nature into their design goals. Green walls are an effective solution for bringing plant-life indoors and adding a natural element to a space that would not normally have one. Greenwalls are for example encouraged under the WELL standard Air, Comfort and Mind concepts. Greenwalls are proposed as way to bring spaces to life through living green walls.
Humans have a deep-seated need to connect with nature. One way of making biophilic design is through a visual connection with nature
Techniques in Architectural Plant Lighting
Several techniques are employed in architectural plant lighting to ensure plants receive the appropriate light for their growth requirements. One of the most common techniques is the use of artificial grow lights, such as LED (Light-Emitting Diode) fixtures. LED technology has revolutionized horticultural lighting due to its energy efficiency, long lifespan, and spectral versatility. LED fixtures can be customized to emit specific light wavelengths, allowing for precise control over plant growth and development.
Another technique is the implementation of light shelves or light wells. These design elements are strategically positioned to capture and redirect natural sunlight into the building's interior. Light shelves can be used to create a gradient of light, ensuring plants closer to the window receive more sunlight, while those further away still benefit from indirect illumination.
Daylight harvesting systems are also employed to optimize natural light utilization. These systems use sensors and automated controls to adjust artificial lighting levels in response to available daylight. By harnessing natural light whenever possible, energy consumption is reduced, and plants receive a more dynamic lighting environment.
Impact on Architectural Spaces
Architectural plant lighting has a transformative impact on indoor spaces, turning them into vibrant, living environments. Plants strategically placed throughout a building can soften the harshness of architectural elements, adding a touch of greenery and tranquility. They serve as focal points, creating dynamic visual interest and connecting occupants to nature.
Moreover, architectural plant lighting can be used to define and delineate spaces. Plants can act as living partitions, creating privacy or separation while maintaining a sense of openness. Vertical gardens and living walls are popular applications, where plants are integrated into the building's structure, forming lush, green backdrops.
4 Challenges with architectural plant lighting
This greenwall lacks unfortunately the right light in intensity, spectrum and optical design, hence the plants keep on stretching and those at the bottom seem to wither.
Get Lighting Design Guidance on Illuminating Green Walls
In lighting design handbooks there is little guidance on how to illuminate green walls. There is however some guidance on illuminating walls. It can be found for example under architectural lighting, since its traditional aim is to accentuate the features and specific elements of the space itself. Wall washers and wall grazers are known for its ability to wash a wall in light or to highlight specific wall features. Lighting designers may choose to traditionally illuminate walls with for example 50lx or up to 175lx to enhance spatial illumination and creating a room that is “much more open and attractive”, it is also used as a feature to indirectly support “performance and concentration” present in the room. However there is a big difference in illuminating a wall for visual appeal, and providing the actual light energy for plants to grow and thrive. 50lx or 175lx may be equivalent to about 2 to 10 micromole, whereas most adult plants require 50 micromoles or more to maintain health. Hence if some spaces use green walls, we should bring in dedicated lighting for those walls to enhance visual appeal as well as plant health.
Do a lighting design simulation for both visual appeal as well as plant-centric lighting intensity needs, a manufacturer such as HortiPower or LedAffinity will be able to help you to check your lighting design
Reveal the Beauty of Plants with the Right Light
Good color rendering is particularly desirable, since the virtue of greenery is what makes plant walls appealing. Professional plant-centric lighting sources have traditionally not focused on a high CRI since it is not relevant for plants itself. Often traditional plant-lighting requires red and blue, which appears as purple light. However the color of a plant perceived by the human eye is strongly affected by the CRI of the light source. For example, green plants under red-based and blue-based LEDs tend to look dark red; the plants do not look vibrant or beautiful.
Specify a reasonable CRI and check the actual effect on plants
Quality of Light Beyond Kelvin and CRI: Including a Light Spectrum
Past studies have researched white light and compared white light with different LEDs and Kelvin temperatures and based on that compared plant health and appeal. Based on these outcomes 6500K has been recommended or lights are branded as full-spectrum lights.
Whilst Kelvin is a good metric for the human eye and how it perceives white, by this metric alone it does not tell us enough information to assess its relevance for plants. Beyond the right intensity the spectrum of the light matters to the plant. For example the red light in the architectural lighting fixtures is often made around 630nm, but plant hormones have a peak sensitivity around 660nm. Both of these colors appear red to the human eye, but one has a lot of impact on plant growth, whereas the other has a very limited impact. In fact some authors mention that “red spectrum cause unhealthy stem elongation”, but they are not looking at the deep red that is relevant for plants.
Ensure that light is visually appealing and offers a sufficient plant-centric light spectrum
Illuminating Tall Greenwalls
These plants appear healthy, although on top are other plants that require more light and are hence stretching towards it. This could be avoided with a different optical design and power.
Greenwalls are often rather tall, some of which are more than 5 meter high – and often the light is installed on the ceiling. This means fixtures need to have sufficient power, excellent optical control and system efficiency.
There are solutions from Ledaffinity with different beam angles and wattages. Linear fixtures can be a good option for lower height areas, such as in transit corridors. If walls get larger staggering might be a good option to provide equal and uniform lighting across the whole greenwall.
Simulate optical effect and measure light in a mock-up
Conclusion and solutions
Architectural plant lighting represents a harmonious fusion of architecture, nature, and technology. Through the integration of specialized lighting techniques, indoor spaces are transformed into thriving ecosystems that benefit both humans and plants. The selection of plants, coupled with thoughtful lighting design, can create stunning environments that inspire, relax, and connect occupants to the natural world. As the demand for sustainable and wellness-focused buildings increases, architectural plant lighting is set to play an even more significant role in shaping the future of architecture.
A well kept greenwall with proper lighting
At HortiPower, we are at the forefront of navigating the new and uncharted waters of architectural plant lighting. Our aim is to provide lighting products that help you seamlessly integrate plants with architectural design. With a focus on unobtrusive and minimalist aesthetics, we offer a range of greenwall lights specifically designed for architectural projects. Our current solutions include:
1. The PlantParent Grow Light: This sleek linear light is capable of nurturing everything from delicate seedlings to lush tropical plants. It is available with a floor standing base or can be installed as a pendant, providing versatility in placement.
2. The Florister Pro: Designed specifically for professional projects, the Florister Pro is a high-performance greenwall facade lighting fixture. Its narrow beam angle ensures precise illumination for living walls or vertical gardens. Please note that this light is available upon request and exclusively for professional use.
3. The Florister Grow Light Bulb: Our E27 grow bulb is compatible with standard fixtures, making it suitable for any design style or need. This versatile bulb provides the optimal lighting spectrum for indoor plant growth, without harsh colors or harmful UV rays.
4. The Bloomer 2 Grow Light: This easy to use E27 light fits in many desk-lamps, decorative free standing fixtures and living room fixtures.
In addition to our range of lighting products, we offer specialized expertise in indoor farming and indoor farming lighting design. Our team can provide guidance and support in creating effective lighting solutions for indoor farming environments.
With our lighting solutions, not only do we add a touch of drama to interior design, but we also empower our clients to cultivate thriving and healthy plants indoors. Our tailored lighting spectrum ensures optimal growth conditions, promoting lush foliage and vibrant blooms.
Experience the future of architectural plant lighting with HortiPower and unlock the potential of integrating nature into your designs.
Please contact us if you require further assistance.