With greater focus on sustainability and more awareness of the health benefits of greenery in work and home environments, builders and designers are increasingly integrating green walls into their plans. However, the safety of green walls has come under question after a fire broke out in Redfern when a burning candle came too close to a living green wall. This incident not only highlights the importance of fire tested green walls, but also the need for proper policies and regulations.

Plants and greenery are often seen as fuel for a fire. But European fire studies indicate that vertical gardens and green walls are quite fire safe if they are well-maintained. Regular trimming and watering of living green walls will significantly reduce the fire risk.

As the green wall trend continues, builders and developers will look to add more of these fixtures to apartment blocks, commercial properties and landscape designs. Living green walls require high maintenance and continuous care; hence, artificial green walls with their low maintenance qualities are increasingly being seen as a viable alternative to living walls. Living or artificial, fire safety will still need to be prioritised when it comes to green walls in and around buildings.

Fire safety tips to maintain a living green wall

Ensure a working irrigation system

A living green wall needs to be watered at regular intervals to keep it green and thriving, and also fire safe. There’s no bigger risk than a drying living wall as it can get ignited very easily. Regular maintenance checks should be in place to ensure a working irrigation system.

Regularly maintain the plants

A living green wall needs regular trimming with all the dead twigs and leaves immediately removed from around the plants. Record a schedule of maintenance to remain accountable for fire safe green walls.

Keep fire hazards away from the plants

Ensure there are no electrical appliances, wires or even a burning candle in the vicinity of a green wall. Install the green wall away from anything that could ignite if there is a power outage. When designing a home or space, give the wall a structure that could help avoid a fire risk. This is particularly important for spaces that are sold or rented to other people, who may not be aware of the need to be fire safe.

Use low combustible materials

Choose a fire tested green wall or fire-safe materials to reduce risk of fire. For example, the use of soil within a green wall fire protection system can help to dampen the area further. Succulents are also said to be a less risky option for living walls. While recycled plastic materials and wooden frames have a low burn rate, stronger fire-proof materials such as fire tested stainless steel frames can be considered for holding up the structure of the vertical garden.

Fire safety for artificial greenery

Artificial green walls and vertical gardens are highly popular for their affordability as well as low maintenance. Artificial greenery doesn’t need trimming or watering, and will remain green all year round. However, there is an element of fire risk when it comes to artificial greenery.

Currently, there are no fire standards for artificial plants, fake green walls or living green walls in Australia. But there are building codes and regulations in place that refer to flammability, smoke and other fire related characteristics. There is also heightened interest for fire safety in buildings after the Grenfell Tower incident involving plastic-filled aluminium cladding panels.

Even in the absence of regulations, there is no harm in investing in fire retardant green walls for your property.

Designer Plants released a new range of fire tested green walls this year. Known as ‘Select’, the artificial plants have been tested independently for fire and ignition.

For additional resources and advice on fire safety, please refer to your local fire body or state authority.