Safe, secure and sustainable

Paul Garlick of Mobilane looks at the challenge of installing boundaries that satisfy safety and security requirements, as well as being eco-friendly.

In an ideal world perhaps we wouldn’t need walls and fences. People (and animals) would simply appreciate where the boundaries of a property are. But of course this isn’t an ideal world and there are many other reasons we need ways of marking the boundaries of a property, such as walls, fences and hedges.

As well as marking the perimeter of a property or estate, a boundary affords privacy and security. The degree to which it will provide these things depends on the type of boundary used and its size. The humble hedge for example provides privacy but lacks security and is easy for animals to negotiate. On the other hand the harsh wire fence delivers security, but not privacy. The wall or wooden fence can provide both, but at the expense of aesthetics and sustainability.

Sustainability is an increasingly important consideration with all aspects of building and applies equally when it comes to perimeters. Historically the only type of perimeter that can claim any sustainability credentials is the hedge. However, as well as falling short with regards to security, hedges mean an ongoing investment in maintenance to keep them neat and a healthy hedge will have a considerable physical footprint, often several feet wide for a substantial one.

Aesthetics is equally important and again the hedge easily wins over a brick wall or wooden or wire fence. A nicely maintained hedge will make a domestic property far more attractive.

There are now boundary solutions that tick all the boxes with regards to aesthetics, sustainability, security, privacy and which are easy to install and low maintenance, with a low physical footprint.

One such solution is the Mobilane Green Screen, which is a very simple concept. Essentially it is a living fence that consists of a galvanised steel grid on which climbing or hedging plants, usually ivy, have been cultivated. The metal grid is folded at the bottom to facilitate a biodegradable trough filled with potting soil. The plants are grown in this soil at a nursery and hand trailed upwards along the metal grid in order to get full thick foliage coverage.

Ivy is a particularly robust plant and presents few challenges regarding maintenance. While screens such as this are usually delivered and installed with plants already growing up them, ivy continues to grow and becomes verdant to deliver what looks like a well-managed ivy hedge, but with the additional security of the wire mesh.

Installation of screens is simple and requires the digging of a trench 400 mm wide by 400 mm deep. The screen is placed into the trench and soil is used to cover the biodegradable pot. They are additionally supported by wooden posts or powder coated metal posts, which also serve to join adjacent screens.

The screens have proved a popular solution on a range of domestic housing developments; from housing association and local authority developments, through to high end luxury developments.

When award winning developers Croudace Portland Homes embarked on a substantial and highly impressive new build project in a prime residential area of Surrey, they turned to Benchmark Landscape of Chelmsford to plan and manage the quality landscaping required to add value to the new development.

The new development would see two new five and six bedroom homes with a value of over £2.5m each, built on a plot of land that previously featured a single house. There was a necessity for a boundary between the new properties, and security was a requirement in the choice of boundary. A hedge would aesthetically suit the development and was preferable to a fence or wall, but would not deliver the required security. Benchmark Landscape specified Green Screens as the solution.

In total, 72 screens were used; 40 to create the required divisional boundary, and another 32 which were used on the front of one of the properties to screen an unsightly wall from an adjacent house. Benchmark Landscape had used screens like this previously and knew they would deliver both the required aesthetic as well as the highest levels of security.

In Ashton-Under-Lyne, a derelict site on a main access route was identified by West Pennine Housing Association for a new-build housing development for local families as part of a larger four part regeneration project. The Stockport Road site had already been awarded with a Green Apple Environmental Award as well as being shortlisted for the Building in Excellence Award.

Denovo Designs of Liverpool was the architect on the Stockport Road project and installed 30 screens at the development. Frank Olchowski, director and lead architect for the project explains why the screens were incorporated into the design:

“We specified the screens because of the planning requirement to provide an attractive, rear boundary treatment. The residents of the houses which overlook the site would not want to look onto a brick wall or timber fencing, especially if that type of boundary were to attract graffiti.”

He continues:

“Screens such as these ecologically enhance a site and provide a more attractive solution than walls or fences. We also had to comply with the Secured by Design requirement for a minimum height and secure boundary treatment.”

Social housing providers increasingly like to see green technologies used on their developments as they are invaluable in helping councils to ‘green up’ the environment and provide a more stimulating and pleasant environment. Solutions used on projects such as these also provide a deterrent to graffiti and other antisocial behaviour, and offer reduced maintenance costs when compared to other boundary markers such as timber fencing.