From Concrete to Greenery: Building a 320 Square Metre Green Wall For a Gas Farm in Cambridge, UK

From Concrete to Greenery: Building a 320 Square Metre Green Wall For a Gas Farm in Cambridge, UK

20 January 2021



Project: Green wall for AstraZeneca Project Laureate – part 1

Client: Willerby Landscapes

Living Wall Green wall for AstraZeneca
Green wall for AstraZeneca


Since 2014, biomedical corporation AstraZeneca has been building a state-of-the-art new global HQ and research centre in Cambridge. Part of the complex is a gas farm, enclosed in 3-5m high concrete walls. Working to the project’s main landscaper, Willerby Landscapes, Smartscape was contracted to clad the walls of the gas farm with our green walls, a total area of 320 square metres.


As well as helping the gas farm to blend in with the surrounding green environment, our walls needed to provide a high degree of fire retardation, to meet the safety standard for the highly flammable gases inside the farm, and acoustic baffling to minimise noise pollution. The job effectively comprised two parts: design and build, and installation and planting.


The pre-build began in late spring 2020, as the UK was emerging from lockdown for the first time. The design was complex, needing to draw on our market-leading expertise in fire safety standards and acoustics, and incorporate a planting palette that matched the ecological requirements of the architect BDP.

Prior to the design getting under way, we had worked with BDP in the planning of the build, helping to specify the strength of the walls required to hold the green walls. This early involvement together with the expertise of our design team helped to ensure sign-off on our designs in time to begin construction of the 5m by 3m steel frames.

Knowing that we would need to complete the installation within a tight time frame , and with Covid-19 and Brexit causing uncertainty in the supply chain, we decided to build the wall in modules off-site and then crane them into place when the time came. We adapted our standard building methods and managed multiple suppliers to build the steel sub-frame, cut and apply the acoustic cement board and make a Fytotextile green wall system, all of it being assembled by the steel workers Metal Wizards off-site.

This was a complete change of construction process for us and one that required a great deal of thought and organisation.


The prebuild work continues in good direction for the planned installation in March – the perfect time of year for new planting. The typical installation time for a project of this scale would be nine weeks but we anticipate on completing the it in around 10 days, with a further two weeks of planting, by carrying out the pre-build off-site.

We will be back to report on the installation in a future case study.

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