From Green Right Now Reports

A green curtain at Kyocera in Kagoshima Sendai plant features morning glories and goya.

You can see ivy-covered buildings in many places around the world. But leave it to the Japanese to perfect this practice of cooling buildings with plants by elevating it to an art form called a “green curtain.”

These elegant and productive sheets of foliage shade office buildings from the harsh summer sun, reducing energy consumption and producing beautiful flowers and edibles as they ascend.

Green curtains have become a signature of Kyocera Group, a global company that makes mobile phones, copiers, printers and other goods.

Kyocera began installing them at its Japanese facilities in 2007, and this year it has quickened its pace to help with the national effort to reduce electricity consumption in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kyocera is planting green curtains at 28 company locations across Japan. These constructions allow a series of vines to ascend up angled or vertical supports. The resulting green wall of foliage shades the windows, but still allows overhead light to filter into the interior spaces because the green curtain is not growing on the exterior wall, but parallel to it.

Green curtain of goya gourd plants at Hayato, Japan.

The offices continue to receive natural light, but are shielded from direct sun rays, keeping interior spaces cooler and saving on air conditioning, a spokesman explained.

The curtain walls are typically created by flowering vines, like morning glories, or goya, a bitter gourd that’s harvested and served to employees in Kyocera’s cafeterias.

Kyocera’s green curtains also have produced kidney beans and cowpeas. Any fast-growing or perennial vine can work; those that produce vegetables create added benefits.

Want to build your own green wall? You can draw inspiration from Kyocera, which has posted pictures of its projects and a how-to on its Green Curtain Activities website.

This is a concept that can work  anywhere in the world where sun exposure contributes to energy costs, even on a residence. Here’s a typical construction for a Southern exposure:

For Southern and other exposures, an angled green curtain may work best. (Graphic: Kyocera)

Western exposures may require closer coverage with a vertical growing curtain, which differs from a green wall, because it climbs a space that’s a few feet out from the wall, creating an airier installation with less loss of natural light.

A vertical green curtain best mitigates harsh western sun. (Graphic: Kyocera)

Here’s what it looks like from inside:

Green walls can still admit filtered natural light.

The fruit of this effort is two-fold, a cooler office and a side of veggies for lunch:

Shade and also harvest. This bitter gourd is from a Kyocera green wall