NEDLAW Living Walls has completed the installation of the largest known active living wall in the United States. The 1570-plus square foot structure is located at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was designed and installed as part of the new Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building.
According to Dr. Alan Darlington, president of NEDLAW Living Walls, more than 1,100 individual plants and 20-plus different plant types were used to fill the wall. “The active living wall at Drexel University is some 70 feet tall and over 22 feet wide,” says Darlington, noting that the wall, which incorporates the patented NEDLAW Living Walls biofilter system, is capable of generating between 16,000 and 30,000 cubic feet of ‘virtual’ outside air per minute.
The Drexel University wall was designed by NEDLAW Living Walls in collaboration with Toronto-based Diamond and Schmitt Architects as a key component of the sustainable design features of the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, which is targeting LEED designation for energy efficiency. The six-story, 150,000 square-foot building will house 44 research and teaching laboratories for biomedical engineering, biology and organic chemistry, and a fossil preparation lab. Principal architect, Donald Schmitt, says the goal of incorporating the five-story active living wall is to “set a new standard of architectural and sustainable design excellence, one that will engage students and faculty alike in an interactive environment for learning and research.”
According to Dr. Donna Murasko, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University, “the living wall not only improves the overall learning environment, but also creates an opportunity for further research into even higher quality living walls in the future.”
Darlington notes that the benefits of an active living wall extend well beyond its aesthetic contribution to the space it inhabits. “Traditionally, air quality systems in buildings replace used, ‘dirty’ indoor air with new outside air. In the summer, this new air must be cooled and in the winter it must be heated before being distributed. This conditioning of the new air represents a substantial portion of the energy costs of a building. An active living wall supplies the same quality air as what you would get outside, at a fraction of the energy cost.”
The patented biofilter system, which appears as a plant wall, is also effective at removing a number of airborne gaseous pollutants that negatively impact indoor air quality. It does this by connecting to the building’s air handling system that is used to draw ‘dirty’ indoor air over the root zone of the plants. As part of this process, the beneficial micro-organisms that make their home in the root zone of the plants, use the airborne pollutants as food and break them down into water and carbon dioxide.