October 15, 2011
Nearly 1,600 square feet of wall is now home to more than 1,100 individual plants at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa.

Nedlaw Living Walls of Breslau completed the installation which is considered the largest known living wall in the United States.

According to Dr. Alan Darlington, president of Nedlaw, over 20 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.

He explained that the wall has a bio-filter system patented by Nedlaw, and is capable of generating between 16,000 and 30,000 cubic feet of ‘virtual’ outside air per minute. Darlington and his team developed a system that cleans inside air with the same method nature uses outside.

The Drexel University wall was designed by Nedlaw in collaboration with Toronto-based Diamond and Schmitt Architects. 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-storey active living wall is to, “set a new standard of architectural and sustainable design excellence.”

Darlington notes that the benefits of an active living wall extend well beyond its aesthetic contribution. “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 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 bio-filter 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.

The official opening of the living wall took place on Sept. 20.

Dr. Darlington is a past chair (2006 and 2007) of the LO interiorscape commodity group.