Diamond Schmitt’s award-winning living wall

Diamond Schmitt Architects has received the Interior Green Wall Award of Excellence at the 2013 CitiesAlive Conference for an innovative campus building at Drexel University in Philadelphia. NEDLAW Living Walls is co-recipient of the honour that recognizes the advancement of sustainable design.

The Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building houses a five-storey biofilter living wall, the first on a U.S. campus and the largest in the United States. Much more than an attractive interior green feature, this large wall of tropical plants is an active living filter that removes volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the air. Connected to the building’s HVAC system, the wall provides cleansed and humidified air to augment the building’s fresh air supply.

Drexel’s living wall measures 20 feet wide and 75 feet high and is dramatically situated in a skylit atrium next to a four-storey elliptical stairway that invites a fuller engagement with the wall. Research into the wall’s plant microbe interactions is now part of the curriculum of the Biosciences Department. The Papadakis building is the first to be certified LEED Gold at Drexel University.

“The living wall biofilter provides a focal point for encounters and is symbolic of the sustainable design principles that are at work within the Papadakis Integrated Science Building,” says Donald Schmitt, principal, Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Experience with the living wall, whose commercial application was pioneered by Diamond Schmitt and developed by NEDLAW Living Walls, provides anecdotal evidence of everything from lower absenteeism to higher productivity to an improved sense of wellbeing by occupants of buildings with this green feature. “Bringing the outdoors inside has a positive psychological effect,” adds Schmitt.  

For NEDLAW Living Walls, receiving this award culminates the project to install the largest biofilter wall in the United States. “The award is a reflection of the commitment of the entire team from design consultants, contractors and subcontractors as well as a client committed to improving the indoor environment,” says Dr. Alan Darlington, NEDLAW senior V-P and founder. Together, Diamond Schmitt and NEDLAW have designed and installed more than dozen living walls in academic facilities and office buildings in North America.

Diamond Schmitt Architects (dsai.ca) is a leading full-service architectural firm based in Toronto with an international reputation for design excellence and sustainable design solutions. An extensive portfolio includes academic buildings, libraries, performing arts centres, sports facilities, master plans, residential and commercial buildings. Equally extensive is work completed for the healthcare sector, with life science facilities, research laboratories and hospitals.