The ‘living wall’ biofilter turns ten years old

The living wall biofilter, a Canadian invention that improves air quality and reduces energy costs, turns a decade old this spring.

The sustainable solution features an installation of tropical plants adorning offices, academic, commercial and civic buildings, and works to create a healthy indoor environment and lowers the carbon footprint.

Developed by Dr. Alan Darlington and introduced commercially by Diamond Schmitt Architects at the University of Guelph Humber campus in Toronto, the prototype was launched by NEDLAW architecture practice in 2011.


“We were looking for a way to feature biofiltration research undertaken by the University of Guelph for their Humber academic building a decade ago,” said Donald Schmitt, principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects.

Research has shown that indoor air can be cleansed of pollutants through exposure to the beneficial micro-organisms on plant roots. By connecting a living wall to a building’s HVAC system, the treated air is humidified and over 80% of indoor air pollutants are removed.

Diamond Schitt Architects’ living walls are typically between two to four storeys high and integrated into a building plan at the schematic design stage. This manipulates the the atrium orientation and skylight design to maximise the amount of natural light that reaches the plants.

“Bringing significant plant life indoors has universal appeal and appears to resonate with people on a primal level, hence the psychological benefit,” said Birgit Siber, principal at Diamond Schmitt Architects.

“But the real beauty is that it works on so many different levels, reducing the energy needed to treat outdoor air, providing fresh oxygen, creating acoustic absorption and white noise from the gravity water flow, and a compelling visual aesthetic not to mention a powerful symbol of green design.”

Other buildings that feature the living wall biofilter are the Ontario City Hall, Corus Quay office building, and Centennial College Library in Toronto.

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