New building cleans indoor air with plants

    Drexel’s science building now being built will be the first university facility in the US to feature a bio-wall.

    Drexel University is constructing a new, cutting edge science center. The building relies on biology itself to replace man-made systems.

    Drexel’s new building scraps conventional air filtration systems. Instead, the school is erecting a bio-wall in the middle of the building’s atrium. The wall is a vertical garden with water trickling down it.

    Engineering professor Michael Waring says a fan behind the wall sucks air through it.

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    Waring: And what that does is it pulls air through the wall, and then some of the compounds of the air partition or transfer from the air into the water in the biowall and the microbes around the roots of the plants are able to eat pollutants up. So they use them as food.

    Waring says any indoor space has pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds, floating around it. Those include benzene, toluene and formaldehyde. Waring says he’s not so sure how well the bio-wall will filters particles from the air, but he and his colleagues are using the wall as an experiment. They want to see just what types of microbes living amid the plants eat pollutants most effectively.

    Bob Francis, Drexel’s vice president for facilities, says the wall will eliminate any need for a conventional filtration system.

    Francis: Biofilter wall functions in a similar way to the way filter systems function in return air systems in the way it will purfity the air, oxegnate the air and remove particulates so that the internal environment is cleaner.

    The building is slated to open next year.

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