Researchers have created a public-scale prototype of a mobile green wall designed to harness the power of plants to clean the air inside the building.
The prototype was created by researchers from the School of Architecture at Rensselear Polytechnic Institute at the Institute’s Centre of Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) in New York City.
The wall has commercial potential in indoor spaces such as office buildings and hotels and its mobility allows it to be relocated to different environments.
The wall is made up of two panels of plants, each measuring six feet long and seven feet tall. It contains approximately 30 densely packed plants and will hang on one of the walls of a building on campus.
The prototype has been designed to be mobile so that research on its effects can be conducted within different settings within the building. It has been connected to plumbing for maintenance but the system is also designed with a water tank so it can operate independently.
“The technologies CASE researchers are developing, like this green wall, have the potential to revolutionise our ability to deliver clean air to urban populations, and reduce the carbon footprint of cities and buildings, by reducing the fossil fuel consumption of the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems,” said CASE director Anna Dyson.
The project also explores the boundaries of biotechnology research beyond the conventional disciplines of science and engineering to include architecture, humanity and art projects. The prototype aims to maximise the amount of airborne toxins filtered out using the leaves and roots of the plants.
“This particular green wall takes a step beyond previous green walls in that it seeks to improve air quality by amplifying the air filtration that naturally occurs in plants,” said Matt Gindlesparger a lecturer at CASE who has led the research and prototyping of the green wall.
Gindlesparger added that removing toxins from air is particularly important because nearly every material used in construction, including paint and carpeting, involves synthetic finishes that slowly release volatile organic compounds (VOC’s).
While green walls have been creeping up building exteriors for years, helping reduce the urban heat island effect, indoor living walls are gaining traction for the health benefits they can bring to the building’s inhabitants.
Research over the last three decades has shown that indoor plants can reduce most types of urban air pollutants. Just last week, the world’s tallest indoor living wall was unveiled in Quebec, Canada.
Entitled The Currents, it is aesthetically inspired by the views of the St. Lawrence River visible from Quebec City and Lévis.
Toronto-based design firm, Green over Grey created the wall, which stretches 65 metres high and boasts a total surface area of 198 square metres.
When creating green walls, it is crucial to use plants which suit the microclimate of the environment.
In Australia, there has been a series of office spaces implementing indoor foliage or living walls, including architects BVN Donovan Hill’s Herbert Smith Freehills office.
The project was shortlisted for a 2014 Australian Interior Design Award and sees individual indoor green walls spanning over five levels of the Sydney office.
Each wall was designed to align with the individual look of each floor while offering a natural backdrop for staff and air purifying benefits.
"All the plants used and planting arrays are designed to evolve with a sustainable ecology requiring minimal maintenance and will last the natural life of the plants,” said Fytogreen, the company which helped to complete the wall, on its website.
According to Ambius Indoor Plants, green displays also absorb noise and improve acoustics indoors. This is particularly useful as many offices move toward open-plan and collaborative spaces where living walls or mobile planters could work as sound barriers or desk dividers.
Indoor green walls demonstrate that plants can play an instrumental role in mitigating toxins in the air, offering health and productivity benefits while also making the space better acoustically and environmentally and aesthetically.