Biowalls: A future Hospital Feature?

Posted on December 8, 2011


In this month’s Buildings is an interesting one-page article on a “biowall” built into Drexel University’s Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building. This particular structure is enormous, 22′ wide by 80′ high and the largest in the U.S., though biowalls need not be that large.

A biowall is a structure that facilitates hydroponic plant life, which helps regulate indoor air temperature and filters pollutants from the air. Water is required to be recirculated over the exposed roots, in this case between two porous ‘sandwiched’ panels. The particular biowall featured utilizes twelve species of plant life that have a neutralizing effect on airborn contaminants and VOC compounds like benzene, toluene and formaldehyde.

The article reports biowalls can reduce overall airborn pollutants 25%. These are particles that cannot otherwise be trapped without HEPA filters. Currently, HEPA filters are used in healthcare facilities, but in limited areas such as operating room environments. Improved air quality from plants is not new information, though it is not incorporated enough into interior healthcare design.

Philosophically, biowalls are totally congruent with a hospital’s raison d’etre. As I noted recently, it would be beneficial to see more plant life in hospitals, for what they offer functionally as well as aesthetically. I have a hunch it will be the Planetree folks who take to the biowall first.

Posted in: Interior Design