Newswise — Drexel University began construction on a $69 million building that will include a "Bio Wall" or living biofilter for energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality. Canadian-based Diamond & Schmitt Architects are the designers of the landmark structure to be built on the northeast corner of 33rd and Chestnut Streets. The new Integrated Sciences Building will incorporate classrooms, science labs and offices.

The building will be the first at a university in the United States to include a Bio Wall.

"The Integrated Sciences Building reflects Drexel's commitment to develop and maintain a healthy, efficient and ecologically, sound campus environment," said Drexel President Constantine Papadakis. "The new building will further promote the University's sustainability design efforts and support students, faculty and staff environmental initiatives."

The 130,000-square-foot, six-story building will include a multi-story plant wall (Bio Wall), instructional science laboratories, faculty offices, conference rooms, classrooms and a lecture hall.

The Bio Wall, first introduced in Canada by Diamond & Schmitt Architects, is a living wall using plants' natural respiratory properties to cool the indoor air in summer, and function like a humidifier in the winter. Operating in conjunction with the mechanical system, air will be drawn through, and circulated throughout the volume of the atrium, across all floors and through the plant wall biofilter. The plant wall removes Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) from the air. VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.

Drexel is striving to meet Silver LEED certification with the new building. The LEED® Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a Green Building Rating System that was created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to establish a common standard of measurement for "green" buildings.

"Our goal is to set a new standard of architectural and sustainable design, engaging students and faculty in an interactive environment for learning and research. Our design seeks to embody and articulate Drexel University's aspirations for excellence," said architect Donald Schmitt.

Schmitt, principal Design Architect for Diamond & Schmitt, leads a consulting team that includes H2L2 Architects of Philadelphia who are the Associate Architects for the project. Schmitt is the principal-in-charge of the campus master plan and academic buildings at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and has considerable experience in academic and laboratory projects, including the Bahen Centre at the University of Toronto, the new Computer Science and Engineering Building and the South Thayer Academic Building, both at The University of Michigan.