Launch Slideshow

The air purification process works as follows: Ventilated outside air is brought into a building by the HVAC system. Oxygen is used up and toxins are added as the air is affected by people, finishes, and other contributors to poor indoor air quality. As the polluted air moves through the phytoremediation wall--largely by natural air circulation flows--the root rhizomes digest the toxins and replenish the oxygen. Clean air is then returned to the interior environment.

Active Phytoremediation Wall System

The Center for Architecture Science and Ecology creates a new modular green wall system that bares the plants roots and increases air-cleaning efficiency.

Active Phytoremediation Wall System

The Center for Architecture Science and Ecology creates a new modular green wall system that bares the plants roots and increases air-cleaning efficiency.

  • The Active Phytoremediation Wall System consists of hydroponic plants in bio- and phyto-filtration pods. The pods are installed in a modular screen which serves as a plenum and as ductwork for air movement. A support frame holds the pods in place and a drip irrigation system supplies fresh water to each plant. The roots are exposed to the air and receive water through absorbent wicks that are filled by reservoirs supplied by the drip system.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1178%2Etmp_tcm20-194168.jpg

    The Active Phytoremediation Wall System consists of hydroponic plants in bio- and phyto-filtration pods. The pods are installed in a modular screen which serves as a plenum and as ductwork for air movement. A support frame holds the pods in place and a drip irrigation system supplies fresh water to each plant. The roots are exposed to the air and receive water through absorbent wicks that are filled by reservoirs supplied by the drip system.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The Active Phytoremediation Wall System consists of hydroponic plants in bio- and phyto-filtration pods. The pods are installed in a modular screen which serves as a plenum and as ductwork for air movement. A support frame holds the pods in place and a drip irrigation system supplies fresh water to each plant. The roots are exposed to the air and receive water through absorbent wicks that are filled by reservoirs supplied by the drip system.

  • Modular wall system

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1179%2Etmp_tcm20-194175.jpg

    Modular wall system

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The system can be populated with foliage plants like ferns, or with crawling plants such as ivy or moss.

  • Populated with ferns

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp117A%2Etmp_tcm20-194182.jpg

    Populated with ferns

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Populated with ferns

  • Populated with ivy

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp117B%2Etmp_tcm20-194189.jpg

    Populated with ivy

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Populated with ivy

  • Populated with moss

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp117D%2Etmp_tcm20-194196.jpg

    Populated with moss

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Populated with moss

  • The air purification process works as follows: Ventilated outside air is brought into a building by the HVAC system. Oxygen is used up and toxins are added as the air is affected by people, finishes, and other contributors to poor indoor air quality. As the polluted air moves through the phytoremediation wall--largely by natural air circulation flows--the root rhizomes digest the toxins and replenish the oxygen. Clean air is then returned to the interior environment.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp117E%2Etmp_tcm20-194203.jpg

    The air purification process works as follows: Ventilated outside air is brought into a building by the HVAC system. Oxygen is used up and toxins are added as the air is affected by people, finishes, and other contributors to poor indoor air quality. As the polluted air moves through the phytoremediation wall--largely by natural air circulation flows--the root rhizomes digest the toxins and replenish the oxygen. Clean air is then returned to the interior environment.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The air purification process works as follows: Ventilated outside air is brought into a building by the HVAC system. Oxygen is used up and toxins are added as the air is affected by people, finishes, and other contributors to poor indoor air quality. As the polluted air moves through the phytoremediation wall--largely by natural air circulation flows--the root rhizomes digest the toxins and replenish the oxygen. Clean air is then returned to the interior environment.

  • The wall is currently undergoing a rigorous testing process. Test pods are vacuum-formed and assembled, as are pieces of the modular duct framework which manage airflow through the system.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp117F%2Etmp_tcm20-194210.jpg

    The wall is currently undergoing a rigorous testing process. Test pods are vacuum-formed and assembled, as are pieces of the modular duct framework which manage airflow through the system.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    The wall is currently undergoing a rigorous testing process. Test pods are vacuum-formed and assembled, as are pieces of the modular duct framework which manage airflow through the system.

  • Assembled modules are placed in a testing chamber to measure the air-cleaning power of different plant species and the overall effectiveness of the system.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1180%2Etmp_tcm20-194217.jpg

    Assembled modules are placed in a testing chamber to measure the air-cleaning power of different plant species and the overall effectiveness of the system.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Assembled modules are placed in a testing chamber to measure the air-cleaning power of different plant species and the overall effectiveness of the system.

  • Plants are installed, and the test system is assembled.

    http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/tmp1181%2Etmp_tcm20-194224.jpg

    Plants are installed, and the test system is assembled.

    600

    Courtesy Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

    Plants are installed, and the test system is assembled.

Green walls have been touted as a balm for cubicle-weary office workers for years, but the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology—a collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill—has created a new prototype that would work with a building’s existing HVAC system to reduce energy loads and improve indoor air quality. The Active Phytoremediation Wall System is a modular wall system of pods housing hydroponic plants. Because the plants’ roots are exposed, instead of being buried in soil, the plants’ air-cleaning capacity increases by 200 to 300 percent.

Air moves through a perforated air intake duct—a series of mini-jets are being developed to encourage airflow—and directly over the root system. This allows the rhizomes on the roots to essentially digest airborne toxins—VOCs, particulate matter, and other biological and chemical pollutants—without the plant itself becoming toxic (which is what happens when the toxins are taken in solely through the leaves). The cleaned air then flows out of each pod through a series of clean air ducts and is reintroduced to the environment.

The pods themselves are made from vacuum-formed plastic, and the form allows the maximum amount of air to reach the root rhizomes while using the minimum amount of material. On top of that, it creates a beautiful base for the plants. “I would move into an office with that instantly,” juror Craig Hodgetts said.

The wall system can be installed in large commercial interiors, but works equally well in small settings—a four-module system in an apartment would have the impact of 800 to 1200 house plants. The first test-bed site will be PSAC II, an emergency response center in New York designed by the local office of SOM, where it will be the aesthetic centerpiece of the lobby. “Usually, remediation is either technically believable or aesthetically pleasing, but not both,” said John Ronan. “This one’s both.”


  • Anna Dyson
    Anna Dyson
  • Carl Galioto
    Carl Galioto

Active Phytoremediation Wall System

Principal Investigators Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (a collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)—Anna Dyson (CASE director, director of the Built Ecologies graduate program at RPI); Jason Vollen (associate professor, RPI, CASE); Ted Ngai (assistant professor, RPI, CASE); Lupita Montoya (assistant professor of mechanical engineering, RPI); Paul Mankiewicz (biologist/plant scientist, director, Gaia Institute)

Researchers Emily Rae Brayton, Ahu Aydogan

Testbed Site Public Safety Answering Center II, Bronx, N.Y.

Architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, New York—Carl Galioto (technical partner); Gary Haney (design partner); Peter Magill (managing partner); Rob Rothblatt (senior designer); Joseph Sacco (project manager); Carl Brown (technical coordinator); Julie Hiromoto (project team)

2009 R+D Awards

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