Drexel University



Project: Papadakis Integrated Science Building, Drexel University – 1,460 square foot green wall Location: Philadelphia, PA
Award Winner: Diamond Schmitt Architects (Architect) & NEDLAW Living Walls (Green Wall Specialist)

Associate Architect: H2L2
Structural Engineer: Halcrow Yolles
Structural Engineer: Keast and Hood Co.
Mechanical & Electrical Engineers / Lighting Consultant: Crossey Engineering Ltd.
Local Mechanical Consultant: SSM Group, Inc.
Civil Engineering / Landscape: Stantec Consulting Services Inc.
Environmental Consultant: Enermodal Engineering, a member of MMM Group Limited
Wall Maintenance: Parker Interior Plantscape, Inc.

“The living wall biofilter provides a focal point for encounters and is symbolic of the sustainable design principles that are at work within the Papadakis Integrated Science Building.”
Donald Schmitt, Diamond Schmitt Architects

Towards a More Innovative University

Located at the corner of Chestnut and 33rd Street in Philadelphia the new Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building is home to Drexel University’s Biosciences Department and provides a landmark building for the university. Responding to the urban potential of the site, the Chestnut Street façade features a floating elliptical glass rotunda that engages the street. The Integrated Science Building is Drexel’s first building to achieve LEED (GOLD) certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Sustainable features include alternate transportation, rainwater management and heat island mitigation. This commitment to a striking, sustainable design has resulted in numerous profiles in prominent publications, which serves to further the information sharing and education process.

Open and accessible, space is organized around the sky-lit, five-storey atrium containing a 1,460 square foot living wall biofilter (The largest on a US campus) and a 4-storey elliptical stairway that invites a fuller engagement with the university experience. The 1500 plant wall is integrated into the building’s air handling system achieving improved air quality and a reduction in energy consumption. The living wall has the potential to provide 75% to 80% of the building’s fresh air intake requirement, thereby enhancing air quality. This significantly impacts energy performance in the heating and cooling seasons for fresh air over and above ASHRAE 62.1 requirements since the air is pre-tempered.

The wall is a closed-loop hydroponic system. The base of the living wall acts as a water catchment that drains to a reservoir located on the floor below. The inline pumps acting in a lead-lag configuration lift the water from the reservoir to the top of the wall where a diffuser spreads the water evenly across the top. Water then trickles down through the growth media to the catchment. A separate electronic system maintains reservoir volume. Being a closed system, it also means that the nutrients in the water that were not taken up on their pass through the root zone will be available to the plants on their next circuit rather than being ejected into the environment via the drain.


The Client has implemented a diverse research program associated with the living wall biofilter, ranging from undergraduate research/learning opprtunities to peer reviewed research programs conducted by Faculty members. The research which is forming the basis of a number of graduate thesis focuses on the dymanics of the plant microbe interactions. Programs are also underway testing the preformance of the technolgy both under laboratory and field conditions. This research is being supported by the University, industry and external agencies.

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