Innovation at Rensselaer

Green Wall Harnesses Plants’ Filtering Power

Researchers from the School of Architecture working at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) in New York City have unveiled the first public-scale prototype of a green wall that harnesses plants’ natural abilities to filter toxins in an application suitable for indoor spaces like office buildings.

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Researchers from the School of Architecture working at the Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) in New York City have unveiled the first public-scale prototype of a green wall that harnesses plants’ natural abilities to filter toxins.

The prototype green wall is now housed on campus in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) and is designed to be mobile so research on its effects can be conducted in different settings. The multi-year interdisciplinary effort that led to the prototype included researchers from fields as diverse as environmental and mechanical engineering, biology, architectural science, and from the Rensselaer Smart Lighting Research Center.

“The technologies CASE researchers are developing, like this green wall, have the potential to revolutionize 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,” says Anna Dyson, director of CASE.

“Our partnership with CASE is one example of the broad spectrum of research we are developing. As our efforts mature, we expect to draw many more partners under our roof, and realize the vision of CBIS as a true campus hub of research,” says Deepak Vashishth, director of CBIS.

The green wall amplifies the plants’ natural filtering capabilities by pulling air through the plants to maximize the amount of airborne toxins filtered out. Removing toxins from the air is an increasingly important area of research because nearly every material used in building construction— including paint and carpeting—involves synthetic finishes that contain, and slowly release, volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. By harnessing the power of plants, the effects of those VOCs can be mitigated.

Rensselaer Press Release