January 15, 2015
Spectacular describes the living wall on the 15-storey Social Sciences building on the University of Ottawa campus.
Spectacular describes the living wall on the 15-storey Social Sciences building on the University of Ottawa campus.
By Martha Walsh

North America’s tallest bio filter living wall, located in the new Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa, has been awarded the 2014 Green Roof and Wall Award of Excellence from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities (GRHC) at the Cities Alive Conference in Tennessee in November.

Measuring six stories, or 78 ft. tall, this bio-living wall was designed by Dr. Alan Darlington, of Nedlaw Living Walls, a Landscape Ontario Waterloo Chapter member located in Breslau.

The new 15-story building, featuring the living wall, opened in October 2014. It was designed to follow strict environmental guidelines, and to provide enough space to accommodate 10,000 students, 260 professors and 100 staff members in state-of-the-art facilities.

The entire second floor was designed expressly for students, providing them with numerous study areas and places to gather and thus offering a rich and inspiring student experience. Each floor boasts meeting rooms, making it easy for researchers and students to get together to work on projects.

The new building is far more than just a spectacular architectural jewel, it meets strict environmental guidelines, which reflect the faculty’s values and the university’s formal commitment to sustainable development. The living wall provides enough humidity and air purification for the entire building.

The wall is a bio filter, designed to work in a single pass, to clean up to 85 per cent of volatile organic compounds. The structure is filled with 2,000 tropical plants, from 12 species.

Irrigated through a vertical hydroponic system, water catchment is located at the base of the living wall, draining the water to a reservoir located on the floor below. Inline pumps lift the water from the reservoir to the top of the wall and the water is spread through a diffuser evenly across the top.

The growth medium allows the water to trickle down through it to the catchment. Reservoir volume is maintained through a separate electronic system. The University of Ottawa sought LEED Gold certification for the building, which was achieved in September 2014.  

Also receiving an award at the 12th Annual Cities Alive conference was Dr. Youbin Zheng and the University of Guelph Green Roof Research Team, for their research on green roof sedum plant and production maintenance.