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News Release

May 06, 2005

Bio-Filter Wall Wins Award for Guelph-Humber

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada has awarded the University of Guelph-Humber building a 2005 Award of Excellence for innovation in architecture.

The Guelph-Humber building, which opened last May, was one of seven buildings recognized Thursday evening in Edmonton.

“The specific innovation being recognized is the integration of the bio-filter wall into the building design,” said Michael Nightingale vice-provost and chief academic officer of the University of Guelph-Humber. A major feature of the Guelph-Humber building’s Atrium, the bio-filter wall is a four-storey “living wall” containing more than 1,000 plants that improve air quality and create a natural source of indoor fresh air. Using the plants’ natural respiratory properties, the living wall is also intended to cool the building air in summer, work like a humidifier in winter, and remove compounds that have been shown to contribute to poor indoor air quality.

During the conceptual stage of the building, project architect Birgit Siber, of Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc., proposed the bio-filter wall as a way to incorporate a feature associated with Guelph’s research tradition, said Nightingale.

Research at U of G has shown that the bio-filter wall can remove half of the benzene and toluene in the air during a single pass and up to 90 per cent of the formaldehyde. These substances are known to contribute to “sick building syndrome,” a problem that contributes to employee absenteeism in office buildings around the world.

A jury that judged the biennial awards felt the bio-filtration wall accepted risks associated with emerging technologies while trying to address the challenges of sustainability and provided robust technological innovation with research applications potential.

Nightingale said he is delighted that the wall has been recognized as a significant innovation in architecture. “Since its inception, Guelph-Humber has been innovative in a number of ways and now that’s coupled with an award for its leading edge architectural environment.”

RAIC was established in 1907 as the voice for architects and architectural practice in Canada. It represents more than 3,200 architects and provides a national framework for the development and recognition of architectural excellence. For a complete list of winners visit their website.

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