Living Biofilter Air-cleaning Ecosystem for Buildings

Maintaining indoor air quality at a high level is a challenge in today's industrialized society when North Americans spend more than eighty percent of their time indoors. With a wide range of climate conditions in Canada and energy conservation being a priority, having buildings sealed against the elements is an efficient way to maintain a comfortable indoor climate.  Sealing buildings in some cases can result in accumulation of gasses from furniture, carpets, ceiling tiles and wall covers. The gasses, called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) may also increase the risk of health problems if not removed from the air.

An OMAFRA funded research project has developed a new method to improve the quality of indoor air.  The novel method of indoor air biofiltration, uses living plants and beneficial microbes in a biofilm as a biofilter to degrade pollutants and produce oxygen while cleaning the air in an energy efficient way.

This research has potentially great benefits for anyone working or living in the buildings with the biofilter, especially those suffering from health problems such as asthma, fatigue, headaches, eye irritation, fever and infections. This technology has wide range of benefits including reduced energy consumption, improved air quality, and aesthetic appeal.  This OMAFRA-funded Plant Agriculture research at the University of Guelph could be used as a means of mitigating the sick building syndrome and may some day be used in space exploration.

The new four-story-high living wall air filter installed at the Humber College in Toronto is one example of spin-off benefits from this research.  Another example of benefits from the original research project is the launch of a Guelph company, Air Quality Solutions Ltd.  Air Quality Soultions Ltd. offers plant based biofilters for residential and industrial use.

The OMAFRA and industry funded research at the University of Guelph led to additional funding from CRESTech (Centre for Research in Earth and Space Technology, now known as Earth and Environmental Technologies), an Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE) and the awarding of a fellowship from the OCE to assist in the commercialization of the technology.  This original research project was also funded by other collaborative partners such as the Canada Life Assurance Co. and Adason Properties Ltd., Air Quality Solutions, NORCAT and both the European and Canadian Space Agencies.

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Author: Dr. Mike Dixon - Department of Environmental Biology/University of Guelph
Creation Date: 19 September 2006
Last Reviewed: 4 July 2011