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Drexel Receives First LEED Certification for Papadakis Building

Exterior of the Constantine N. Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building

September 20, 2012

Drexel University was awarded LEED® Gold certification for the University’s Constantine N. Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, which includes the first biowall at an academic institution in the country.

Established by the U.S. Green Building Council and verified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), LEED is the nation’s preeminent program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. The Integrated Sciences Building is the first building on Drexel’s campus to achieve LEED certification.

“We are proud Drexel’s first LEED-certified building on campus has achieved LEED Gold,” said James Tucker, senior vice president of Student Life and Administrative Services at Drexel. “From its extensive use of natural light to the striking five-story biowall, the Integrated Sciences Building exemplifies Drexel’s commitment to sustainable and environmentally responsible building principles.”

The Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building serves as the new home of Drexel’s biology department and includes North America’s largest living biowall, the only such structure at a U.S. university. The biowall, a 75-ft. high wall of plants, serves as a biological air filter, demonstrating Drexel’s longstanding commitment to sustainability and progressive research.

The biowall, designed and installed by NEDLAW Living Walls and located in the atrium of the building, measures 75 ft. tall and 22 ft. wide and is five stories high. The wall uses plants’ natural respiratory properties to cool the indoor air in the summer and function like a humidifier in the winter. Contaminated air is drawn through the roots of the plants where microbes help to remove particulates and volatile compounds.

After choosing Toronto's Diamond & Schmitt Architects, Dr. Aleister Saunders, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, worked with the Toronto designer and H2L2, the local architects who oversaw construction. The value of their collaboration is visible throughout the building, including the 44 research and teaching laboratories for biology, organic chemistry and biomedical engineering. Natural light fills all of the labs, and open spaces throughout the building encourage discussion and collaboration among researchers. A transparent glass cylinder four stories high comprises small lounges or interactive “collaboratories” where students and faculty can network on the building’s second, third and fourth floors.

“It is absolutely fitting for teaching and research in the biological sciences and chemistry to be conducted in a building that reflects the commitment to the environment of the faculty and students who enliven the spaces,” said Robert Francis, Drexel vice president for University Facilities.

Drexel achieved LEED certification for energy use, lighting, water and material use as well as for incorporating a variety of other sustainable strategies. By using less energy and water, LEED certified buildings save money for families, businesses and taxpayers; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and contribute to a healthier environment for residents, workers and the larger community.

“Buildings are a prime example of how human systems integrate with natural systems,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO & founding chair, U.S. Green Building Council. “Drexel’s Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building efficiently uses our natural resources and makes an immediate, positive impact on our planet, which will tremendously benefit future generations to come.” 


The U.S. Green Building Council's LEED green building certification system is the foremost program for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. Over 100,000 projects are currently participating in the LEED rating systems, comprising over 8 billion square feet of construction space in all 50 states and 114 countries. USGBC was co-founded by current President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi, who spent 25 years as a Fortune 500 executive. Under his 15-year leadership, the organization has become the preeminent green building, membership, policy, standards, influential, education and research organization in the nation.

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U.S. Green Building Council

The Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings.  With a community comprising 80 local affiliates, more than 18,000 member companies and organizations, and more than 167,000 LEED Professional Credential holders, USGBC is the driving force of an industry that is projected to contribute $554 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product from 2009-2013. USGBC leads an unlikely diverse constituency of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofit organizations, elected officials and concerned citizens, and teachers and students.