Incredible Urban Innovations Battling Unbreathable Air
Air pollution is a serious issue in urban environments worldwide. Rising levels of pollution are making it increasingly unpleasant for city dwellers to go about their daily business in the less than fresh air. While we can be thankful that burning fossil fuels has led to unprecedented advances in modern-day technology, the side effects now pose a serious threat to people, plants and animals on our planet threatening our green cities. Yet, we humans are natural innovators and there is a global push in the fields of science and technology to invent amazing means of regenerating air quality.
As many home-owning urbanites know, the cost of land in cities is prohibitively expensive. Sadly, it is simply economically unviable for city planners to create enough green space for plants and parks, which can help offset poor air quality and break down particulate matter. However, one German startup has created an incredible solution to this persistent problem.
Green City Solutions has found a way to harness the combined powers of biology and technology in the creation of the CityTree. This streamlined block of foliage could be an attractive answer to the pollution problem blighting urban spaces. Each unit houses a densely packed moss culture, which can filter 240 metric tons of fine dust, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide out of the air in just one year. To put that number into perspective, we would have to plant the equivalent of 275 trees to achieve that level of filtration. Occupying an area of just 3.5 square metres, the CityTree is a positive anti-pollution powerhouse.
The moss itself has astounding biological properties, as the leaf surface area is much larger than that of other plants allowing it to capture greater numbers of pollutants.
Standing 4 metres tall, 3 metres wide and approximately 2 metres deep, each CityTree improves air quality within a radius of 50 metres. This remarkable piece of urban furniture has been designed with its new home insight, as it also has the ability to function as an analogue billboard that displays text, images or digital data via a QR code, iBeacon or NFC (near-field communications). The structure itself receives power through in-built solar panels and its irrigation system has been designed to cleverly collect rainwater, which is distributed automatically throughout the unit. Sensors track this man-made plant’s data allowing feedback to be collected on the CityTree’s performance.
Hong Kong, Oslo, Brussels and Paris currently host around 20 of these units with demand growing around the world. At around $25 000 USD a pop, the CityTree could be the latest space-saving, pollution busting invention to hit the streets in a city near you. While it doesn’t evoke the naturally beautiful aesthetic of a real tree, the sleek CityTree is an arguably attractive amalgam of nature and science. Environmentally friendly with health-boosting benefits, it perfectly encapsulates how best to combine nature with new technologies to lift some of the haze out of our smoggy cities. Follow this link to hear more from CEO of Green City Solutions Dénes Honus:
Artist and inventor, Daan Roosegaarde, is making it his personal mission to banish pollution from public spaces. With a team of experts, Roosegaarde has created the world’s largest smog vacuum cleaner. The hazy skylines of Beijing are said to have motivated Roosegaarde to engineer a structure that could restore some balance between people, the natural world and modern-day technology.
This 7-metre tall structure uses patented ion technology to produce pockets of pollution-free air in parks and urban spaces, which are free for anybody to enjoy. Running entirely on green energy, The Smog Free Tower can cleanse ultra-fine smog out of the air at a rate of 30.000m3 every hour. Researchers have found that within 20 metres of a tower, people are inhaling 45% fewer PM10 – or pollution particles smaller than 10 microns in size – and 25% fewer PM2.5. The first tower officially opened by this innovative team can be found in Rotterdam, but exciting plans to bring this smog sucking beast to cities like Beijing, Mumbai and Tianjin are getting off the ground this year. Inhabitants of high-density cities live with visibly polluted air every day.
However, most people worldwide cannot see the invisible threat that air pollution poses, which is something Roosegaarde is passionate about highlighting to the public. You can help fund the project by purchasing tangible symbols of his Smog Free Movement in the form of rings, cufflinks and cubes, which are created using compressed pollution particles. At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Dalian, China, Roosegarde has keen ambitions to emphasize his vision for Schoonheid, which is a Dutch word meaning both beauty and cleanliness. It combines this forward-thinking visionary’s motto that “True beauty is clean air and it should not be taken for granted”.
When he’s not busy thinking up clever ways to create actual diamonds out of the dirty air choking our cities, Roosegaarde has grand plans to thread a bit of nature back into our highly populated concrete jungles. In a Rotterdam and Shanghai-based social design lab, he’s researching how bioluminescent algae could be used to light up city paths and waterways.
If that doesn’t float your futuristic boat, just imagine his current plan to create a glow in the dark, solar-powered bicycles that both filter pollution and direct a flow of clean air toward the cyclist. An incredible innovator with an active imagination, Roosegaard is sparking important dialogues about the future of our planet at a critical moment in human history and his inventions cannot come soon enough for the majority of people living in polluted spaces around the world. You can access his latest, lauded TED talk here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVFYhbHpfqU
The world’s largest vertical garden is home to over 115 000 plants and can be found in Bogotá, Colombia. This breathtaking project is located somewhat surprisingly on a multi-family residential building and covers an impressive area of 3 117 Square metres. Soaring 9 stories above ground, the Santalaia has been thoroughly transformed into a beautiful, oxygen boosting building. It is the brainchild of biologist and botanist Ignacio Solano of Paisajismo Urbano, in collaboration with green roof design firm Groncol.
The tower block hosts 10 different species of plants including Hebe Mini, asparagus fern, rosemary, vincas and spathiphyllum. Sourced originally from Columbia’s west coast, the plants were carefully cultivated before being inserted into the vertical structure. They blanket the building’s facade and help to offset the carbon footprint for approximately 700 people. The project boasts that enough oxygen is produced for 3,000 people, meanwhile filtering out the particulate emissions of an estimated 745 cars. A series of pillars support each segment of greenery, which is irrigated by a patented hydroponic system. Treated shower water from the internal apartments is skillfully reemployed to nourish the external greenery, while humidity and radiation sensors work to optimise water consumption.
This “living building” is a shining example of how crowded cities might one day incorporate plants to offset the effects of harmful emissions. An added bonus is the insulating benefit that all this green matter provides. The plants shade the building during hot weather and act as effective insulators when the temperature drops. The project hopes that such an integration of the natural world into our cities will bring down the warmer temperatures found in urban environments due to human activities. This green building houses humans, as well as providing a much-needed habitat for many local species, which is a real boon for biodiversity in the area. Happy inhabitants breathe cleaner air and experience the unique sensation of being surrounded by plant life in a dense city environment. See it for yourself here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TRtGoHnNsQ
Many cities around the world are seeking out new and exciting means of tackling air pollution, while governments worldwide move toward cutting emissions in an attempt to mitigate the ensuing air-pocolypse. With current trends towards greener living supporting huge financial investments in environmentally-minded sciences and technologies, there’s hope for our future as long as we act before it is too late.