During his visit to Beijing in 2013, Daan Roosegaarde, Dutch artist, designer, and innovator, discovered the air quality in the city was so poor that children were kept indoors and he was unable to see out the window of his hotel room. But Roosegaarde saw more in the smog than most; he saw the possibility for clean air for the people of Beijing. He returned to his team of designers at Studio Roosegaarde and they set to work on designing, building, and testing (what they claim is) the world’s largest air purifier. Standing at almost 23 feet high, the Smog Free Tower can clean 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour using the same amount of electricity as a home water boiler (about 1,400 watts). According to Roosegaarde, the system can collect, capture, and turn to dust about 75% of dangerous PM2.5 and PM10 airborne smog particulates, creating a bubble of clean air in its midst. Studio Roosegaarde turned to Kickstarter to get the project going and were able to build their first Smog Free Tower in Rotterdam in September of 2015. One year later, with the support of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Smog Free Tower opened in Beijing’s 751 D.Park on the first stop of its global tour. “We warmly welcome Smog Free Project to Beijing,” said Liu Guozheng, Secretary-General of The China Forum of Environmental Journalists. “This project is key in our agenda to promote clean air as a ‘green lifestyle’ among Chinese citizens. Our goal is to guide the public to a healthier lifestyle, low carbon development and to raise awareness amongst the public and reduce smog.” Visitors have also enjoyed visiting the Tower during its stay, calling it the “clean air temple,” in reference to historic Chinese pagodas. During its stint in Beijing, the tower cleansed 30 million cubic meters of air, equivalent to the volume of 10 Beijing National Stadiums, and removed 400 grams of smog. The smog particulates collected from the tower’s Beijing stay have been used to create 300 limited edition Smog Free Rings, each crafted by a member of Roosegaarde’s design team. The purchase of the rings aids in the development of the project and its global tour. “Smog Free Project is about the dream of clean air and the beginning of a journey towards smarter cities,” said Roosegaarde. He and his team hope that the Smog Free Project will inspire citizens, governments, and other members of the tech industry to work together toward smog-free cities. To learn more about Smog Free Project, Smog Free Rings, and the Smog Free Tower’s next stop on its global tour, visit Studio Roosegaarde’s website here.
Posts tagged with "Air Pollution":
Parisian commuters have been enjoying free access to public transport in the past two days as the city attempts to reduce pollution amidst an air quality crisis. Drivers with odd numbered license plates were banned from traveling in the city yesterday, as were those with even numbered plates the day before with exceptions being for hybrid and electric vehicles, and those carrying three or more people. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted a picture of the city's pollution saying: "Proof of the need to reduce the car's place in the city center." Drivers caught defying the authorities could face a $37 fine or even have their vehicles impounded. The move came after it emerged that Paris was enduring the worst winter pollution in a decade. Lack of wind has allowed pollution remain in the city prompting Hidalgo to act. According to the Independent, 1,700 motorists were fined on Tuesday. The Local reports that in making the services free of charge, Paris is losing $4.3 million a day—$12.9 so far including today which has been the third day of free travel. The temporary scheme will stay in place until Friday. Debates surrounding the effectiveness of the implementation have also surfaced. On Tuesday, the first day of the scheme, pollution levels actually increased. Phys.org, meanwhile, notes that while pollution levels are bad by Paris's standards (the offending particulates "PM10" being above 80 micrograms per cubic meter of air), cities such as New Delhi and Beijing easily surpass these PM10 levels. In New Delhi today, PM10 levels were reportedly at 600/m^3. Public transport in Paris is also undergoing a massive development. The infrastructure project has so far seen Bjarke Ingels, Kengo Kuma, and Dominique Perrault all jump on board for the Paris subway overhaul.
New Delhi has taken emergency measures to deal with the particularly thick and noxious air that has covered India’s capital city this winter. For the first two weeks of the New Year, the city has enacted an odd-even rule, which stipulates that even-numbered license plates be allowed on the roads only on even-numbered dates, and odd-numbered license plates only on odd-numbered dates. Because the trial intervention applies to private automobile vehicles exclusively, it has been criticized for its many loopholes. High level government officials, including India’s prime minister, chief justice, and state governors are exempt from the ban, as well as female drivers not accompanied by a male over 12 years old, and motorcycles, which are said to account for a third of emissions from vehicles. Buses, taxis, and rickshaws are also exempt. Along with the two-week plan, the government announced that it would provide 3,000 extra buses to handle the expected increase in demand. Drivers caught violating the new policy could be fined up to 2,000 rupees, or $30. The odd-even initiative follows a temporary ban on the registration of diesel cars with a capacity of 2,000 cubic centimeters ordered by the Supreme Court of India in December. The Court also set a time frame for all taxis to switch to compressed natural gas, which is generally less harmful to the environment. According to the World Health Organization, New Delhi has the most polluted air of the nearly 1,600 cities around the world that it surveyed. The new measures are testament to the pressing needs to combat pollution, and follow the historic climate talks in Paris in December that committed nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, in Milan, air pollution has reached a record high, and cars and motorcycles were banned from city streets for 6 hours a day for three days during the first week of January. Rome also restricted traffic, enacting its own version of the odd-even rule this past week. The initiatives in Milan and Rome come at a time when European cities are beginning to aggressively scale back on the use of automobiles. Milan has proclaimed an incremental approach to expel cars from the city center. In Paris, motorists are to be completely barred from the River Seine by the summer of 2016, and all non-electric or hybrid vehicles are to be purged from Paris streets by 2020. Similar efforts have been endorsed in Madrid, Brussels, and Dublin.
Milan hops on the car-banning bandwagon with its own proposal to create zones of “pedestrian privilege”
Milan is the latest city to join the ranks of Paris, Madrid, Brussels, and Dublin in expelling cars from its smoggy, often gridlocked city center. Unlike its more zealous counterparts, the city has opted for an incremental approach, with no proposed timeline and a gradual, virtually street by street implementation. Despite taking things slow, deputy mayor Lucia di Cesaris stressed that the plan will amount to no less than a “soft revolution.” Earlier this month, she announced the pedestrianization of the Piazza della Scala, the grand square on which the Scala Opera House is located. Purging the square of vehicles will extend to the north the existing pedestrian zone in Milan’s heart, consisting of the Cathedral Square and the area around the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the adjacent shopping arcade. After the Piazza della Scala joins up with this zone, the car-free area will extend into the streets beyond the square. Pedestrianization of this area, a hub for arts and culture venues, is a welcome move to transform it into a thriving, open-air promenade. Over on the city center’s southern edge, Navigli, one of Milan’s most romantic neighborhoods, is expanding its pedestrian area, creating a car-free bar and café quarter to add to the just-pedestrianized Piazza Missori nearby. Ultimately, the objective is what the deputy mayor calls “the creation of a vast area of pedestrian privilege.” Long beset by pollution problems, Milan has experimented with an array of schemes—from banning traffic altogether for 10 hours on a Sunday in February 2004 when smog levels exceeded the statutory maximum, to paying commuters to leave their cars at home and use public transportation. A coalition of Milanese companies sends drivers vouchers worth $1.87 (the average daily cost for using public transportation) for each day their vehicles stay in their driveways between the hours of 7:30am and 7:30pm. Dedicated “black boxes” installed behind vehicle dashboards track the car’s whereabouts to verify compliance. According to Inrix, a traffic information provider, Milan has the worst traffic of any city in Europe, and one of the highest pollution levels in the continent.
Bike to work without the smog: the Clean Ride Mapper helps Canadian cyclists find quieter, less polluted bike routes
In urban canyons where tall buildings on both sides occlude sunlight, pollution, too, is prevented from dispersing. The Clean Ride Mapper is an interactive map that allows cyclists to choose quieter cycling routes with reduced traffic and pollution levels. After inputting starting point and destination, users are shown three color-coded routes—green being the cleanest (as measured by cumulative exposure to nitrogen dioxide and ultrafine particles from fuel combustion), blue the most direct, and red the quietest as gauged by average traffic density the cyclist is likely to encounter. The map is powered by a dataset of air quality indices acquired over four years using $60,000 air-quality sensors attached to bicycles ridden by Montreal residents. While the routes occasionally overlap, there are times where cyclists must choose between an expedient journey or a roundabout ride for the sake of reducing pollutant deposits in the lungs. Maria Hatzopoulou, the creator of Clean Map Rider, claims that these detours are rarely longer than one kilometer (0.6 miles). Assistant professor of civil engineering at McGill University, Hatzopoulou created the online tool for cyclists in Toronto and Montreal as a project for the Transportation and Air Quality Research Group. “On certain days, some of Montreal’s most popular cycling paths, such as the one along the Lachine Canal, are also the most polluted because of wind patterns and proximity to highways,” a news release from the university stated. Considering its on-the-go user base, an obvious shortcoming of the fledgling tool is that there is no smartphone app, and users must click around—with repeated zooming in and out—to approximate their origin and destination rather than inputting an exact address. However, the map’s finer points are in the social pressure it exerts on cyclists to contemplate the smog they inhale every day. Clean Ride Mapper’s news release further cautions that traffic intersections fraught with idling cars also tend to be epicenters of pollution in cities. A similar project led by Columbia University in partnership with New York’s local NPR station, is being executed in New York City, whereby dozens of cyclists will be recruited to don air-quality sensors to accumulate data on bikers’ exposure to air pollution.
In keeping with Paris’ mounting aversion to automobiles, Mayor Anne Hidalgo recently announced plans to bar motorists from the banks of the River Seine by summer 2016. This latest blow to motorists occurs in tandem with the all-or-nothing anti-pollution target Hidalgo set last year of banning all non-electric or hybrid vehicles from Paris’ most polluted streets by 2020. Renderings for the futuristic River Seine project a motor-free parkland consisting of a tree-shaded promenade with space for children’s playgrounds and sports facilities. The length of this promenade is TBD, with some proposals occupying a modest 0.9 miles, while others insist on a 2.05-mile car-free quayside, potentially freeing up 1.4 acres of parkland. “All of this is part of a comprehensive policy in which we assume very deliberately that there will be fewer cars in Paris,” Hidalgo told reporters at a press conference. “Therefore, in calculating the flow of spillover traffic I don’t project myself into a world where there are as many cars as today. Objectively, that will no longer be the case.” The Seine has a distinctive double-tiered embankment that has allowed it to moonlight as a motorists’ artery into the city center without detracting from the romance of the riverscape. The upper embankment sits at street level, and has remained a scenic promenade dotted with quaint booksellers’ stalls. The lower embankment, where the roads traverse, is at water level and is sunken below high walls, with sections of road encased in tunnels. The City of Paris began reclaiming the Seine in 2002 under the "Paris Plages" program, when it closed down sections of the quayside to create a temporary summer beach complete with real sand and sun loungers. In 2013, the city barred cars permanently from a long stretch of the Left Bank to create a waterside park. According to the mayor, the city’s slow assail on motorways is part of “an urban, almost philosophical project which consists of seeing the city in another way than through the use of cars.” In Hidalgo's car-cutting schemes along the Seine are also architected toward freeing up the Georges Pompidou Highway on the North side, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Architects in Barcelona are remaking this tired, old bridge into a glow-in-the-dark, smog-eating sustainability machine
Spanish architecture studio BCQ recently announced plans to upgrade the arterial Sarajevo Bridge in Barcelona to be self-cleaning, smog-eating, and boast hanging gardens to boot. The Barcelona City Council commissioned the firm to improve the pedestrian experience through better lighting and air quality. First, a layer of photocatalytic concrete will replace the existing surface. This self-cleaning material neutralizes air pollutants by absorbing nitrogen oxides and converting them into harmless substances, and can also be applied to white or gray cement. All pollution removed will be simply washed away by the rain, guaranteeing a self-sustaining method that is environmentally non-invasive. This same technology will be modeled in the Italian pavilion at the upcoming Milan Expo 2015. Reminiscent of the glowing roads currently being trialled in the Netherlands, the bridge will harness glow-in-the-dark phosphorescence using photoluminescent glow stones to provide ambient light. Non-toxic and non-radioactive, the stones absorb solar energy during the day, which they slowly metabolize by night. BCQ will also mount photovoltaic solar panels to power low-energy LED lighting fixtures. Meanwhile, the area will be vegetated by green walls and pergolas covered in climbing plants. “It enables better interaction between pedestrians and vehicles, provides the space with vegetated arcades and changes the image of the bridge to distinguish it as one of the gates of Barcelona,” the architects said. As the gateway linking traffic from the north to the Catalonian capital, and spanning the Avinguda Meridiana, a major avenue, the dual carriageway will become a hoped-for meeting point between the two Trinitat neighborhoods.
Save for the extreme examples—Beijing's “airpocalypse,” for example—air pollution is often an invisible problem. For at least a brief period, designers from Brooklyn and data scientists from San Francisco hope to change that in Louisville, Kentucky. Across the city 25 sensors gather data on air quality, including the concentrations of particulate matter and carbon monoxide, transmitting the data to a colorful, interactive kiosk on the corner of Fourth and Liberty streets in Downtown Louisville. Designers at Brooklyn-based Urban Matter, Inc. dubbed their project Air Bare. As the downtown screen displays real-time air quality data, they invite passersby to engage with the installation. Encased in bright orange, powder-coated steel, a video screen fills with bubbles representing particles of air pollution. Poke your head into the display and you can pop the bubbles, earning points and taking air quality quizzes. Urban Matter's Rick Lin told WFPL the playfulness is meant to inspire action:
A big part of the component of this piece is educational, so once we grab people’s attention, we want—without being too preachy—to give them some information to help them make better decisions every day.Urban Matter conceived the short-term piece with the Office of Civic Innovation, Louisville Metro Government, and San Francisco's Creative Commons. On their website, the firm said they hope the project “creates awareness, identifies sources of pollution and propels the public to take action.” Open in time for a health symposium attended by Prince Charles, the piece will be up for six to eight months.
The air in Beijing, China is dirty, and a new report suggests it won't be getting cleaner any time soon. Beijing residents received the grim news from the Beijing Municipal Research Institute of Environmental Protection regarding the city's air pollution levels. Following studies done by the institute, researcher Pan Tao has estimated the return of safe air pollution levels in 2030. The World Health Organization has stated in the past that the concentration of PM2.5, particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less per cubic meter, should not exceed 35 micrograms per cubic meter. In 2013, however, the level of PM2.5 in Beijing measured 89.5 micrograms per meter.
The design team at MODU, in collaboration with Ho-Yan Cheung of Arup, have created an urban public space for the 5th China International Architecture Biennial. Their design pays homage to Beijing's iconic Olympic Park, while drawing attention to environmental issues in the country’s densely populated capital. The biennial committee has also commissioned designs from leading international architects such as Wang Shu, Zaha Hadid, and Mohsen Mostafavi. The dual-purpose structure not only creates a unique civic space, but also acts as a barometer for the air quality in Beijing. This “room in the city” concept does not attempt to separate people from polluted outdoor air and filtered indoor air by means of physical boundaries. Instead, the structure highlights the air pollution issue through the use of punctured openings in the walls and ceiling panels, as well as a large elliptical roof which frames the Olympic Observation Tower. On clear days, the tower can be seen perfectly through the roof frame, but on days when the pollution creates a dense grey fog, the landmark virtually disappears from sight. The outdoor room is made from recycled materials and, according to its designers, represents a new era of socially responsive design. At the end of November, the structure will be installed in six other cities in China.
What’s your building burning? Some 10,000 buildings in New York City are stuck on the dirty stuff—heavy heating oils—to keep warm, which is polluting the air across the city. But as of the first of this month, the city has begun to phase out these feuls in favor of more environmentally-friendly and health-conscious alternatives. As part of plaNYC’s initiative to remake New York City with the cleanest air of any major U.S. city, NYC Clean Heat aims to achieve a 50 percent reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) by the end of 2013. While used by only one percent of the city’s buildings, heavy oils No. 4 and No. 6 emit more emissions than all of the cars and trucks on New York’s streets. The elimination of the use of these heating oils in favor of cleaner fuels, such as No.2 oil, Biodiesel, natural gas, and steam, is estimated to save 120 lives a year, as well as prevent 200 respiratory and cardiovascular related emergency room visits, and 77 hospitalizations. Currently, three grades of heating oil are used in New York City: No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6. Quite literally the “bottom of the barrel,” No. 6 heating oil resembles tar, and like No. 4 oil, can contain sulfur, nickel, and other impurities which create soot when burned, thus polluting the air and lessening boiler efficiency. The byproduct, PM2.5, lodges in lungs and aggravates respiratory illnesses, while nickel inhalation can lead to heart disease. With PM2.5 concentrations 30 percent higher in neighborhoods that rely heavily on heavy heating oils, and nickel concentrations over nine times higher than those of any other major U.S. city, it is no surprise that 300,000 New York children suffer from asthma. NYC Clean Heat aims to cooperate with property owners, building managers, tenants, and environmental organizations to achieve its goals. Check out this map to see what you and your neighbors are burning, and contact NYC Clean Heat for additional information getting your building converted.