Smog-eating buildings battle air pollution

20 March 2015

Architects and environmental scientists have joined forces to design and construct buildings that are able to passively clean smoggy urban air.

Chemical reactions to improve air quality can be triggered by the sun. It’s already happening in smoggy Mexico City, where the Torre de Especialidades hospital building is shielded by a 100-yard-long façade of special tiles with air-scrubbing abilities.

The tiles, created by Berlin-based Elegant Embellishments, are coated with titanium dioxide, a pigment that acts as a catalyst for chemical reactions when activated by sunlight.

When UV rays hit the tiles, smog is converted into calcium nitrate, water and carbon dioxide. The titanium dioxide in the tiles can keep on doing this indefinitely.

The building can counteract the impact of about 1,000 of Mexico City’s 5.5 million cars and provide slightly fresher air in the hospital’s immediate area.

Milan will host a world’s fair in May – “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Italy is incorporating 9,000 m2 of photocatalytic concrete containing titanium dioxide into its pavilion.

This concrete, sometimes called Tiocem, can be used for paving, in roofing tiles, for road construction and in highway sound buffering walls.

Already validated by European Union studies, expect to see it proliferate to smoggy urban areas worldwide.


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