Poor air quality is said to contribute to approximately six percent of deaths annually in New York City. Citywide initiatives are in place to reduce the pollutants produced by burning fuels that operate our vehicles and buildings and, as a supplement to these policies, architects, engineers, and manufacturers are looking for ways to passively purify the air. Urban Green Council’s Salon on June 27 highlighted some of these innovative techniques.
We all know that green roofs and living walls inherently improve air quality, but Adam Friedberg (Arup) told us exactly how this happens: stomata absorb harmful gases, leaves interrupt airborne particulates, and roots absorb heavy metals. Depending on where these systems are installed, they can have an impact on both our indoor and outdoor air quality. Exterior green roofs have the added benefits of decreasing stormwater runoff and mitigating the urban heat island effect. One caveat–both green roofs and living walls are dependent on smart plant selection and regular maintenance, so, it’s best to consult with a horticulturalist before selecting plants and to implement a strong maintenance plan post-installation.
Glen Finkel (PURETi Group, LLC) and Adam Hostetler (Hollwich Kushner) discussed technology and design implications of a new invisible spray (99% water and 1% titanium dioxide) that reacts with light to keep surfaces clean while passively purifying the air. According to Finkel, one application of the spray will last at least five years and installation costs are close to what you would pay for paint. The product can be applied to almost any exterior or interior finish and is safe enough for food surfaces. Spraying windows, curtains, and light fixtures is enough to purify the air in a room, and its self-cleaning properties drastically decrease maintenance for building exteriors. Finkel believes this technology is ripe for market adoption.
Together, green roofs, living walls, and spray purification technology are all just parts of a broad approach to sustainable design. As buildings invest in renewable energy and cleaner fuels to reduce pollution and their carbon footprint, it’s important to think about air quality, too. Luckily, we’re sure to recognize how important this is – with every breath we take serving as a reminder.