Smog-eating buildings

Smog-eating buildings
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Locals in Mexico City do not only appreciate the Manuel Gea González Hospital for its beauty – they are also indebted to its designers for its ability to help purify the air in one of the most polluted towns on earth.

Designed by Berlin-based Elegant Embellishments, the 2,500-square-meter facade is constructed from ‘Prosolve’ modules. These are coated with a special pigment which, when hit by ambient ultraviolet light, reacts with urban air pollutants, breaking them down into less noxious compounds like carbon dioxide and water.

The pigment itself remains unchanged, which means the modules can keep purifying the air for up to a decade, or until their coating wears off.

As Allian Dring of Elegant Embellishments, explained, the individual, day-to-day benefits for those living or working near the building are potentially huge:

“With a technology like ours the great thing is that you put a Prosolve facade somewhere and it may not lower the macro levels of air pollution for a place like Mexico City right away, but what it can do is have a direct and local effect on the ground. So you can have improved health of the people that work there, or the people that walk by it everyday,” Dring said.

Elegant Embellishments have already used Prosolve in small structures placed inside a shopping-centre in Perth, Australia, and are currently working on a hotel project in Abu Dhabi.

For Dring, these kind of constructions need to form part of a wider, collective attack on air pollution: “We don’t always have to do something that will have macro effect but maybe we can use architecture in a scale to help in a local way and linking all these things up maybe someday we will have a chance.”

Whilst architecture alone cannot change air quality, in places like Mexico City, where breathing in the smog is the equivalent of smoking 60 cigarettes a day, these buildings are a vital contribution.

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