A breath of fresh air

Written by: Eureka! | Published:

Air pollution is just one example of the way that the accelerating wave of urbanisation is causing complex challenges that require an urgent response.

It’s a growing problem across the developing world and in burgeoning cities in developed nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns pollution is causing millions of premature deaths, urging action including more green spaces in cities.

According to who findings, 90% of all city dwellers breathe in polluted air every day, with 7 million deaths a year attributed to it.

But, with fewer and fewer large open areas in established and growing cities perhaps a more technological approach is needed.

The challenge

Therefore, the challenge this month is to design a way to reduce harmful pollutants in busy urban areas without knocking down or making major changes to the existing buildings and infrastructure.

Perhaps your solution will be high-tech, perhaps natural, maybe even a bit of both?

The idea we have in mind will be revealed in the August issue of Eureka! Until then see what you can come up with. Submit your ideas by leaving a comment on the Coffee Time Challenge section of the Eureka! website or by emailing the editor: paul.fanning@markallengroup.com


The solution

The solution to last month’s Coffee Time Challenge to design a way to reduce pollution in urbanised areas with on space to build new green spaces is the CityTree from a German startup called GreenCity Solutions.

The CityTree is revolutionary urban air filter that combines air purifying, specialised-moss cultures and the latest in Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The storey-high, free standing and largely self-sustaining CityTree packs the air filtration power of 275 trees into a tiny fraction of the space and maintenance cost.

Its IoT technology infrastructure includes numerous points of measurement. The integrated sensors generate huge amounts of data in real time which provides comprehensive information about the environmental performance and the status of the CityTree. Information on the environmental situation is also available. Therefore, the environmental performance of an individual – or of several – CityTrees can be quantitatively demonstrated at any time.

By activating the ventilation system in the construction, airflow can be increased. The CityTree therefore becomes independent of the natural wind flow that can be very different from location to location. The amount of air flowing through can be controlled to suit the respective air pollution situation or also within predefined periods of time during a day.

GreenCity Solutions has been recognised as a Global Urban Innovator by the NewCities Foundation, an international nonprofit dedicated to making cities connected, inclusive, healthy and vibrant.

The Global Urban Innovators programme is designed to recognise innovative young companies that are reimagining new solutions from the ground up – and in effect, shaping the cities of tomorrow.


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Coffee Time Challenge is just a bit of fun, but it is based on a real engineering solution. If you send in your ideas by using the comment button below, we can add your solution as an alternative – perhaps something funny, practical, cheap or, of course, innovative.

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