Design innovations improve urban air quality

The high instance of dangerous smog levels in major cities across the globe is inspiring designers to get creative when tackling the issue of air pollution. As more eco-conscious young people gravitate to urban environments, such innovations could prove influential in determining the economic hubs of the future.


Italian architect Stephano Boeri recently revealed plans for the tree-covered Nanjing Green Towers, the first vertical forest built in Asia. Located in China’s Nanjing Pukou District, the two towers are characterized by the interchange of green tanks and balconies. Along the facades, 600 tall trees, 500 medium-sized trees (for a total amount of 1,100 trees from 23 local species) and 2,500 cascading plants and shrubs will cover a 6,000 Sqm area. A true vertical forest, the complex will help regenerate local biodiversity, providing 25 tons of CO2 absorption each year and producing about 60 kg of oxygen per day.


Stephano Boeri’s residential towers in Milan (the prototype for the Nanjing Vertical Forest) is the first example of a manmade vertical forest. Located on the edge of the Isola neighborhood, the towers host 900 trees and over 20,000 plants from a wide range of shrubs and flowers distributed per the sun exposure of the facade. One of its many benefits is that it helps create an urban ecosystem where different kinds of vegetation can be colonized by birds and insects, making it both a magnet for and a symbol of the spontaneous re-colonization of the city by vegetation and animal life.


Per Dezeen, Polish studio FAAB has developed a concept for a music school in Kraków that’s covered with a mossy roof designed to absorb large amounts of airborne pollutants. In response to issues resulting from the city's current poor air quality, the architects proposed covering several of the angled roofs with a natural smog-reducing product developed by German firm Green City Solutions. The moss culture attracts pollutants such as nitrous oxide, ozone, and other particulates and converts them into its own biomass, or, as the firm's CEO Dénes Honus suggests, "the moss literally eats air pollution".